Puriton Parish Church, constructed from local Blue Lias stone
Puriton shown within Somerset
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Police||Avon and Somerset|
|Fire||Devon and Somerset|
|EU Parliament||South West England|
|UK Parliament||Bridgwater and West Somerset|
Puriton is a village and parish at the westerly end of the Polden Hills, in the Sedgemoor district of Somerset, UK. The parish has a population of 1,068. The local parish church is named after St Michael. A chapel on Woolavington Road was converted to a private house some 20 years ago.
The village has a full range of facilities, such as a primary school, parish church, pub, post office, shop (general store and newsagent), butcher and hairdresser. It started to expand considerably in the 1960s and 1970s when new houses were built on former farm land, a former infilled stone Blue Lias quarry, Puriton Park, and on fields between the existing houses. The old Victorian school near the church was converted into homes and a new school built elsewhere. The Manor House was sold off in 1960 and four houses were built on its former tennis courts: the House is in multiple occupancy.
A cement and lime works was at the western end of the Polden Hills, at Dunball. It used Blue Lias stone quarried at several locations in the village, transported to the works on narrow-gauge railways. This area of the Polden Hills was used for quarrying stone and lime burning from 1888 until 1973. Quarrying may have taken place on the hillside as early as the 15th century.
In 1910 exploration for coal discovered a 36 metres (118 ft) thick seam of Rock salt 183 metres (600 ft) beneath the mudstones. Between 1911 and 1922 this was commercially extracted by dissolving the salt with water pumped down bore holes, which was brought to the surface and evaporated in boiling pans.
Until just after World War II the village still had apple and pear orchards. The village is mentioned in the Domesday Book as growing pears (1086 - Peritone 'a Pear Orchard or farmstead where Pear trees grow') and this is one possible reason for the village's name. A German pilot was captured in one of the orchards after his plane was shot down and he landed by parachute. The orchards have now all gone, houses having been built on them. The last was Culverhay, which at one time had housed both a dairy and a cider press. One working farm is still in existence.
In 1941, ROF Bridgwater, an explosives factory, was opened mid-way between Puriton and the adjacent village of Woolavington. The factory lies mostly in Puriton parish, with a small portion in Woolavington. Several million gallons of water per day were extracted from the nearby artificial River Huntspill. Now the extraction rate is probably very much lower, and most, if not all, of the water is returned after use, after clean-up through a reedbed sewage treatment plant. A large explosion occurred at the factory in the early 1950s, with workers dying or being injured. Its current owners, BAE Systems Land and Armaments, closed it in spring 2008.
The village's stone quarries began to go out of use during World War II. The cement and lime works, next to both the King's Sedgemoor Drain and the Bristol and Exeter Railway line, became run down by the early 1960s and was demolished when the M5 motorway was built through part of the site. The church, and the boundary walls, in the old part of the village, are built of blue lias blocks. Puriton Park was built over part of the site of an in-filled blue lias quarry, at the eastern end of the village.
The headquarters of the British Institute for Brain Injured Children, or BIBIC, has been in a former 19th century house, Knowle Hall, since 1983.
The parish council has responsibility for local issues, including setting an annual precept (local rate) to cover the council’s operating costs and producing annual accounts for public scrutiny. The parish council evaluates local planning applications and works with the local police, district council officers, and neighbourhood watch groups on matters of crime, security, and traffic. The parish council's role also includes initiating projects for the maintenance and repair of parish facilities, as well as consulting with the district council on the maintenance, repair, and improvement of highways, drainage, footpaths, public transport, and street cleaning. Conservation matters (including trees and listed buildings) and environmental issues are also the responsibility of the council.
The village is in the Non-metropolitan district of Sedgemoor, formed on 1 April 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, having previously been part of Bridgwater Rural District, which is responsible for local planning and building control, local roads, council housing, environmental health, markets and fairs, refuse collection and recycling, cemeteries and crematoria, leisure services, parks, and tourism.
Somerset County Council is responsible for running the largest and most expensive local services such as education, social services, libraries, main roads, public transport, policing and fire services, trading standards, waste disposal and strategic planning.
It is part of the Bridgwater and West Somerset county constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It elects one Member of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post system, and part of the South West England constituency of the European Parliament which elects seven MEPs using the d'Hondt method of party-list proportional representation.
The northern end of King's Sedgemoor Drain, where it discharges into the River Parrett, lies just outside the parish boundary; it runs between the Polden Hills (to the east) and the M5 motorway (to the west). In Roman times the course of the River Parrett near the village was very different. It had an almost-complete great loop that followed the southern flank of the Polden Hills, along the course of the present-day King's Sedgemoor Drain. Roman ships were able to dock in the lee of the Polden Hills.
Until the mid-19th century, the main road from Exeter to Bristol, via Crandon Bridge, passed through the village in front (east) of the Puriton Inn and continued along what is now Pawlett Road / Puriton Road to Pawlett and beyond. The Exeter — Bristol road is now part of the A38: and the arrow-straight section north from Bridgwater to Pawlett was built in the 1820s. It bypassed Pawlett; the old road is now known as the Old Main Road.
The village was served by a railway station at Dunball, opened in 1873 by the Bristol and Exeter Railway, downgraded to Dunball Halt by the British Transport Commission in 1961. It closed in November 1964 and has been completely removed, although the line remains open, with Bridgwater as the nearest station.
With the building of the 19th-century section of the A38, the old main road from Crandon Bridge through the village to Pawlett was retained. The southern section from Crandon Bridge up the Polden Hill is part of the A39 link road to the M5 motorway. Part of the northern section was realigned in 1973, when the M5 motorway was extended through Somerset: it was diverted to the west of the Puriton Inn to roundabout at junction 23. Parts of the original route still exist as two sections of Puriton Hill and most of Puriton Road. Hall Road, Puriton, was built at the same time to link the A39 to Riverton Road, Puriton. The road between Riverton Road / Puriton Hill and Puriton Road / Downend Road was severed by the M5, being replaced by a footbridge to the hamlet of Downend. Church Field Lane was also severed by the M5. A dual carriageway was built between the M5 roundabout and a new roundabout on the A38 at Dunball, with a link road to Downend.
The Anglican parish Church of St Michael and All Angels was constructed from local Blue Lias stone. It has an early-13th-century tower, with the remainder dating from the 14th and 15th centuries. It has been designated a Grade I listed building.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Puriton.|
- The Somerset Urban Archaeological Survey: Down End, by Miranda Richardson
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- Williams, Michael (1970). The Draining of the Somerset Levels. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-07486-X.