Monday, 4 August 2014


Bath is one of Somerset's finest cities. Dating back to Roman times it is one of the oldest cities in the country as well as being the best preserved Georgian town. Situated on the River Avon it has the only natural hot springs
in Great Britain.
Built in Bath stone, Pultenay Bridge crosses the River Avon near the city centre and was built in 1774. Commisioned by William Johnstone a wealthy lawyer and MP and named after his wife Frances Pultenay, it was designed in Palladium style by Robert Adam. It is one of only four bridges in the world with shops across its full span on both sides.  Grade 1 listed, it is 980ft long and 58ft wide, and is still used by buses and taxis.
Reminiscent of Ponte Vecchio in Florence it is part of a World Heritage Site.



The magnificent Royal Crescent is part of Bath's Georgian heritage. The majestic sweep of 30 houses is faced with 114 huge ionic columns. Number 1 has been restored and can be visited to see something of the lifestyle of the upper class in the city at the end of the 18th century.

In 1680 a Hugeunot girl refugee called Soli Luyan, later Sally Lunn, arrived in  Bath and found employment with a baker in Lilliput Alley. She told the baker about the French brioche type of bread or buns which were to become famous and forever associated with her name. This light and delicious bun soon became popular at afternoon tea’s which were part of Bath’s tradition.
The baker’s premises are still there and said to be the oldest building in the city, probably dating back as far as AD200.

Sally’s original kitchen and contents, in use up to the late 19th century. is still preserved in the cellar  where it can be visited.  Present day Sally Lunn’s can also be enjoyed in the refreshment rooms above, indeed the rich round buns are still made in a modern bakery on the second floor.
Sally’s original recipe was found in a secret cupboard in the 1930’s and is passed with the deeds to the building.

South west of Bath, Wells is one of the smallest cities in the country. The town is dominated by its fine 13th century cathedral.

South of the cathedral a medieval gateway gives entrance to the fortified and moat ringed Bishop's Palace.




The Olde City Jail pub in Wells. The original building dates to 1549. It was the city jail which remains intact and includes a military cell.



Mells is a lovely stone built village to the east of Wells.  Opposite the church is Mells Manor, a fine Tudor gabled house associated with 'Little Jack Horner' of nursery rhyme fame.
Nursery rhymes are very much part of our heritage and usually derive from some historical fact.  
Mells is a very attractive village and it has an unusually large number of listed buildings making most of the village a conservation area.   Although there is no public access to Mells Manor tantalising views of this fine house can be seen from various vantage points. 
Formerly belonging to Glastonbury Abbey, the manor was acquired
in 1543 by one John Horner, following the dissolution of the Abbey in 1539. 
Horner had been closely involved in the management of Glastonbury’s estates and his speedy acquisition of Mells Manor is thought to give rise to the nursery rhyme Little Jack Horner.    The story goes that, wishing to placate Henry V111, the Abbot of Glastonbury sent him a pie containing the deeds of Mells Manor.  The emissary was indeed Thomas Horner who ‘put in his thumb’ and pulled out the deeds!  Quite a plum.  T
he property stayed in the possession of the Horner family until recent times

GLASTONBURY is the small Somerset town well known for its annual festival and not least for its fine ruined abbey which is said to be the burial place of the legendary King Arthur and his wife.
In the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey  is a curious circular building with a tower topped by a spire.  The tower is in fact a chimney, for this medieval building, built in 1435, was the Abbot’s kitchen with four fireplaces.



“ Put him in the roundhouse till he gets sober “ so wrote Charles Kingsley in his Water Babies, referring to the village lock-up. These tiny buildings were prevalent in many rural areas in the late Georgian period towards the end of the 18th century and into the early 19th century. They became necessary because of the rise in vagrancy in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars when men were returning to their localities, many of them badly disabled and with little prospect of gainful employment which also lead to considerable disorder. This was the time before the advent of organised police forces and in most communities the law was upheld by the village constable at the instigation of the Lord of the Manor or perhaps the Church Vestry. This unpaid job was usually given to an upstanding member of the community for a period of one year and he was sometimes assisted by a paid night watchman. Whilst there would be a pillory and stocks for minor punishment, there was often no place for miscreants to be securely detained to sober up or to appear before the local Magistrate, and so a purpose built village lock-up was the answer. Built from local materials, mostly stone or brick, these sturdy little buildings were erected in the centre of the village near to the market cross or the church.  
The well preserved roundhouse at Castle Cary, another pretty Somerset village south east of Wells, was built in 1779. It is a typical example of a lock-up and the shape of the domed roof is said to be inspiration for the policeman’s helmet.
 Photo's by Colin Sinnott
At Penn Hill alongside the side of the A39 road north of Wells near to its junction with the B3135, is a strange monument.  Two carved pillars with a platform top, support a she wolf suckling two babes – the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus  and  Remus.  It was built by Gaetano Calestra, an Italian prisoner of war during WW11 who worked on a nearby farm, to thank local people for their kindness to him and his fellow prisoners. It is now a Grade 11 listed building.

Further west, Cheddar Gorge is a narrow rocky cleft in the Mendip Hills with cliffs rising to 700 feet.


Weston-Super-Mare on the Bristol Channel is one of Somerset's
premier seaside resorts.


Watchet is a small harbour town on the Bristol Channel where Coleridge started writing his poem The Ancient Mariner. A fine statue on the quay side commemorates the event.

The old Market House in West Street is now a museum.

A tiny building under the rear steps is the old Court Leet lock-up.
Prior to the early 1800's, the Court Leet was responsible for law and order in  Watchet. Prominent local  men took up various duties to administer justice at Court Leet Sessions which were held at the Bell Inn, handily placed across the road from the lock-up.



EAST COKER is a large village near Yeovil. The churchyard is the last resting place for the ashes of poet and playwright T.S Eliot.
Some gypsies were fortunate at Taunton Assizes in 1876 when, charged with the murder of a policeman, they were rather surprisingly convicted of manslaughter.

PC Nathaniel Cox was the well respected village policeman at East Coker where he lived with his wife and four young children.   On the night of 16th November 1876, PC Cox was kicked and bludgeoned to death whilst in the discharge of his duty.  Nat Cox was 37 years of age, broad shouldered, thick in fist, a brave man who could look after himself and normally a ready match for any law breaker.    It was the eve of Yeovil Fair which often meant trouble for the local police with an increase of horse thieving and poaching.   Taking no chances, the police were patrolling in pairs and Cox was with a younger colleague, PC Henry Stacey from West Coker, when they had occasion to stop and check a horse and cart being driven by one man with three other men walking alongside.   Suddenly PC Cox was struck a heavy blow on the head which left him sprawled on the road.  PC Stacey, who went to his assistance, was also felled with a blow to the head which left him unconscious in a ditch.   When he came round there was no sign of the cart, the four men, or indeed PC Cox.   The seriously injured policeman managed to summon assistance from a nearby farm and PC Cox was subsequently found lying dead a short distance away.
The local doctor later said in evidence, of PC Cox, ‘I found he had a compound comminuted fracture of the scalp on the left side of the head and the brain was protruding.  The left ear was badly lacerated.’   He said he thought that the terrible injuries had been caused by a succession of heavy kicks.  Comminute means to break into little pieces, to crush or grind.    PC Stacey was critically ill for some weeks with severe concussion, but eventually recovered.
A police notice was soon circulating naming three members of a well known family of poachers – George Hutchinson (55) and his two sons, Giles (30) and Peter (26).  The three men had disappeared but a fourth man, Charles Baker, was soon arrested and charged with murder.  George and Giles Hutchinson eventually gave themselves up and Peter was subsequently found hiding in a loft at West Coker.   All four men eventually appeared at Taunton Assizes charged with the murder of PC Cox and the attempted murder of PC Stacey.
The dramatic evidence to’d and fro’d about what had happened on the fateful night.  The local populace had no doubt about the guilt of the four accused men, but Lord Chief Justice, Sir Alexander Cockburn, told the jury, ‘When PC Cox met his death, it was by foul means, both gross and brutal…. That the violence was the act of some, if not all the prisoners is, I feel, clear.  But as to how and in what precise circumstances the constable met his death, we are left absolutely in the dark.’    After deliberating for just 45 minutes the jury found all four guilty of manslaughter!   There was a gasp of disbelief around the courtroom.   His Lordship then said, ‘The jury have taken a merciful view in your case and I think have acted wisely too.  I don’t think this was a case of premeditated murder.’    He decided that George Hutchinson had taken no part in the attack and gave him a free pardon.  This followed a dramatic interruption by the accused Baker, who told the judge that the older man had not left the cart and took no part in the assaults on the two constables.   The other three men were sentenced to 24 years penal servitude. 
In time, widow Mrs Cox, told an uncanny story.   On the night before her husband’s death he had had a restless night.  He told her, ‘I’ve had a bad time.  I dreamt that I had a fight with some gypsies and they gave me a horrible smack on the head.’

PC Cox was buried in the churchyard at East Coker where a nice stone marks his grave.




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