Bruton taken from the Dovecote
Bruton 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|
Bruton is a small town, electoral ward, and civil parish in Somerset, England, situated on the River Brue along the A359 between Frome and Yeovil. It is seven miles south-east of Shepton Mallet, just south of Snakelake Hill and Coombe Hill, ten miles north-west of Gillingham and twelve miles south-west of Frome in the South Somerset district. The town and electoral ward have a population of 2,907. The parish includes the hamlets of Wyke Champflower and Redlynch.
Bruton has a museum dedicated to the display of items from Bruton's past from the Jurassic geology right up to the present day. The museum houses a table used by the author John Steinbeck to write on during his six-month stay in Bruton.
The River Brue has a long history of flooding in Bruton. In 1768 the river rose very rapidly and destroyed a stone bridge. On the 28 June 1917, 242.8 mm of rain fell in 24 hours at Bruton, leaving a water mark on one pub twenty feet above the normal level of the river. In 1984 a protective dam was built 1 km upstream from the town.
Bruton was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Briuuetone, meaning 'Vigorously flowing river' from the Old English tor and Celtic briw meaning vigour. The river has been the site of several watermills and in 2003 the South Somerset Hydropower Group installed their first hydroelectric turbine at Gants Mill at nearby Pitcombe.
It was the site of Bruton Abbey, a medieval Augustinian priory from which a wall remains in the Plox close to Bow Bridge. The priory was sold after the dissolution of the monasteries to the courtier Sir Maurice Berkeley (died 1581) whose Bruton branch of the Berkeley family converted it into a mansion which was demolished in the late eighteenth century. The Dovecote which overlooks Bruton was built in the sixteenth century. It was at one time used as a house, possibly as a watchtower and as a dovecote. It is a Grade II* listed building and ancient monument. It is managed by the National Trust. The building was once within the deerpark of the Abbey and was adapted by the monks from a gabled Tudor tower. The conversion to be a dovecote took place around 1780. It has over 200 pigeon holes.
Bruton is referenced in a well-known English folk song, The Bramble Briar. A very rare copy of an Inspeximus of Magna Carta was discovered in Bruton in the 1950s and claimed by King's School, Bruton. The sale of the school's copy to the Australian National Museum paid for a great deal of the building work at the school.
Much of the town's history is exhibited at the Bruton Museum. The museum is housed in the Dovecote Building, in the town's High Street. The building also contains a tourist information office. The Bruton Museum Society was formed in 1989 and involved the community and local schools in the development of the collection of local artefacts. It was initially housed in the basement of the Co-Op and then in a disused Coach House owned by the National Westminster Bank. The museum moved to its current location in 1999 after it was jointly purchased by South Somerset District Council and Bruton Town Council. The time spent in the town by John Steinbeck is commemorated in the museum. They have also organised exhibitions at King's School including one in 2008 of the work of Ernst Blensdorf. In 2010 an anonymous donor agreed to pay the rent on the building, removing earlier doubts about the future viability of the museum.
The town 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 town 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 town 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 town 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 six MEPs using the d'Hondt method of party-list proportional representation.
Bruton station is situated on the Great Western Main Line (often referred to as the Berks and Hants route) between Westbury and Taunton although the stretch between Westbury and Castle Cary is also part of the Heart of Wessex line and until 12 December 2015 was only served by rail services between Bristol and Weymouth.
The route is the most direct between London and the West Country, but is slower due to the geography of the region. In December 2015, SouthWest Trains introduced a new rail service between London Waterloo/Salisbury and Yeovil, giving Bruton its first regular service direct from London for some years, although the service from London Waterloo is only once a day, supplemented by a service from Salisbury, with the two return trains terminating at Salisbury. These services currently only operate through Bruton mid-afternoon and evening.
Work to build the railway line at Bruton Railway Cutting exposed geology of the epoch of the Middle Jurassic. It is one of the best places in England to demonstrate the stratigraphic distinction of ammonites in the subcontractus zone and the morrisi zone.
The nearby Godminster Lane Quarry and Railway Cutting is another geological Site of Special Scientific Interest which is an important locality for study of the Inferior Oolite limestones, of Middle Jurassic age, laid down in a warm shallow sea some 175 million years ago. The site is unique in that the limestones seen here are much more closely comparable with rocks of similar age found in the Cotswolds than with rock sequences seen elsewhere in Somerset. However, the rocks do contain the rich assemblage of fossil ammonites which are typical of the north Dorset/south Somerset area and it is this feature, combined with the unusual limestone sequence, which makes this site unique. It is also important as a reference site for three sub-divisions (zones) of the Inferior Oolite — the laeviscula, discites and concavum Zones.
John Wesley preached in Bruton in 1776 and a Methodist chapel at West End was opened in 1848. The congregation was served by the Somerset Mission Circuit, and more recently by the expanded Somerset Mendip Circuit.
Bruton is known for its three popular secondary schools - King's School, Bruton (founded 1519); Sexey's School (founded 1889); and Bruton School for Girls (Sunny Hill) (founded 1900). Each school has a sixth form, and a tradition of boarding.
One of Bruton's notable historic characters was Hugh Sexey (1556–1619), who was born in the local area, and attended Bruton Grammar School. By the age of 43 he had been appointed as Royal auditor of the Exchequer to Queen Elizabeth I and later King James I. After his death the trustees of his will established Sexey's Hospital in Bruton as an institution to care for the elderly. Sexey's trust was mainly involved with educational causes. The politician behind the Education Act 1902, Henry Hobhouse, MP (1854–1937), was involved in the founding of Sexey's School and Sunny Hill.
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