Celebrating Somerset Day with 10 Fascinating Facts about South Somerset

Famous for its rolling hills, delectable cheese, crisp cider, and the legendary Glastonbury Festival, Somerset is such a fantastic county that it has its very own day of celebration.

As we mark Somerset Day on May 11th, we’re venturing deeper into the heart of Somerset, specifically South Somerset (home of our Crewkerne and Yeovil clinics), to bring you 10 fascinating facts about this fabulous area! Join us on a journey through the treasure trove of enchanting landscapes and curious tales that make South Somerset truly exceptional. 

The Spooky Somerset Road of Windwhistle Hill

Windwhistle Hill, nestled along the A30 between Crewkerne and Chard, has earned its reputation as Somerset’s very own paranormal hotspot. From mysterious lights to ghostly apparitions, this eerie stretch of road has witnessed a series of unexplained phenomena over the years.

In 1991, a bewildered family en route from Yeovil to Chard encountered a massive orange light hovering near the road, accompanied by a peculiar loss of time. And just days later, they found themselves face-to-face with an abnormally tall figure with impossibly long legs. If that’s not enough to send shivers down your spine, how about a lorry driver in 1976 who felt a strange force take control of their vehicle as it seemingly hovered above the road? With its rich folklore of highwaymen and spectral encounters, Windwhistle Hill is the stuff of Somerset legend.

Middle Moor’s Duck Decoy

Quack, quack! Nestled on Middle Moor, just a stone’s throw from the Sowy River, lies a hidden gem steeped in history—the Middle Moor Duck Decoy. Dating back to 1676, this ancient monument once served as a cunning trap for unsuspecting waterfowl, thanks to its ingenious design of six decoy pipes and a central pond.

Over the years, the decoy has weathered the sands of time, offering a fascinating glimpse into centuries-old methods of wildfowl trapping. From its rectangular enclosure rhyne (drainage ditch) to its winding pipes and oval islands, the Middle Moor Duck Decoy is a testament to Somerset’s rich heritage and the ingenuity of its inhabitants.

Somerset Skittles: The Predecessor of Tenpin Bowling

Roll up, roll up! Step back in time to the heyday of Somerset Skittles, a beloved pub game that once reigned supreme in village greens and taverns across the county. Picture this: narrow skittle alleys, wooden balls, and triangular formations of pins waiting to be knocked down. Somerset Skittles was more than just a game, it was a way of life, fostering camaraderie and friendly competition in the heart of local communities. 

But here’s the twist: Somerset Skittles played a pivotal role in shaping the modern game of tenpin bowling! Originating in the taverns of Somerset, this traditional pastime accompanied British settlers to America, where it transformed into the tenpin bowling alleys we know and love today. So, whether you’re rolling balls down a skittle alley or aiming for a strike in the lanes, remember to tip your hat to Somerset Skittles, the unsung hero of bowling history.

Lights, Camera, Action! South Somerset on the Screen

South Somerset takes centre stage in the world of film and television, with its picturesque landscapes and historic landmarks captivating audiences far and wide. Montacute House, with its timeless charm and elegant architecture, has played a starring role in numerous productions, including the biographical drama The Libertine (2004) with Johnny Depp playing the lead role. But that’s not all—this stately home has also graced the silver screen in adaptations of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and the BBC’s Wolf Hall.

And let’s not forget Barrington Court near Ilminster, with its majestic setting and timeless beauty. From the drama series Wolf Hall to the historical epic Becoming Elizabeth, Barrington Court has provided the enchanting backdrop for countless cinematic adventures. So, grab your popcorn and get ready for a cinematic journey through the heart of South Somerset!

From Milk to Car Manuals in Sparkford

Rev your engines and buckle up for a ride through Sparkford’s eclectic history, where dairy delights once reigned supreme before giving way to automotive expertise. Before Haynes car manuals became synonymous with car maintenance, Sparkford was home to the Sparkford Vale Cooperative Dairy Society’s milk factory, churning out milk by the bucketload.
But in the swinging ’60s, the scene shifted dramatically as the Haynes Publishing Company rolled into town. Known worldwide for its comprehensive car manuals, Haynes acquired the former milk factory and transformed it into a hub of automotive wisdom. 

Chard’s Surgical Legacy: Sir Frederick Treves and the “Elephant Man”

Step into the world of medical marvels and surgical prowess with a visit to Chard, the birthplace of the legendary Sir Frederick Treves. Born in nearby Dorchester in 1853, Treves rose to prominence as a pioneering surgeon and medical scholar, leaving an indelible mark on the world of medicine. But it was his compassionate care and groundbreaking work with Joseph Merrick, the “Elephant Man,” that secured his place in medical history.

Treves’ documentation of Merrick’s condition and his dedication to providing him with care and refuge at the London Hospital cemented his legacy as a compassionate healer and advocate for vulnerable individuals. Today, Chard proudly celebrates its connection to Sir Frederick Treves, honouring his enduring legacy and contributions to the field of medicine.

Table Forks and Umbrellas – The Somerset Connection

Let’s raise a toast to Thomas Coryate, the unsung hero of Somerset’s culinary and cultural legacy. Born in Crewkerne in 1577, Coryate’s adventures would leave an indelible mark on both Somerset and English history. As a pioneering travel writer and cultural innovator, Coryate embarked on a journey across Europe, chronicling his experiences in voluminous writings.

But it was his introduction of two humble items that would change the course of history forever—the table fork and the umbrella. Thanks to Coryate’s adventurous spirit, England embraced the table fork, revolutionising dining etiquette and culinary culture. And let’s not forget the umbrella, a handy accessory that forever changed the way we seek shelter from the rain. So, next time you raise your fork or unfurl your umbrella, remember to tip your hat to Thomas Coryate, the Somerset hero whose legacy lives on in every bite and every raindrop.

The Famous Squib Case

You might want to skip this fact if you’re a little squeamish! In the depths of Somerset’s legal history, one case stands out above the rest—the infamous “squib case” of 1773. Set in the quaint town of Sherborne, this landmark case, known officially as Scott v Shepherd, established a crucial legal principle in civil courts. A lit squib (firework) was thrown into a bustling market, setting off a chain of events. The squib first landed on a market stall table before being tossed by a passerby into the goods of another stall. The owner of the second stall then picked up the squib intending to discard it, but it accidentally struck Scott in the face, causing him to lose an eye.

Despite subsequent actions by others, the courts found the original squib-thrower liable, highlighting the concept of causation and individual responsibility in initiating dangerous situations. And so, the “squib case” remains a pivotal moment in tort law, reminding us of the importance of accountability and the far-reaching consequences of our actions.

Ilminster’s Vibrant Festivals and Events

Get ready to party, Ilminster-style! This lively town comes alive in June with the Ilminster MidSummer Experience (IMEx), a three-day extravaganza of festivities and fun. Organised by Experience Ilminster CIC, this community celebration offers something for everyone, from classic car displays to quirky contests like the Family Dog Show. But the real star of the show? The Flag Festival, where over 110 vibrant flags flutter from businesses, transforming the town into a kaleidoscope of colour. And let’s not forget the Ilminster Literary Festival, a book lover’s paradise that brings literature to life during the early summer months.

Come November, the Victorian Evening at the Christmas Festival turns the town centre into a Dickensian wonderland, complete with festive lights, mulled wine, and Victorian-themed treats. Plus, don’t miss out on the spirited Ilminster Town Crier competition and the awe-inspiring Britain’s Disabled Strongman events, both supported by Experience Ilminster CIC. 

Yeovil’s Glove-Making Legacy

For hundreds of years, glove making was the biggest trade in Yeovil, earning the town’s football team its famous nickname, “The Glovers.” Thousands of people were employed in more than 30 factories scattered across the town in the 1700s, 1800s, and 1900s, and at one point, a large portion of the leather gloves produced in the UK were made in Yeovil.

But, alas, all good things must come to an end. The closure of the town’s last remaining glove maker, Pittards, in 2023 marked the end of an era, bringing a bittersweet conclusion to Yeovil’s storied history in glove-making. Yet, despite the industry’s decline, Yeovil’s legacy as Glove Town lives on in its rich history and heritage, serving as a reminder of the skilled craftsmen and women who once shaped the town’s identity.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our 10 fascinating facts about South Somerset! From its misty moors to its charming villages, Somerset continues to captivate and enchant visitors and all who are fortunate enough to call it home. So, here’s to Somerset—a county where the extraordinary is simply business as usual.

Contact us

We provide a range of services customised to meet individual needs, including chiropractic treatments, aromatherapy and sports massages from our clinics in Yeovil, Crewkerne, and Beaminster. Our main goal is to improve your overall well-being and quality of life. Whether you’re seeking advice on improving your posture or need help with aches, pains or injuries, contact us today to discover how we can align with your needs and assist you further.

Happy Somerset Day, everyone!

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