The city was first established as a spa resort with the Latin name, Aquae Sulis ("the waters of Sulis") by the Romans in AD 43 although verbal tradition suggests that Bath was known before then. They built baths and a temple on the surrounding hills of Bath in the valley of the River Avon around hot springs, which are the only ones naturally occurring in the United Kingdom. Edgar was crowned king of England at Bath Abbey in 973. Much later, it became popular as a spa resort during the Georgian era, which led to a major expansion that left a heritage of exemplary Georgian architecture crafted from Bath Stone.
The City of Bath was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1987. The city has a variety of theatres, museums, and other cultural and sporting venues, which have helped to make it a major centre for tourism, with over one million staying visitors and 3.8 million day visitors to the city each year. The city has two universities and several schools and colleges. There is a large service sector, and growing information and communication technologies and creative industries, providing employment for the population of Bath and the surrounding area.
Chew Stoke has a long history, as shown by the number and range of its heritage-listed buildings. The village is at the northern end of Chew Valley Lake, which was created in the 1950s, close to a dam, pumping station, sailing club, and fishing lodge. A tributary of the River Chew, which rises in Strode, runs through the village.
The position of the town on the edge of the Somerset Levels, where they meet the Bristol Channel, has resulted in a history dominated by land reclamation and sea defences since Roman times. Burnham was seriously affected by the Bristol Channel floods of 1607, and various flood defences have been installed since then. In 1911, a concrete sea wall was built, and after the Second World War further additions to the defences were made, using the remains of a Mulberry harbour. The present curved concrete wall was completed in 1988. There have been many shipwrecks on the Gore Sands, which lie just offshore and can be exposed at low tides. The Bridgwater Corporation sent the first lifeboat to Burnham in 1836; the present rescue service is provided by the Burnham-on-Sea Area Rescue Boat. The need to protect shipping using the channel has also led to the development of the lighthouses, which are prominent landmarks. The original lighthouse, known as the Round Tower, was built to replace the light on the top of the 14th-century tower of St Andrews Church. The four-storey round tower was taken over and improved by Trinity House in 1815, and was operational until 1832. The top two storeys were later removed, to prevent confusion with the new lighthouse. The 110 feet (34 m) pillar or High Lighthouse and the low wooden pile lighthouse or Lighthouse on legs on the beach were built to replace it.
A stone pier was built in 1858 by the Somerset Central Railway. Soon afterwards, in 1860, a steamer service to Wales was inaugurated, but it was never a commercial success, and ended in 1888. Burnham-on-Sea railway station was the terminus of the Burnham branch of the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway. It opened in 1858, closed to scheduled passenger traffic in 1951, and stopped being used for excursions in 1962. The former Great Western Railway station is now known as Highbridge and Burnham. A second pier, built of concrete between 1911 and 1914, is claimed to be the shortest pier in Britain. The town has number of educational, religious and cultural buildings, and sporting clubs.
Chard is a town and civil parish. It lies on the A30 road near the Devon border, 15 miles (24 km) south west of Yeovil. The parish has a population of approximately 12,000 and, at an elevation of 121 metres (397 ft), it is the southernmost and highest town in Somerset. Administratively Chard forms part of the district of South Somerset.
There are two primary schools and a secondary school, several shops and small businesses, three churches, and three pubs serving the area. There is also a football pitch and children's play area. The village frequently wins regional categories in the Calor Village of the Year competition, and is currently moving towards zero waste status, having been described as "probably the greenest parish in Britain".
The seafront includes ornamental gardens, a Victorian bandstand, and other visitor attractions. The Salthouse Field has a light railway running round the perimeter and is used for donkey rides during the summer. The shore is a mixture of pebbled beaches and low rocky cliffs, with the old harbour being at the western edge of the town at the mouth of the Land Yeo. The rocky beach, which has been designated as the Clevedon Shoregeological Site of Special Scientific Interest. Clevedon Pier was opened in 1869, one of the earliest examples of a Victorian pier still in existence in the United Kingdom. During the 20th century it fell into disrepair but was dismantled, restored and rebuilt, reopening in 1986. Other landmarks include Walton Castle, Clevedon Court the Clevedon clock tower and the Curzon cinema. Clevedon has a certain amount of light industry, mainly in industrial estates including Hither Green Trading Estate near the M5 motorway junction, and it is also a dormitory town for Bristol. The town is also home to a range of educational, religious and cultural buildings and sporting clubs.
In April 2010 a large hoard of third-century Roman coins was unearthed in a field near the town. From AD 950 to 1650, Frome was larger than Bath and originally grew due to the wool and cloth industry. It later diversified into metal-working and printing, although these have declined. The town grew substantially in the 20th century but still retains a very large number of listed buildings, and most of the centre falls within a conservation area.
The town has road and rail transport links and acts as an economic centre for the surrounding area. It also provides a centre for cultural and sporting activities, including the annual Frome Festival and Frome Museum. A number of notable individuals were born in, or have lived in, the town.
It is home to Memorial Park, which is used for the annual town festival and several nature reserves. The town is served by Keynsham railway station on the London-Bristol and Bristol-Southampton trunk routes and is close to the A4 road which bypassed the town in the 1964. There are also a range of schools, religious sporting and cultural clubs and venues.
The town, on the Mendip Hills has a long history, shown by the early churches, but really started to grow, and become a transport hub, with the development of the Somerset coalfield with several pits providing employment until their closure in the 1960s. The town's railway stations have also closed. Midsomer Norton is now home to printing and other industries and provides shopping and service industries for the surrounding area.
It has a rich cultural history and supports several music venues and bands. The town has four primary schools, two large secondary schools and a further education college. Midsomer Norton is home to a leisure centre and several sports clubs. It has been the birth place or home to several notable people.
Minehead is a coastal town and civil parish lying on the south bank of the Bristol Channel, 21 miles (34 km) north-west of the county town of Taunton, 12 miles (19 km) from the border with the county of Devon and in proximity of the Exmoor National Park. The parish of Minehead has a population of approximately 10,330 making it the most populous town in the West Somerset local government district. This figure includes Alcombe, a suburban village which has been subsumed into Minehead.
There is evidence of human occupation in the area since the Bronze and Iron Ages. Before the Norman Conquest it was held by Ælfgar, Earl of Mercia and after it by William de Moyon and his descendants, who administered the area from Dunster Castle, which was later sold to Sir George Luttrell and his family. There was a small port at Minehead by 1380, which grew into a major trading centre during the medieval period. Most trade transferred to larger ports during the 20th century, but pleasure steamers did call at the port. Major rebuilding took place in the Lower or Middle town area following a fire in 1791 and the fortunes of the town revived with the growth in sea bathing, and by 1851 was becoming a retirement centre. There was a marked increase in building during the early years of the 20th century, which resulted in the wide main shopping avenue and adjacent roads with Edwardian style architecture. The town's flood defences were improved after a storm in 1990 caused flooding.
Minehead is governed by a town council, which was created in 1983 and has been part of the West Somerset local government district since 1974. In addition to the parish church of St. Michael, Alcombe is home to what used to be the Parish Church in Grove Place which is now a Spiritualist Church. Since 1991, Minehead has been twinned with Saint-Berthevin, a small town close to the regional centre of Laval in the Mayennedépartement of France. Blenheim Gardens, which is Minehead’s largest park, was opened in 1925. The town is also the home of a Butlins Holiday Park which increases Minehead's seasonal tourist population by several thousand. There are a variety of schools and religious, cultural and sporting facilities including sailing and wind surfing and golf. One popular ancient local tradition involves the Hobby Horse, or Obby Oss, which takes to the streets for four days on the eve of the first of May each year, with accompanying musicians and rival horses. The town is the starting point of the South West Coast Path National Trail, the nation's longest long-distance countryside walking trail. The Minehead Railway was opened in 1874 and closed in 1971 but has since been reopened as the West Somerset Railway.
Portishead has a long history as a fishing port. It expanded rapidly during the early 19th century around the docks, with supporting transport infrastructure. A power station and chemical works were added in the 20th century, but the dock and industrial facilities have since declined, redeveloped into a marina and residential areas. Portishead was also the telephone control centre used by British Telecom (BT) for non-direct dialled calls to maritime vessels, a service known as Portishead Radio.
The town's population is expanding, served by several retail outlets, religious, educational and sporting venues. Portishead is now primarily a dormitory town for Bristol and its environs, although a range of services industries has grown up. The headquarters of Avon and Somerset Constabulary are based in Portishead.
Radstock has been settled since the Iron Age, and its importance grew after the construction of the Fosse Way, a Roman road. The growth of the town occurred after 1763, when coal was discovered in the area. Large numbers of mines opened during the 19th century including several owned by the Waldegrave family, who had been Lords of the Manor since the English Civil War. The spoil heap of Writhlington colliery is now the Writhlington Site of Special Scientific Interest, which includes 3,000 tons of Upper Carboniferous spoil from which more than 1,400 insect fossil specimens have been recovered. The complex geology and narrow seams made coal extraction difficult. Tonnage increased throughout the 19th century, reaching a peak around 1901, when there were 79 separate collieries and annual production was 1,250,000 tons per annum. However, due to local geological difficulties and manpower shortages output declined and the number of pits reduced from 30 at the beginning of the 20th century to 14 by the mid-thirties; the last two pits, Kilmersdon and Writhlington, closed in September 1973. The Great Western Railway and the Somerset and Dorset Railway both established stations and marshalling yards in the town. The last passenger train services to Radstock closed in 1966. Manufacturing industries such as printing, binding and packaging provide some local employment. In recent years, Radstock has increasingly become a commuter town for the nearby cities of Bath and Bristol.
Radstock is home to the Radstock Museum which is housed in a former market hall, and has a range of exhibits which offer an insight into north-east Somerset life since the 19th century. Many of the exhibits relate to local geology and the now disused Somerset coalfield and geology. The town is also home to Writhlington School, famous for its Orchid collection, and a range of educational, religious and cultural buildings and sporting clubs.
In medieval times, the wool trade was important in the town's economy, although this declined in the 18th century to be replaced by other industries such as brewing; the town continues to be a major centre for the production of cider. Shepton Mallet is the closest town to the site of the Glastonbury Festival, the largest music festival in Europe. Also nearby is the Royal Bath and West of England Society showground which hosts the Royal Bath and West Show, and other major shows and festivals.
Street is a village and civil parish situated on a dry spot in the Somerset Levels, at the end of the Polden Hills, 2 miles (3.2 km) south-west of Glastonbury. The 2001 census records the village as having a population of 11,066. Its name comes from a 12th century causeway from Glastonbury which was built to transport local Blue Lias stone from what is now Street to rebuild Glastonbury Abbey, although it had previously been known as Lantokay and Lega.
There is evidence of Roman occupation. Much of the history of the village is dominated by Glastonbury Abbey until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The Society of Friends had become established there by the mid 17th century. One Quaker family, the Clarks, started a business in sheepskin rugs, woollen slippers and, later, boots and shoes. This became C&J Clark which still has its headquarters in Street, but shoes are no longer manufactured there. Instead, in 1993, redundant factory buildings were converted to form Clarks Village, the first purpose-built factory outlet in the United Kingdom. The Shoe Museum provides information about the history of Clarks and footwear manufacture in general. The Clark family mansion and its estate at the edge of the village are now owned by Millfield School, an independent co-educational boarding. Street is also home to Crispin School and Strode College.
The name Wells derives from the three wells dedicated to Saint Andrew, one in the market place and two within the grounds of the Bishop's Palace and cathedral. There was a small Roman settlement around the wells but its importance grew under the Saxons when King Ine of Wessex founded a minster church in 704, around which the settlement grew. Wells became a trading centre and involved in cloth making before its involvement in both the English Civil War and the Monmouth Rebellion during the 17th century. In the 19th century transport infrastructure improved with stations on three different railway lines.
The cathedral and the associated religious and architectural history have made Wells a tourist destination, which provides much of the employment. The city has a variety of sporting and cultural activities, and houses several schools including The Blue School, a state coeducationalcomprehensive school originally founded in 1654 and the independentWells Cathedral School, which was founded in 909, and is one of the five established musical schools for school-age children in Britain. The historic architecture of the city has also been used as a location for several films and television programmes.
Owing to the large tidal range in the Bristol Channel, the low tide mark in Weston Bay is about a mile from the seafront. Although the beach itself is sandy, low tide uncovers areas of thick mud, hence the colloquial name, Weston-super-Mud. These mudflats are very dangerous to walk in and are crossed by the mouth of the River Axe. Just to the north of the town is Sand Point which marks the lower limit of the Severn Estuary and the start of the Bristol Channel. It is also the site of the Middle Hopebiological and geological Site of Special Scientific Interest. In the centre of the town is Ellenborough Park another Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the range of plant species found there.
It has palaeolithic remains, was on an old Roman road and was recorded in the Domesday Book as the town of Givle, and later became a centre for the glove making industry. During the Middle Ages the population of the town suffered from the Black Death and several serious fires. In the 20th century it developed into a centre of the aircraft and defence industries, which made it a target for bombing in World War II, with one of the largest employers being AgustaWestland who manufacture helicopters. Several other manufacturing and retail companies also have bases in the town. In the 21st century Yeovil became the first town in Britain to institute a system of biometricfingerprint scanning in nightclubs and the first English council to ban the children's craze Heelys. Plans have been proposed for various regeneration projects in the town.
Cheddar is a large village and civil parish in the Sedgemoor district of the English county of Somerset. It is situated on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills, 9 miles (14 km) north-west of Wells. The civil parish includes the hamlets of Nyland and Bradley Cross. The village, which has its own parish council, has a population of 5,093 and the parish has an acreage of 8,592 acres (3,477 ha) as of 1961.
Cheddar Gorge is the largest gorge in the United Kingdom and includes several show caves including Gough's Cave. The gorge has been a centre of human settlement since Neolithic times, including a Saxon palace. It has a temperate climate and provides a unique geological and biological environment that has been recognised by the designation of several Sites of Special Scientific Interest. It is also the site of several limestone quarries. The village gave its name to Cheddar cheese and has been a centre for strawberry growing, with the crop being transported on the Cheddar Valley line. It is now a major tourist destination with several cultural and community facilities, including the Cheddar Show Caves Museum.
The village supports a variety of community groups including religious, sporting and cultural organisations. Several of these are based on the site of The Kings of Wessex School, which is the largest educational establishment.
Secondary education in Nailsea is provided by Nailsea School, and primary education by St Francis School. Churches in the town include the 14th-century Holy Trinity Church and Christ Church, which was built in 1843.
Somerton is a small town and civil parish in the South Somerset district. It gave its name to the county of Somerset, was briefly, around the start of the 14th century, the county town, and around 900 AD was possibly the capital of Wessex. It has held a weekly market since the Middle Ages, and the main square with its market cross is today an attractive location for visitors. Situated on the River Cary, approximately 8.8 miles (14.2 km) north-west of Yeovil, the town has its own parish council serving a population of 4,706 as of 2002, and an acreage of 6,620 acres (2,680 ha) as of 1894. The civil parish includes the hamlets of Etsome and Hurcot.
The history of Somerton dates back to the Anglo-Saxon era, when it was an important political and commercial centre. A local legend has it that Ine, a Wessex king, was originally a farmer in Somerton. After the Norman conquest of England the importance of the town declined despite being the former county town of Somerset in the late thirteenth century and early fourteenth century. Despite losing county town status, Somerton then became a market town in the Middle Ages, whose economy was supported by transport systems using the River Parrett, and later rail transport via the Great Western Railway, and by light industries including glove making and gypsum mining.