Zeals is a village and civil parish in southwest Wiltshire, England. The village is about 2.2 miles (3.5 km) west of Mere, next to the A303 road towards Wincanton, and adjoins the villages of Bourton, Dorset and Penselwood, Somerset. Its name comes from the Old English sealh meaning a small willow or sallow.
The civil parish includes the hamlets of Long Cross, White Cross, Lower Zeals and Wolverton.
There is archaeological evidence of human activity in Zeals as far back as neolithic times. The village borders the western edge of Salisbury Plain, and is 23 miles (37 km) from Stonehenge. There are bowl barrows on Mappledine Hill in the south east corner of the parish, and early prehistoric activity at Pen Pits to the north which were quarried since Roman times for greensand querns for hand grinding corn.
In 1086 the Domesday Book recorded that the area of Zeals consisted of two estates: Lower Zeals (later the Manor of Zeals, or Clevedon) and Higher Zeals (later Zeals Aylesbury). Estimates suggest a population of around 40–50 at Lower Zeals and 85–95 at Higher Zeals at that time.
Zeals House is a Grade I listed country house dating from the 14th century, with many later additions. It was owned by the Chafyn family, later the Chafyn-Groves, from the 15th century until the mid 20th century; in 1897 the family were benefactors of Chafyn Grove School near Salisbury.
Church and chapels
The Church of England parish church of Saint Martin was built in 1842–44 to decorated gothic designs by the Gothic Revival architect George Gilbert Scott. It was consecrated on 14 October 1846 as a chapel of ease of the parish of Mere. On 27 June 1848 Zeals was made a separate ecclesiastical parish and St. Martin's became the parish church. The church is Grade II* listed.
Whitesheet Church of England Primary Academy, near the church in Zeals village, serves the parish and surrounding area. Since 2003 it has operated on two sites, with younger children attending the school at Kilmington and older children at Zeals.
North of Zeals village, next to the village of Stourton and the Stourhead estate, is the site of the former RAF Zeals, also known as HMS Hummingbird and RNAS Zeals. The airfield operated between May 1942 and June 1946, and during this short time was used by the Royal Air Force, the United States Army Air Forces and the Royal Navy.
Until August 1943 RAF Fighter Command used it as a fighter airfield for Hurricanes and Spitfires. The station was transferred in August 1943 to the USAAF whose initial plan was to use the airfield to maintain C-47 Skytrain transport aircraft. However, the damp conditions prevented heavy loads so P-47 Thunderbolt fighter aircraft were flown from Zeals instead. From March 1944 the airfield reverted to the RAF who posted Mosquito there to intercept incoming German bombers. Following D-Day the RAF used the airfield for glider training in preparation for action against Japan, and in April 1945 the airfield was transferred to the Royal Navy, and was commissioned HMS Heron using the airfield for aircraft carrier training.
The airfield closed on 1 January 1946, although the RN stayed until June 1946 when it was returned to farmland. As of 2006, the control tower, now a private house, remains on Bells Lane in Zeals.
A memorial stands at nearby Beech Knoll in Stourton to mark the site where an American military plane crashed on 10 July 1944, killing all of its crew. The plane had taken off from Zeals airfield to return to Lincolnshire after two weeks of glider training and flew into some cloud-covered beech trees on the knoll.
- "Wiltshire Community History: Zeals Census Information". Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
- "Wiltshire Community History: Zeals". Wiltshire Council. 19 September 2005. Retrieved 17 March 2007.
- Currie, C.R.J.; Dunning, R.W.; Baggs, A.P.; Siraut, M.C. (1999). "Victoria County History, A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 7: Bruton, Horethorne and Norton Ferris Hundreds". pp. 184–192. Retrieved 17 March 2007.
- Historic England. "Zeals House (1318497)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
- Pevsner, Nikolaus (1975). Cherry, Bridget (ed.). The Buildings of England: Wiltshire. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. p. 603. ISBN 0-14-0710-26-4.
- Historic England. "Chafyn-Grove Cottages and Parish Hall (1318500)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
- "Church of St. Martin, Zeals". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
- Historic England. "Church of St Martin, Zeals (1131078)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
- "Congregational Chapel, Zeals". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
- "Primitive Methodist Chapel, Zeals". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
- "Whitesheet Church of England VA Primary School". Wiltshire Community History. Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
- "Bell and Crown". Retrieved 14 August 2015.
- "King Alfred's Tower - Zeals Airfield". King Alfred's Tower. Zeals online. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
- "King Alfred's Tower - Additional Information". King Alfred's Tower. Zelas online. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
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