The Sparkford Inn
Sparkford 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||Somerton and Frome|
It is situated near the junction of the A303 from London to Exeter and the A359 from Frome to Yeovil. In 1986 a bypass was built to take the main traffic on the A303 around the north of the village. The population is 617 mostly living along the old A303 and Church Road, which runs down to the former water mill and the church.
There is evidence for continuous occupation from Roman to Saxon times. The village is listed in the Domesday Book for Somerset as Spercheforde. It was held in 1086 by Fulwin from Walter de Douai having been held by Alwakin before the Norman conquest.
In about 1335 the manor was held by Nicholas de Hanyton, while by 1370 it was held by John Lovel of Titchmarsh. The next known owner is Sir Thomas Essex who held the manor in about 1554. Richard Newman acquired Sparkford manor in 1610 and this family held it until 1792. It then passed to the Bennett family of North Cadbury.
The village appears formerly to have been situated south of the church, rather than to the north of it as at present. There are still signs of earthworks in the field that used to be called Lickhill. Some archaeological investigations have recently been carried out but the results are not yet known.
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 falls within the Non-metropolitan district of South Somerset, which was formed on 1 April 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, having previously been part of Wincanton Rural District. The district council 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 also part of the Somerton and Frome 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 of election, 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 present main roads have been important for many years. The bridge was widened in 1815. The toll house for the turnpike to Wincanton still exists but is now a private house (The Octagon). The Sparkford Inn, dating from the 15th century, was an important coaching house and continues to be a popular hostelry. It used to be a meeting place for the local hunt but this is now combined with the Blackmore Vale one.
When the railway was built through Sparkford in 1877, there was a rearrangement of the roads, but the lines of the old ones can still be seen. The track was part of the Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth Railway (later Great Western Railway) and ran from Thingley Junction in Wiltshire to Weymouth. There was a station, which served a wide district, and later a siding for milk trains for the milk factory, but both are now gone. However, the track is still in use.
Sparkford Vale Cooperative Dairy Society had a factory by the railway from 1918 until 1938. Water for its use was taken from the River Cam. This factory was taken over by the Haynes Publishing Company (renowned for its car manuals) in the 1960s and has since greatly expanded.
The village school was erected in 1849 and enlarged in 1892. It was for 80 children with an average attendance of 61, with a master and mistress. It is now closed and has become the village hall. The village's primary age children now generally go to Countess Gytha Primary School in Queen Camel.
Just to the north of Sparkford is Hazlegrove Preparatory School, which is an independent preparatory school for King's School, Bruton.In early 2011 the village hall once more became utilised for the purpose of a local playgroup. The Galhampton Pre-school re-located to Sparkford due to problems in the previous setting.
The Church of St Mary Magdalene is still as described in 1868, but the parish is now part of a Benefice known as Cam Vale which includes Queen Camel, West Camel, Corton Denham, Weston Bampfield and Sutton Montis. The building dates from the 14th century with the nave built in 1824 by Thomas Ellis of local grey lias stone cut and squared, with Hamstone dressings. The first known incumbent of the church was in 1297 and the monumental inscriptions date back to Johes Clyke, who died in 1513. It has been designated by English Heritage as a grade II* listed building.
Sparkford has a cricket field by the old A303 with a successful local team. There is a playing field for children off Church Road, run by a trust. Another trust looks after Sparkford Hill copse to the west of the village.
The Haynes International Motor Museum has over 340 cars and bikes and is continually growing. It is often used as a start/finish point for car and motorbike rallies.
Sparkford is still a centre for milk distribution. There is a well known sawmill which makes sheds and many other things. There is a camping site near the inn that is a convenient stop between London and Cornwall as well as being a place from which to explore local attractions such as Cadbury Castle (Camelot?), and the Fleet Air Arm Museum for example.
At one time Sparkford had three garages, but one has since been demolished after the bypass was built. Wakes Garage was the centre for a bus company for many years, but the site has now been redeveloped as a filling station and McDonald's. What was the well known "Frying Pan" cafe also had a filling station but was redeveloped as a Happy Eater and filling station after a fire destroyed the cafe. Sparkford was formerly the site of a weekly cattle market, which was held behind the inn. Associated with this there were several activities opposite the inn, including a bank. However the market and businesses have now gone, except that a storage company is now behind the houses which have been built on the site of the businesses.
The Cubs and Scouts meet locally while there is also a thriving young farmers' club.
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