Somerset
Overview
The ceremonial
Ceremonial counties of England
The ceremonial counties are areas of England to which are appointed a Lord Lieutenant, and are defined by the government as counties and areas for the purposes of the Lieutenancies Act 1997 with reference to the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties of England and Lieutenancies Act 1997...

 and non-metropolitan
Metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties of England
Metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties are one of the four levels of subdivisions of England used for the purposes of local government outside Greater London. As originally constituted, the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties each consisted of multiple districts, had a county council and...

 county of Somerset ( or ˈ) in South West England
South West England
South West England is one of the regions of England defined by the Government of the United Kingdom for statistical and other purposes. It is the largest such region in area, covering and comprising Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. ...

 borders Bristol
Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

 and Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire is a county in South West England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire Forest of Dean....

 to the north, Wiltshire
Wiltshire
Wiltshire is a ceremonial county in South West England. It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. It contains the unitary authority of Swindon and covers...

 to the east, Dorset
Dorset
Dorset , is a county in South West England on the English Channel coast. The county town is Dorchester which is situated in the south. The Hampshire towns of Bournemouth and Christchurch joined the county with the reorganisation of local government in 1974...

 to the south-east, and Devon
Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

 to the south-west. It is partly bounded to the north and west by the Bristol Channel
Bristol Channel
The Bristol Channel is a major inlet in the island of Great Britain, separating South Wales from Devon and Somerset in South West England. It extends from the lower estuary of the River Severn to the North Atlantic Ocean...

 and the estuary
Estuary
An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea....

 of the River Severn
River Severn
The River Severn is the longest river in Great Britain, at about , but the second longest on the British Isles, behind the River Shannon. It rises at an altitude of on Plynlimon, Ceredigion near Llanidloes, Powys, in the Cambrian Mountains of mid Wales...

. Its traditional northern border is the River Avon, but the administrative boundary has crept southwards with the creation and expansion of the City of Bristol
Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

, and latterly the county of Avon
Avon (county)
Avon was, from 1974 to 1996, a non-metropolitan and ceremonial county in the west of England.The county was named after the River Avon, which runs through the area. It was formed from parts of the historic counties of Gloucestershire and Somerset, together with the City of Bristol...

 and its successor unitary authorities
Unitary authority
A unitary authority is a type of local authority that has a single tier and is responsible for all local government functions within its area or performs additional functions which elsewhere in the relevant country are usually performed by national government or a higher level of sub-national...

 to the north.
Discussions
Encyclopedia
The ceremonial
Ceremonial counties of England
The ceremonial counties are areas of England to which are appointed a Lord Lieutenant, and are defined by the government as counties and areas for the purposes of the Lieutenancies Act 1997 with reference to the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties of England and Lieutenancies Act 1997...

 and non-metropolitan
Metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties of England
Metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties are one of the four levels of subdivisions of England used for the purposes of local government outside Greater London. As originally constituted, the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties each consisted of multiple districts, had a county council and...

 county of Somerset ( or ˈ) in South West England
South West England
South West England is one of the regions of England defined by the Government of the United Kingdom for statistical and other purposes. It is the largest such region in area, covering and comprising Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. ...

 borders Bristol
Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

 and Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire is a county in South West England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire Forest of Dean....

 to the north, Wiltshire
Wiltshire
Wiltshire is a ceremonial county in South West England. It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. It contains the unitary authority of Swindon and covers...

 to the east, Dorset
Dorset
Dorset , is a county in South West England on the English Channel coast. The county town is Dorchester which is situated in the south. The Hampshire towns of Bournemouth and Christchurch joined the county with the reorganisation of local government in 1974...

 to the south-east, and Devon
Devon
Devon is a large county in southwestern England. The county is sometimes referred to as Devonshire, although the term is rarely used inside the county itself as the county has never been officially "shired", it often indicates a traditional or historical context.The county shares borders with...

 to the south-west. It is partly bounded to the north and west by the Bristol Channel
Bristol Channel
The Bristol Channel is a major inlet in the island of Great Britain, separating South Wales from Devon and Somerset in South West England. It extends from the lower estuary of the River Severn to the North Atlantic Ocean...

 and the estuary
Estuary
An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea....

 of the River Severn
River Severn
The River Severn is the longest river in Great Britain, at about , but the second longest on the British Isles, behind the River Shannon. It rises at an altitude of on Plynlimon, Ceredigion near Llanidloes, Powys, in the Cambrian Mountains of mid Wales...

. Its traditional northern border is the River Avon, but the administrative boundary has crept southwards with the creation and expansion of the City of Bristol
Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

, and latterly the county of Avon
Avon (county)
Avon was, from 1974 to 1996, a non-metropolitan and ceremonial county in the west of England.The county was named after the River Avon, which runs through the area. It was formed from parts of the historic counties of Gloucestershire and Somerset, together with the City of Bristol...

 and its successor unitary authorities
Unitary authority
A unitary authority is a type of local authority that has a single tier and is responsible for all local government functions within its area or performs additional functions which elsewhere in the relevant country are usually performed by national government or a higher level of sub-national...

 to the north. Somerset's county town
County town
A county town is a county's administrative centre in the United Kingdom or Ireland. County towns are usually the location of administrative or judicial functions, or established over time as the de facto main town of a county. The concept of a county town eventually became detached from its...

, Taunton
Taunton
Taunton is the county town of Somerset, England. The town, including its suburbs, had an estimated population of 61,400 in 2001. It is the largest town in the shire county of Somerset....

, is in the south.

Somerset is a rural county of rolling hills such as the Blackdown Hills
Blackdown Hills
The Blackdown Hills are a range of hills along the Somerset-Devon border in south-western England, which were designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1991....

, Mendip Hills
Mendip Hills
The Mendip Hills is a range of limestone hills to the south of Bristol and Bath in Somerset, England. Running east to west between Weston-super-Mare and Frome, the hills overlook the Somerset Levels to the south and the Avon Valley to the north...

, Quantock Hills
Quantock Hills
The Quantock Hills is a range of hills west of Bridgwater in Somerset, England. The Quantock Hills were England’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty being designated in 1956 and consists of large amounts of heathland, oak woodlands, ancient parklands and agricultural land.The hills run from...

 and Exmoor National Park
Exmoor
Exmoor is an area of hilly open moorland in west Somerset and north Devon in South West England, named after the main river that flows out of the district, the River Exe. The moor has given its name to a National Park, which includes the Brendon Hills, the East Lyn Valley, the Vale of Porlock and ...

, and large flat expanses of land including the Somerset Levels
Somerset Levels
The Somerset Levels, or the Somerset Levels and Moors as they are less commonly but more correctly known, is a sparsely populated coastal plain and wetland area of central Somerset, South West England, between the Quantock and Mendip Hills...

. There is evidence of human occupation from Palaeolithic
Paleolithic
The Paleolithic Age, Era or Period, is a prehistoric period of human history distinguished by the development of the most primitive stone tools discovered , and covers roughly 99% of human technological prehistory...

 times, and of subsequent settlement in the Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 and Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

 periods. The county played a significant part in the consolidation of power and rise of King Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great was King of Wessex from 871 to 899.Alfred is noted for his defence of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of southern England against the Vikings, becoming the only English monarch still to be accorded the epithet "the Great". Alfred was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself...

, and later in the English Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

 and the Monmouth Rebellion
Monmouth Rebellion
The Monmouth Rebellion,The Revolt of the West or The West Country rebellion of 1685, was an attempt to overthrow James II, who had become King of England, King of Scots and King of Ireland at the death of his elder brother Charles II on 6 February 1685. James II was a Roman Catholic, and some...

.

Agriculture is a major business in the county. Farming of sheep and cattle, including for wool and the county's famous cheeses (most notably Cheddar
Cheddar cheese
Cheddar cheese is a relatively hard, yellow to off-white, and sometimes sharp-tasting cheese, produced in several countries around the world. It has its origins in the English village of Cheddar in Somerset....

), are traditional and contemporary, as is the more unusual cultivation of willow
Willow
Willows, sallows, and osiers form the genus Salix, around 400 species of deciduous trees and shrubs, found primarily on moist soils in cold and temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere...

 for basket weaving
Basket weaving
Basket weaving is the process of weaving unspun vegetable fibres into a basket or other similar form. People and artists who weave baskets are called basketmakers and basket weavers.Basketry is made from a variety of fibrous or pliable materials•anything that will bend and form a shape...

. Apple orchards were once plentiful, and Somerset is still known for the production of strong cider
Cider
Cider or cyder is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from apple juice. Cider varies in alcohol content from 2% abv to 8.5% abv or more in traditional English ciders. In some regions, such as Germany and America, cider may be termed "apple wine"...

. Unemployment is lower than the national average; the largest employment sectors are retail, manufacturing, tourism, and health and social care. Population growth in the county is higher than the national average.

Toponymy

The name derives from Old English Sumorsǣte, which is short for Sumortūnsǣte, meaning "the people living at or dependent upon Sumortūn." The first known use of the name Somersæte was in 845, after the region fell to the Saxons.
Sumortūn is modern Somerton
Somerton
Somerton is a small town and civil parish in the South Somerset district of the English county of Somerset. It gave its name to the county of Somerset, was briefly, around the start of the 14th century, the county town, and around 900 AD was possibly the capital of Wessex...

 and may mean "summer settlement," a farmstead occupied during the summer but abandoned in the winter. However, Somerton is not down on the levels—lower ground, where only summer occupation was possible because of flooding—but on a hill where winter occupation would have been feasible. An alternative suggestion is that the name derives from Seo-mere-saetan meaning "settlers by the sea lakes."
The people of Somerset are first mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a collection of annals in Old English chronicling the history of the Anglo-Saxons. The original manuscript of the Chronicle was created late in the 9th century, probably in Wessex, during the reign of Alfred the Great...

's entry for 845 AD, in the inflected form "Sumursætum," but the county is first mentioned in the entry for 1015 using the same name. The archaic county name Somersetshire is first mentioned in the Chronicle's entry for 878. Although "Somersetshire" had been in common use as an alternative name for the county, it went out of fashion in the late 19th century, and is no longer used. This is possibly due to the adoption of "Somerset" as the official name for the county through the establishment of the County Council in 1889. However, as with other counties not ending in "shire," this suffix was superfluous, as there was no need to differentiate between the county and a town within it.

The Old English name continues to be used in the motto
Motto
A motto is a phrase meant to formally summarize the general motivation or intention of a social group or organization. A motto may be in any language, but Latin is the most used. The local language is usual in the mottoes of governments...

 of the county, Sumorsǣte ealle, meaning "all the people of Somerset." Adopted as the motto in 1911, the phrase is taken from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a collection of annals in Old English chronicling the history of the Anglo-Saxons. The original manuscript of the Chronicle was created late in the 9th century, probably in Wessex, during the reign of Alfred the Great...

. Somerset was a part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex
Wessex
The Kingdom of Wessex or Kingdom of the West Saxons was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the West Saxons, in South West England, from the 6th century, until the emergence of a united English state in the 10th century, under the Wessex dynasty. It was to be an earldom after Canute the Great's conquest...

, and the phrase refers to the wholehearted support the people of Somerset gave to King Alfred in his struggle to save Wessex from the Viking
Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

 invaders.

Somerset is Gwlad yr Haf in Welsh, Gwlas an Hav in Cornish and Bro an Hañv in Breton, which all mean "Land of Summer."

Somerset settlement names are mostly Anglo-Saxon in origin, but a few hill names include Celtic
British language
The British language was an ancient Celtic language spoken in Britain.British language may also refer to:* Any of the Languages of the United Kingdom.*The Welsh language or the Brythonic languages more generally* British English...

 elements. For example, an Anglo-Saxon charter
Anglo-Saxon Charters
Anglo-Saxon charters are documents from the early medieval period in Britain which typically make a grant of land or record a privilege. The earliest surviving charters were drawn up in the 670s; the oldest surviving charters granted land to the Church, but from the eighth century surviving...

 of 682 concerning Creechborough Hill defines it as "the hill the British call Cructan and we call Crychbeorh" ("we" being the Anglo-Saxons). Some modern names are Brythonic in origin, such as Tarnock, while others have both Saxon and Brythonic elements, such as Pen Hill
Pen Hill
Pen Hill forms part of the Mendip Hills plateau in Somerset, England. The hill is located in St Cuthbert Out civil parish in Mendip district.The name Pen is believed to be Celtic for hill or tor....

.

History

The caves of the Mendip Hills
Mendip Hills
The Mendip Hills is a range of limestone hills to the south of Bristol and Bath in Somerset, England. Running east to west between Weston-super-Mare and Frome, the hills overlook the Somerset Levels to the south and the Avon Valley to the north...

 were settled during the Palaeolithic period, and contain extensive archaeological sites such as those at Cheddar Gorge. Bones from Gough's Cave
Gough's Cave
Gough's Cave is located in Cheddar Gorge on the Mendip Hills, in Cheddar, Somerset, England. The cave is deep and is long,and contains a variety of large chambers and rock formations. It contains the Cheddar Yeo, the largest underground river system in Britain.- History :The initial sections of...

 have been dated to 12,000 BC, and a complete skeleton, known as Cheddar Man
Cheddar Man
Cheddar Man is the name given to the remains of a human male found in Gough's Cave in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, England. The remains date to approximately 7150 BC, and it appears that he died a violent death. It is Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton....

, dates from 7150 BC
8th millennium BC
In the 8th millennium BC, agriculture became widely practised in the Fertile Crescent and Anatolia.Pottery became widespread and animal husbandry spread to Africa and Eurasia. World population was approximately 5 million.-Events:*c. 8000 BC—The last glacial period ends.*c...

. Examples of cave art have been found in caves such as Aveline's Hole
Aveline's Hole
Aveline's Hole is a cave at Burrington Combe in the limestone of the Mendip Hills, in Somerset, England.The earliest scientifically dated cemetery in Britain was found at Aveline's Hole...

. Some caves continued to be occupied until modern times, including Wookey Hole
Wookey Hole
Wookey Hole Caves is a show cave and tourist attraction in the village of Wookey Hole on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills near Wells in Somerset, England.Wookey Hole cave was formed through erosion of the limestone hills by the River Axe...

.

The Somerset Levels
Somerset Levels
The Somerset Levels, or the Somerset Levels and Moors as they are less commonly but more correctly known, is a sparsely populated coastal plain and wetland area of central Somerset, South West England, between the Quantock and Mendip Hills...

—specifically the dry point
Dry point
In geography a dry point is an area of firm or flood-free ground in an area of wetland, marsh or flood plains. The term typically applies to settlements, and dry point settlements were common in history....

s such as Glastonbury
Glastonbury
Glastonbury is a small town in Somerset, England, situated at a dry point on the low lying Somerset Levels, south of Bristol. The town, which is in the Mendip district, had a population of 8,784 in the 2001 census...

 and Brent Knoll
Brent Knoll
Brent Knoll is a village in Somerset, England, which lies on the southern edge of Brent Knoll – a hill with a height of 137 metres that dominates the low surrounding landscape of the Somerset Levels.-History:...

— also have a long history of settlement, and are known to have been settled by Mesolithic
Mesolithic
The Mesolithic is an archaeological concept used to refer to certain groups of archaeological cultures defined as falling between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic....

 hunters. Travel in the area was helped by the construction of one of the world's oldest known engineered roadways, the Sweet Track
Sweet Track
The Sweet Track is an ancient causeway in the Somerset Levels, England. It was built in 3807 or 3806 BC and has been claimed to be the oldest road in the world. It was the oldest timber trackway discovered in Northern Europe until the 2009 discovery of a 6,000 year-old trackway in Belmarsh Prison...

, which dates from 3807 BC or 3806 BC.

The exact age of the henge monument at Stanton Drew stone circles
Stanton Drew stone circles
The Stanton Drew stone circles are at just outside the village of Stanton Drew, Somerset. The largest stone circle is the Great Circle, 113 m in diameter and the second largest stone circle in Britain...

 is unknown, but it is believed to be Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

. There are numerous Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 hill fort
Hill fort
A hill fort is a type of earthworks used as a fortified refuge or defended settlement, located to exploit a rise in elevation for defensive advantage. They are typically European and of the Bronze and Iron Ages. Some were used in the post-Roman period...

s, some of which, like Cadbury Castle
Cadbury Castle, Somerset
Cadbury Castle is an Iron Age hill fort in the civil parish of South Cadbury in the English county of Somerset. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and associated with King Arthur.-Background:...


and Ham Hill, were later reoccupied in the Early Middle Ages
Early Middle Ages
The Early Middle Ages was the period of European history lasting from the 5th century to approximately 1000. The Early Middle Ages followed the decline of the Western Roman Empire and preceded the High Middle Ages...

.

On the authority of the future emperor Vespasian
Vespasian
Vespasian , was Roman Emperor from 69 AD to 79 AD. Vespasian was the founder of the Flavian dynasty, which ruled the Empire for a quarter century. Vespasian was descended from a family of equestrians, who rose into the senatorial rank under the Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

, as part of the ongoing expansion of the Roman presence in Britain, the Second Legion Augusta
Legio II Augusta
Legio secunda Augusta , was a Roman legion, levied by Gaius Vibius Pansa Caetronianus in 43 BC, and still operative in Britannia in the 4th century...

 invaded Somerset from the south-east in AD 47. The county remained part of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 until around AD 409, when the Roman occupation of Britain came to an end.
A variety of Roman remains have been found, including Pagans Hill Roman Temple
Pagans Hill Roman Temple
The Pagans Hill Roman Temple was a Romano-British-style temple excavated on Pagans Hill at Chew Stoke in the English county of Somerset.-Excavations:...

 in Chew Stoke
Chew Stoke
Chew Stoke is a small village and civil parish in the Chew Valley, in Somerset, England, about south of Bristol. It is at the northern edge of the Mendip Hills, a region designated by the United Kingdom as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and is within the Bristol/Bath green belt...

,
Low Ham Roman Villa
Low Ham Roman Villa
The Low Ham Roman Villa was a Roman courtyard villa located near Low Ham in the civil parish of High Ham in the English county of Somerset. It is best known for the extraordinary figured mosaic depicting the story of Aeneas and Dido.-Discovery:...

 and the Roman Baths that gave their name to the city of Bath.

After the Romans left, Britain was invaded by Anglo-Saxon peoples. By A.D. 600 they had established control over much of what is now England, but Somerset was still in native British hands. The British held back Saxon advance into the south-west for some time longer, but by the early eighth century King Ine of Wessex
Ine of Wessex
Ine was King of Wessex from 688 to 726. He was unable to retain the territorial gains of his predecessor, Cædwalla, who had brought much of southern England under his control and expanded West Saxon territory substantially...

 had pushed the boundaries of the West Saxon kingdom far enough west to include Somerset. The Saxon royal palace in Cheddar
Cheddar
Cheddar is a large village and civil parish in the Sedgemoor district of the English county of Somerset. It is situated on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills, north-west of Wells. The civil parish includes the hamlets of Nyland and Bradley Cross...

 was used several times in the 10th century to host the Witenagemot
Witenagemot
The Witenagemot , also known as the Witan was a political institution in Anglo-Saxon England which operated from before the 7th century until the 11th century.The Witenagemot was an assembly of the ruling class whose primary function was to advise the king and whose membership was...

. After the Norman Conquest, the county was divided into 700 fiefs
Fiefdom
A fee was the central element of feudalism and consisted of heritable lands granted under one of several varieties of feudal tenure by an overlord to a vassal who held it in fealty in return for a form of feudal allegiance and service, usually given by the...

, and large areas were owned by the crown, with fortifications such as Dunster Castle
Dunster Castle
Dunster Castle is a former motte and bailey castle, now a country house, in the village of Dunster, Somerset, England. The castle lies on the top of a steep hill called the Tor, and has been fortified since the late Anglo-Saxon period. After the Norman conquest of England in the 11th century,...

 used for control and defence. Somerset contains HMP Shepton Mallet
Shepton Mallet (HM Prison)
HMP Shepton Mallet, sometimes known as Cornhill, is a prison located in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, England. It is the United Kingdom's oldest operating prison.Shepton Mallet is a Category C Lifer Prison and holds 186 prisoners...

, England's oldest prison still in use, which opened in 1610. In the English Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

 Somerset was largely Parliamentarian
Roundhead
"Roundhead" was the nickname given to the supporters of the Parliament during the English Civil War. Also known as Parliamentarians, they fought against King Charles I and his supporters, the Cavaliers , who claimed absolute power and the divine right of kings...

, with key engagements being the Siege of Taunton
Siege of Taunton
The Siege of Taunton occurred during the English Civil War.Taunton Castle changed hands several times during the great Civil War of 1642-45 but only along with the town....

 and the Battle of Langport
Battle of Langport
The Battle of Langport was a Parliamentarian victory late in the English Civil War which destroyed the last Royalist field army and gave Parliament control of the West of England, which had hitherto been a major source of manpower, raw materials and imports for the Royalists...

. In 1685 the Monmouth Rebellion
Monmouth Rebellion
The Monmouth Rebellion,The Revolt of the West or The West Country rebellion of 1685, was an attempt to overthrow James II, who had become King of England, King of Scots and King of Ireland at the death of his elder brother Charles II on 6 February 1685. James II was a Roman Catholic, and some...

 was played out in Somerset and neighbouring Dorset. The rebels landed at Lyme Regis
Lyme Regis
Lyme Regis is a coastal town in West Dorset, England, situated 25 miles west of Dorchester and east of Exeter. The town lies in Lyme Bay, on the English Channel coast at the Dorset-Devon border...

 and travelled north, hoping to capture Bristol
Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

 and Bath, but they were defeated in the Battle of Sedgemoor
Battle of Sedgemoor
The Battle of Sedgemoor was fought on 6 July 1685 and took place at Westonzoyland near Bridgwater in Somerset, England.It was the final battle of the Monmouth Rebellion and followed a series of skirmishes around south west England between the forces of James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth and the...

 at Westonzoyland
Westonzoyland
Westonzoyland is a village and civil parish in Somerset, England. It is situated on the Somerset Levels, south east of Bridgwater.-History:The name of the parish derives from its location on the "island" of Sowy, an area of slightly higher ground on the Somerset Levels between the River Cary and...

, the last pitched battle
Pitched battle
A pitched battle is a battle where both sides choose to fight at a chosen location and time and where either side has the option to disengage either before the battle starts, or shortly after the first armed exchanges....

 fought in England. Arthur Wellesley
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS , was an Irish-born British soldier and statesman, and one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century...

 took his title, Duke of Wellington from the town of Wellington
Wellington, Somerset
Wellington is a small industrial town in rural Somerset, England, situated south west of Taunton in the Taunton Deane district, near the border with Devon, which runs along the Blackdown Hills to the south of the town...

; he is commemorated on a nearby hill by a large, spotlit obelisk
Obelisk
An obelisk is a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top, and is said to resemble a petrified ray of the sun-disk. A pair of obelisks usually stood in front of a pylon...

, known as the Wellington Monument
Wellington Monument, Somerset
The Wellington Monument is a high triangular tower located on the highest point of the Blackdown Hills, south of Wellington, Somerset, England. It has been designated by English Heritage as a grade II* listed building....

.

The Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

 in the Midlands and Northern England spelled the end for most of Somerset's cottage industries. Farming continued to flourish, however, and the Bath and West of England Society for the Encouragement of Agriculture, Arts, Manufactures and Commerce
Royal Bath and West of England Society
The Royal Bath and West of England Society is a charitable society founded in 1777 to promote and improve agriculture and related activities around the West Country of England. Based at the Royal Bath and West of England Society Showground near Shepton Mallet in Somerset, the society is a...

 was founded in 1777 to improve farming methods. Despite this, 20 years later John Billingsley
John Billingsley (agriculturist)
John Billingsley was an agricultural pioneer in 18th century Somerset, England.The writer of the 1794 Survey of Somerset, Billingsley was a leading agriculturalist who was one of the founders of the Bath and West Society, known today as the Royal Bath and West of England Society...

 conducted a survey of the county's agriculture in 1795 and found that agricultural methods could still be improved. Coal mining
Somerset coalfield
The Somerset Coalfield included pits in the North Somerset, England, area where coal was mined from the 15th century until 1973.It is part of a wider coalfield which covered northern Somerset and southern Gloucestershire. It stretched from Cromhall in the north to the Mendip Hills in the south, and...

 was an important industry in north Somerset during the 18th and 19th centuries, and by 1800 it was prominent in Radstock
Radstock
Radstock is a town in Somerset, England, south west of Bath, and north west of Frome. It is within the unitary authority of Bath and North East Somerset and had a population of 5,275 according to the 2001 Census...

. The Somerset Coalfield
Somerset coalfield
The Somerset Coalfield included pits in the North Somerset, England, area where coal was mined from the 15th century until 1973.It is part of a wider coalfield which covered northern Somerset and southern Gloucestershire. It stretched from Cromhall in the north to the Mendip Hills in the south, and...

 reached its peak production by the 1920s, but all the pits have now been closed, the last in 1973. Most of the surface buildings have been removed, and apart from a winding wheel outside Radstock Museum
Radstock Museum
Radstock museum in Radstock, Somerset has a range of exhibits which offer an insight into North Somerset life since the nineteenth century.The museum was originally opened in 1989 in barns in Haydon, and moved to its current site in the restored and converted Victorian Market Hall, a grade II...

, little evidence of their former existence remains. Further west, the Brendon Hills
Brendon Hills
The Brendon Hills are composed of a lofty ridge of hills in the East Lyn Valley area of western Somerset, England. The terrain is broken by a series of deeply incised streams and rivers running roughly southwards to meet the River Haddeo, a tributary of the River Exe.The hills are quite heavily...

 were mined for iron ore in the late 19th century; this was taken by rail to Watchet
Watchet
Watchet is a harbour town and civil parish in the English county of Somerset, with an approximate population of 4,400. It is situated west of Bridgwater, north-west of Taunton, and east of Minehead. The parish includes the hamlet of Beggearn Huish...

 Harbour for shipment to the furnaces at Ebbw Vale
Ebbw Vale
Ebbw Vale is a town at the head of the valley formed by the Ebbw Fawr tributary of the Ebbw River, south Wales. It is the largest town and the administrative centre of Blaenau Gwent county borough...

.

Many Somerset soldiers died during the First World War, with the Somerset Light Infantry suffering nearly 5,000 casualties. War memorials were put up in most of the county's towns and villages; only nine, described as the Thankful Villages
Thankful Villages
Thankful Villages are settlements in both England and Wales from which all their then members of the armed forces survived World War I. The term Thankful Village was popularised by the writer Arthur Mee in the 1930s...

, had none of their residents killed. During the Second World War the county was a base for troops preparing for the D-Day landings. Some of the hospitals which were built for the casualties of the war remain in use. The Taunton Stop Line
Taunton Stop Line
The Taunton Stop Line was a World War II defensive line in south west England. It was designed "to stop an enemy's advance from the west and in particular a rapid advance supported by armoured fighting vehicles which may have broken through the forward defences."The Taunton Stop Line was one of...

 was set up to repel a potential German invasion. The remains of its pill boxes
Bunker
A military bunker is a hardened shelter, often buried partly or fully underground, designed to protect the inhabitants from falling bombs or other attacks...

 can still be seen along the coast, and south through Ilminster
Ilminster
Ilminster is a country town and civil parish in the countryside of south west Somerset, England, with a population of 4,781. Bypassed a few years ago, the town now lies just east of the intersection of the A303 and the A358...

 and Chard
Chard, Somerset
Chard is a town and civil parish in the Somerset county of England. It lies on the A30 road near the Devon border, south west of Yeovil. The parish has a population of approximately 12,000 and, at an elevation of , it is the southernmost and highest town in Somerset...

.
A number of decoy towns were constructed in Somerset in World War II to protect Bristol and other towns, at night. They were designed to mimic the geometry of "blacked out" streets, railway lines, and Bristol Temple Meads railway station
Bristol Temple Meads railway station
Bristol Temple Meads railway station is the oldest and largest railway station in Bristol, England. It is an important transport hub for public transport in Bristol, with bus services to various parts of the city and surrounding districts, and a ferry service to the city centre in addition to the...

, to encourage bombers away from these targets. One, on the radio beam
Battle of the beams
The Battle of the Beams was a period early in the Second World War when bombers of the German Air Force used a number of increasingly accurate systems of radio navigation for night bombing. British "scientific intelligence" at the Air Ministry fought back with a variety of increasingly effective...

 flight path to Bristol
Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

, was constructed on Beacon Batch. It was laid out by Shepperton Film Studios, based on aerial photographs of the city's railway marshalling yards. The decoys were fitted with dim red lights, simulating activities like the stoking of steam locomotive
Steam locomotive
A steam locomotive is a railway locomotive that produces its power through a steam engine. These locomotives are fueled by burning some combustible material, usually coal, wood or oil, to produce steam in a boiler, which drives the steam engine...

s. Burning bales of straw soaked in creosote were used to simulate the effects of incendiary bombs
Incendiary device
Incendiary weapons, incendiary devices or incendiary bombs are bombs designed to start fires or destroy sensitive equipment using materials such as napalm, thermite, chlorine trifluoride, or white phosphorus....

 dropped by the first wave of Pathfinder night bombers; meanwhile, incendiary bombs dropped on the correct location were quickly smothered, wherever possible. Drums of oil were also ignited to simulate the effect of a blazing city or town, with the aim of fooling subsequent waves of bombers into dropping their bombs on the wrong location. The Chew Magna
Chew Magna
Chew Magna is a village and civil parish within the Chew Valley in the Unitary Authority of Bath and North East Somerset, in the Ceremonial county of Somerset, England. The parish has a population of 1,161.To the south of the village is Chew Valley Lake...

 decoy town was hit by half-a-dozen
Dozen
A dozen is a grouping of approximately twelve. The dozen may be one of the earliest primitive groupings, perhaps because there are approximately a dozen cycles of the moon or months in a cycle of the sun or year...

 bombs on 2 December 1940, and over a thousand incendiaries on 3 January 1941. The following night the Uphill
Uphill
Uphill is a village on the edge of Weston-super-Mare in North Somerset, England.-History:There is evidence of a port at Uphill since Roman times, probably for the export of lead from the Mendip Hills...

 decoy town, protecting Weston-super-Mare
Weston-super-Mare
Weston-super-Mare is a seaside resort, town and civil parish in the unitary authority of North Somerset, which is within the ceremonial county of Somerset, England. It is located on the Bristol Channel coast, south west of Bristol, spanning the coast between the bounding high ground of Worlebury...

's airfield, was bombed; a herd of dairy cows was hit, killing some and severely injuring others.

Cities and towns

Somerton
Somerton
Somerton is a small town and civil parish in the South Somerset district of the English county of Somerset. It gave its name to the county of Somerset, was briefly, around the start of the 14th century, the county town, and around 900 AD was possibly the capital of Wessex...

 took over from Ilchester
Ilchester
Ilchester is a village and civil parish, situated on the River Yeo or Ivel, five miles north of Yeovil, in the English county of Somerset. The parish, which includes the village of Sock Dennis and the old parish of Northover, has a population of 2,021...

 as the county town
County town
A county town is a county's administrative centre in the United Kingdom or Ireland. County towns are usually the location of administrative or judicial functions, or established over time as the de facto main town of a county. The concept of a county town eventually became detached from its...

 in the late thirteenth century, but it declined in importance and the status of county town transferred to Taunton about 1366. The county has two cities, Bath and Wells
Wells
Wells is a cathedral city and civil parish in the Mendip district of Somerset, England, on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills. Although the population recorded in the 2001 census is 10,406, it has had city status since 1205...

, and only a small number of towns. The largest urban areas in terms of population are Bath, Weston-super-Mare
Weston-super-Mare
Weston-super-Mare is a seaside resort, town and civil parish in the unitary authority of North Somerset, which is within the ceremonial county of Somerset, England. It is located on the Bristol Channel coast, south west of Bristol, spanning the coast between the bounding high ground of Worlebury...

, Taunton, Yeovil
Yeovil
Yeovil is a town and civil parish in south Somerset, England. The parish had a population of 27,949 at the 2001 census, although the wider urban area had a population of 42,140...

 and Bridgwater
Bridgwater
Bridgwater is a market town and civil parish in Somerset, England. It is the administrative centre of the Sedgemoor district, and a major industrial centre. Bridgwater is located on the major communication routes through South West England...

. In many cases there are villages which are larger than their neighbouring towns; the village of Cheddar
Cheddar
Cheddar is a large village and civil parish in the Sedgemoor district of the English county of Somerset. It is situated on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills, north-west of Wells. The civil parish includes the hamlets of Nyland and Bradley Cross...

, for example, has three times the population of the nearby town of Axbridge
Axbridge
Axbridge is a town in Somerset, England, situated in the Sedgemoor district on the River Axe, near the southern edge of the Mendip Hills. The town population according to the 2001 census was 2,024.-History:...

. Many settlements developed because of their strategic importance in relation to geographical features, such as river crossings or valleys in ranges of hills. Examples include Axbridge on the River Axe, Castle Cary on the River Cary
River Cary
The River Cary is a river in Somerset, England.The River Cary has its source at Park Pond in Castle Cary, and then flows southwest through Cary Moor to Babcary, where there is a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest at Babcary Meadows and Cary Fitzpaine. It then flows northwest through...

, North Petherton
North Petherton
North Petherton is a small town and civil parish in Somerset, England, situated on the edge of the eastern foothills of the Quantocks, and close to the edge of the Somerset Levels.The town has a population of 5,189...

 on the River Parrett
River Parrett
The River Parrett flows through the counties of Dorset and Somerset in South West England, from its source in the Thorney Mills springs in the hills around Chedington in Dorset...

, and Ilminster
Ilminster
Ilminster is a country town and civil parish in the countryside of south west Somerset, England, with a population of 4,781. Bypassed a few years ago, the town now lies just east of the intersection of the A303 and the A358...

, where there was a crossing point on the River Isle
River Isle
The River Isle flows from its source near Combe St Nicholas, through Somerset, England and discharges into the River Parrett south of Langport near Midelney....

. Midsomer Norton lies on the River Somer
River Somer
The River Somer is a small river in Somerset, England.It rises at Chilcompton and flows to Midsomer Norton where it joins the Wellow Brook, which flows through Wellow and joins the Cam Brook at Midford to form Midford Brook before joining the River Avon close to the Dundas Aqueduct and the remains...

; while the Wellow Brook
Wellow Brook, Somerset
The Wellow brook is a small river in Somerset, England.It rises near Ston Easton Park in the village of Ston Easton and flows east to Midsomer Norton. West of Radstock, it is joined by the River Somer and a tributary from Kilmersdon to the south...

 and the Fosseway Roman road
Roman road
The Roman roads were a vital part of the development of the Roman state, from about 500 BC through the expansion during the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire. Roman roads enabled the Romans to move armies and trade goods and to communicate. The Roman road system spanned more than 400,000 km...

 run through Radstock. Chard
Chard, Somerset
Chard is a town and civil parish in the Somerset county of England. It lies on the A30 road near the Devon border, south west of Yeovil. The parish has a population of approximately 12,000 and, at an elevation of , it is the southernmost and highest town in Somerset...

 is the most southerly town in Somerset, and at an altitude of 121 m (397 ft) it is also the highest.

Geology

Much of the landscape of Somerset falls into types determined by the underlying geology. These landscapes are the limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 karst
KARST
Kilometer-square Area Radio Synthesis Telescope is a Chinese telescope project to which FAST is a forerunner. KARST is a set of large spherical reflectors on karst landforms, which are bowlshaped limestone sinkholes named after the Kras region in Slovenia and Northern Italy. It will consist of...

 and lias
Early Jurassic
The Early Jurassic epoch is the earliest of three epochs of the Jurassic period...

 of the north, the clay
Clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

 vales
Valley
In geology, a valley or dale is a depression with predominant extent in one direction. A very deep river valley may be called a canyon or gorge.The terms U-shaped and V-shaped are descriptive terms of geography to characterize the form of valleys...

 and wetlands of the centre, the oolite
Oolite
Oolite is a sedimentary rock formed from ooids, spherical grains composed of concentric layers. The name derives from the Hellenic word òoion for egg. Strictly, oolites consist of ooids of diameter 0.25–2 mm; rocks composed of ooids larger than 2 mm are called pisolites...

s of the east and south, and the Devonian
Devonian
The Devonian is a geologic period and system of the Paleozoic Era spanning from the end of the Silurian Period, about 416.0 ± 2.8 Mya , to the beginning of the Carboniferous Period, about 359.2 ± 2.5 Mya...

 sandstone
Sandstone
Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-sized minerals or rock grains.Most sandstone is composed of quartz and/or feldspar because these are the most common minerals in the Earth's crust. Like sand, sandstone may be any colour, but the most common colours are tan, brown, yellow,...

 of the west.
To the north-east of the Somerset Levels
Somerset Levels
The Somerset Levels, or the Somerset Levels and Moors as they are less commonly but more correctly known, is a sparsely populated coastal plain and wetland area of central Somerset, South West England, between the Quantock and Mendip Hills...

, the Mendip Hills
Mendip Hills
The Mendip Hills is a range of limestone hills to the south of Bristol and Bath in Somerset, England. Running east to west between Weston-super-Mare and Frome, the hills overlook the Somerset Levels to the south and the Avon Valley to the north...

 are moderately high limestone hills. The central and western Mendip Hills was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is an area of countryside considered to have significant landscape value in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, that has been specially designated by the Countryside Agency on behalf of the United Kingdom government; the Countryside Council for Wales on...

 in 1972 and covers 198 km2 (76 sq mi). The main habitat
Habitat (ecology)
A habitat is an ecological or environmental area that is inhabited by a particular species of animal, plant or other type of organism...

 on these hills is calcareous grassland
Calcareous grassland
Calcareous grassland is an ecosystem associated with thin basic soil, such as that on chalk and limestone downland. Plants on calcareous grassland are typically short and hardy, and include grasses and herbs such as clover...

, with some arable
Arable land
In geography and agriculture, arable land is land that can be used for growing crops. It includes all land under temporary crops , temporary meadows for mowing or pasture, land under market and kitchen gardens and land temporarily fallow...

 agriculture. To the south-west of the Somerset Levels
Somerset Levels
The Somerset Levels, or the Somerset Levels and Moors as they are less commonly but more correctly known, is a sparsely populated coastal plain and wetland area of central Somerset, South West England, between the Quantock and Mendip Hills...

 are the Quantock Hills
Quantock Hills
The Quantock Hills is a range of hills west of Bridgwater in Somerset, England. The Quantock Hills were England’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty being designated in 1956 and consists of large amounts of heathland, oak woodlands, ancient parklands and agricultural land.The hills run from...

 which was England's first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is an area of countryside considered to have significant landscape value in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, that has been specially designated by the Countryside Agency on behalf of the United Kingdom government; the Countryside Council for Wales on...

 designated in 1956 which is covered in heathland, oak woodlands, ancient parklands with plantations of conifer and covers 99 square kilometres. The Somerset Coalfield
Somerset coalfield
The Somerset Coalfield included pits in the North Somerset, England, area where coal was mined from the 15th century until 1973.It is part of a wider coalfield which covered northern Somerset and southern Gloucestershire. It stretched from Cromhall in the north to the Mendip Hills in the south, and...

 is part of a larger coalfield which stretches into Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire is a county in South West England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire Forest of Dean....

. To the north of the Mendip hills is the Chew Valley
Chew Valley
The Chew Valley is an area in North Somerset, England, named after the River Chew, which rises at Chewton Mendip, and joins the River Avon at Keynsham...

 and to the south, on the clay substrate, are broad valleys which support dairy farming and drain into the Somerset Levels.

Caves and rivers

There is an extensive network of caves
Caves of the Mendip Hills
The Caves of the Mendip Hills are formed by the particular geology of the Mendip Hills, with large areas of limestone worn away by water makes it a national centre for caving. The hills conceal the largest underground river system in Britain.- Geology :...

, including Wookey Hole, underground rivers, and gorges
Canyon
A canyon or gorge is a deep ravine between cliffs often carved from the landscape by a river. Rivers have a natural tendency to reach a baseline elevation, which is the same elevation as the body of water it will eventually drain into. This forms a canyon. Most canyons were formed by a process of...

, including the Cheddar Gorge and Ebbor Gorge
Ebbor Gorge
Ebbor Gorge is a limestone gorge in Somerset, England, close to Wells, designated as a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest in the Mendip Hills, notified in 1952....

. The county has many rivers, including the Axe, Brue
River Brue
The River Brue originates in the parish of Brewham in Somerset, England, and reaches the sea some 50 km west at Burnham-on-Sea. It originally took a different route from Glastonbury to the sea, but this was changed by the monastery in the twelfth century....

, Cary
River Cary
The River Cary is a river in Somerset, England.The River Cary has its source at Park Pond in Castle Cary, and then flows southwest through Cary Moor to Babcary, where there is a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest at Babcary Meadows and Cary Fitzpaine. It then flows northwest through...

, Parrett
River Parrett
The River Parrett flows through the counties of Dorset and Somerset in South West England, from its source in the Thorney Mills springs in the hills around Chedington in Dorset...

, Sheppey
River Sheppey
The River Sheppey has its source in a group of springs west of the village of Doulting, near Shepton Mallet in Somerset, England. It flows through the wetlands to the north of the Polden Hills and ultimately joins the River Brue.- Route :...

, Tone
River Tone
The River Tone is a river in Somerset, England, which is about long. It rises at Beverton Pond near Huish Champflower in the Brendon Hills, and is dammed at Clatworthy Reservoir. The reservoir outfall continues through Taunton and Curry and Hay Moors, which are designated as a Site of Special...

 and Yeo
Congresbury Yeo
The River Yeo is a river which flows through North Somerset, England.- River course :...

. These both feed and drain the flat levels and moors of mid and west Somerset. In the north of the county the River Chew
River Chew
The River Chew is a small river in England. It merges with the River Avon after forming the Chew Valley.The spring from which the Chew rises is just upstream from Chewton Mendip. The river flows North West from Chewton Mendip through Litton, Chew Valley Lake, Chew Stoke, Chew Magna and Stanton Drew...

 flows into the Bristol Avon
River Avon, Bristol
The River Avon is an English river in the south west of the country. To distinguish it from a number of other River Avons in Britain, this river is often also known as the Lower Avon or Bristol Avon...

. The Parrett is tidal almost to Langport
Langport
Langport is a small town and civil parish in Somerset, England, situated west of Somerton in the South Somerset district. The town has a population of 1,067. The parish includes the hamlets of Bowdens and Combe...

, where there is evidence of two Roman wharfs. At the same site during the reign of King Charles I, river tolls were levied on boats to pay for the maintenance of the bridge.

Levels and moors

The Somerset Levels (or Somerset Levels and Moors as they are less commonly but more correctly known) are a sparsely populated wetland
Wetland
A wetland is an area of land whose soil is saturated with water either permanently or seasonally. Wetlands are categorised by their characteristic vegetation, which is adapted to these unique soil conditions....

 area of central Somerset, between the Quantock
Quantock Hills
The Quantock Hills is a range of hills west of Bridgwater in Somerset, England. The Quantock Hills were England’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty being designated in 1956 and consists of large amounts of heathland, oak woodlands, ancient parklands and agricultural land.The hills run from...

 and Mendip hills. They consist of marine clay levels along the coast, and the inland (often peat
Peat
Peat is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation matter or histosol. Peat forms in wetland bogs, moors, muskegs, pocosins, mires, and peat swamp forests. Peat is harvested as an important source of fuel in certain parts of the world...

 based) moors. The Levels are divided into two by the Polden Hills
Polden Hills
The Polden Hills in Somerset, England are a long, low ridge, extending for , and separated from the Mendip Hills, to which they are nearly parallel, by a marshy tract, known as the Somerset Levels...

; land to the south is drained by the River Parrett
River Parrett
The River Parrett flows through the counties of Dorset and Somerset in South West England, from its source in the Thorney Mills springs in the hills around Chedington in Dorset...

 while land to the north is drained by the River Axe and the River Brue
River Brue
The River Brue originates in the parish of Brewham in Somerset, England, and reaches the sea some 50 km west at Burnham-on-Sea. It originally took a different route from Glastonbury to the sea, but this was changed by the monastery in the twelfth century....

. The total area of the Levels amounts to about 647.5 square kilometres (160,000.6 acre)
and broadly corresponds to the administrative district of Sedgemoor
Sedgemoor
Sedgemoor is a low lying area of land in Somerset, England. It lies close to sea level south of the Polden Hills, historically largely marsh . The eastern part is known as King's Sedgemoor, and the western part West Sedgemoor. Sedgemoor is part of the area now known as the Somerset Levels...

 but also includes the south west of Mendip
Mendip
Mendip is a local government district of Somerset in England. The Mendip district covers a largely rural area of ranging from the Mendip Hills through on to the Somerset Levels. It has a population of approximately 110,000...

 district. Approximately 70% of the area is grassland and 30% is arable.
Stretching about 32 kilometres (20 mi) inland, this expanse of flat land barely rises above sea level. Before it was drained, much of the land was under a shallow brackish sea
Brackish water
Brackish water is water that has more salinity than fresh water, but not as much as seawater. It may result from mixing of seawater with fresh water, as in estuaries, or it may occur in brackish fossil aquifers. The word comes from the Middle Dutch root "brak," meaning "salty"...

 in winter and was marsh land
Marsh
In geography, a marsh, or morass, is a type of wetland that is subject to frequent or continuous flood. Typically the water is shallow and features grasses, rushes, reeds, typhas, sedges, other herbaceous plants, and moss....

 in summer. Drainage began with the Romans
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

, and was restarted at various times: by the Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

; in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 by the Glastonbury Abbey
Glastonbury Abbey
Glastonbury Abbey was a monastery in Glastonbury, Somerset, England. The ruins are now a grade I listed building, and a Scheduled Ancient Monument and are open as a visitor attraction....

, from 1400–1770; and during the Second World War, with the construction of the Huntspill River
River Huntspill
The River Huntspill is an artificial river, in the Somerset Levels, in the Sedgemoor district of Somerset, England. It was built in 1940 to supply process water to the armaments factory at Puriton, and has resulted in reduced flooding of the lower Brue Valley.-History:The concept for the Huntspill...

. Pumping and management of water levels still continues.
The North Somerset Levels
North Somerset Levels
The North Somerset Levels is a coastal plain, an expanse of low-lying flat ground, which occupies an area between Weston-super-Mare and Bristol in North Somerset, England...

 basin, north of the Mendips, covers a smaller geographical area than the Somerset Levels; and forms a coastal area around Avonmouth
Avonmouth
Avonmouth is a port and suburb of Bristol, England, located on the Severn Estuary, at the mouth of the River Avon.The council ward of Avonmouth also includes Shirehampton and the western end of Lawrence Weston.- Geography :...

. It too was reclaimed by draining. It is mirrored, across the Severn Estuary
Severn Estuary
The Severn Estuary is the estuary of the River Severn, the longest river in Great Britain. Its high tidal range means it has been at the centre of discussions in the UK regarding renewable energy.-Geography:...

, in Wales, by a similar low-lying area: the Caldicot and Wentloog Levels
Caldicot and Wentloog Levels
The Caldicot and Wentloog Levels are two areas of low-lying estuarine alluvial wetland and intertidal mudflats adjoining the north bank of the Severn estuary, either side of the River Usk estuary near Newport in south east Wales...

.

In the far west of the county, running into Devon, is Exmoor
Exmoor
Exmoor is an area of hilly open moorland in west Somerset and north Devon in South West England, named after the main river that flows out of the district, the River Exe. The moor has given its name to a National Park, which includes the Brendon Hills, the East Lyn Valley, the Vale of Porlock and ...

, a high Devonian
Devonian
The Devonian is a geologic period and system of the Paleozoic Era spanning from the end of the Silurian Period, about 416.0 ± 2.8 Mya , to the beginning of the Carboniferous Period, about 359.2 ± 2.5 Mya...

 sandstone moor
Moorland
Moorland or moor is a type of habitat, in the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome, found in upland areas, characterised by low-growing vegetation on acidic soils and heavy fog...

, which was designated as a national park
National park
A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns. Although individual nations designate their own national parks differently A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or...

 in 1954, under the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act.
The highest point in Somerset is Dunkery Beacon
Dunkery Beacon
Dunkery Beacon is the summit of Dunkery Hill, and the highest point on Exmoor and in Somerset, England. It is also the highest point in southern England outside Dartmoor....

 on Exmoor, with an altitude of 519 metres (1703 ft). Over 100 sites in Somerset have been designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Coastline

The 64 km (40 mi) coastline of the Bristol Channel
Bristol Channel
The Bristol Channel is a major inlet in the island of Great Britain, separating South Wales from Devon and Somerset in South West England. It extends from the lower estuary of the River Severn to the North Atlantic Ocean...

 and Severn Estuary
Severn Estuary
The Severn Estuary is the estuary of the River Severn, the longest river in Great Britain. Its high tidal range means it has been at the centre of discussions in the UK regarding renewable energy.-Geography:...

 forms part of the northern border of Somerset.
The Bristol Channel has the second largest tidal range in the world. At Burnham-on-Sea
Burnham-on-Sea
Burnham-on-Sea is a town in Somerset, England, at the mouth of the River Parrett and Bridgwater Bay. Burnham was a small village until the late 18th century, when it began to grow because of its popularity as a seaside resort. It forms part of the parish of Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge...

, for example, the tidal range of a spring tide is more than 12 metres (39 ft).
Proposals for the construction of a Severn Barrage
Severn Barrage
The Severn Barrage refers to a range of ideas for building a barrage from the English coast to the Welsh coast over the Severn tidal estuary. Ideas for damming or barraging the Severn estuary have existed since the 19th century. The building of such a barrage would be a huge engineering feat,...

 aim to harness this energy. The island of Steep Holm
Steep Holm
Steep Holm is an English island lying in the Bristol Channel. The island covers at high tide, expanding to at mean low water. At its highest point it is above mean sea level. It lies within the historic boundaries of Somerset and administratively, it forms part of North Somerset...

 in the Bristol Channel is within the historic county and is now administered by North Somerset Council.

The main coastal towns are, from the west to the north-east, Minehead
Minehead
Minehead is a coastal town and civil parish in Somerset, England. It lies on the south bank of the Bristol Channel, north-west of the county town of Taunton, from the border with the county of Devon and in proximity of the Exmoor National Park...

, Watchet
Watchet
Watchet is a harbour town and civil parish in the English county of Somerset, with an approximate population of 4,400. It is situated west of Bridgwater, north-west of Taunton, and east of Minehead. The parish includes the hamlet of Beggearn Huish...

, Burnham-on-Sea
Burnham-on-Sea
Burnham-on-Sea is a town in Somerset, England, at the mouth of the River Parrett and Bridgwater Bay. Burnham was a small village until the late 18th century, when it began to grow because of its popularity as a seaside resort. It forms part of the parish of Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge...

, Weston-super-Mare
Weston-super-Mare
Weston-super-Mare is a seaside resort, town and civil parish in the unitary authority of North Somerset, which is within the ceremonial county of Somerset, England. It is located on the Bristol Channel coast, south west of Bristol, spanning the coast between the bounding high ground of Worlebury...

, Clevedon
Clevedon
Clevedon is a town and civil parish in the unitary authority of North Somerset, which covers part of the ceremonial county of Somerset, England...

 and Portishead
Portishead, Somerset
Portishead is a coastal town on the Severn Estuary within the unitary authority of North Somerset, which falls within the ceremonial county of Somerset England. It has a population of 22,000, an increase of over 3,000 since the 2001 census, with a growth rate of 40 per cent, considerably in excess...

. The coastal area between Minehead and the eastern extreme of the administrative county's coastline at Brean Down
Brean Down
Brean Down is a promontory off the coast of Somerset standing high and extending into the Bristol Channel at the eastern end of Bridgwater Bay between Weston-super-Mare and Burnham-on-Sea....

 is known as Bridgwater Bay
Bridgwater Bay
Bridgwater Bay is on the Bristol Channel, north of Bridgwater in Somerset, England at the mouth of the River Parrett and the end of the River Parrett Trail. It consists of large areas of mud flats, saltmarsh, sandflats and shingle ridges, some of which are vegetated...

, and is a National Nature Reserve
National Nature Reserves in England
National Nature Reserves in England are managed by Natural England and are key places for wildlife and natural features in England. They were established to protect the most important areas of habitat and of geological formations...

.
North of that, the coast forms Weston Bay
Weston Bay
Weston Bay is an inlet of the Bristol Channel in North Somerset, England.It lies between Brean Down, which is now owned by the National Trust, is rich in wildlife, history and archaeology, and has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest to the south, and Worlebury Hill to the north...

 and Sand Bay
Sand Bay
Sand Bay is a strip of coast in North Somerset bordered to the south by Worlebury Hill and to the north by Middle Hope and Sand Point. It lies north of the seaside resort of Weston-super-Mare, and across the Bristol Channel from South Wales. It is adjacent to the village of Kewstoke.The north end...

 whose northern tip, Sand Point
Sand Point, Somerset
Sand Point in Somerset is the peninsula stretching out from Middle Hope, which lies to the north of the village of Kewstoke, and the stretch of coastline called Sand Bay. It is owned by the National Trust and is a popular place for walking...

, marks the lower limit of the Severn Estuary. In the mid and north of the county the coastline is low as the level wetlands of the levels meet the sea. In the west, the coastline is high and dramatic where the plateau
Plateau
In geology and earth science, a plateau , also called a high plain or tableland, is an area of highland, usually consisting of relatively flat terrain. A highly eroded plateau is called a dissected plateau...

 of Exmoor meets the sea, with high cliffs and waterfalls.

Climate

Along with the rest of South West England
South West England
South West England is one of the regions of England defined by the Government of the United Kingdom for statistical and other purposes. It is the largest such region in area, covering and comprising Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. ...

, Somerset has a temperate climate which is generally wetter and milder than the rest of the country. The annual mean temperature is approximately 10 °C (50 °F). Seasonal temperature variation is less extreme than most of the United Kingdom because of the adjacent sea temperatures. The summer months of July and August are the warmest with mean daily maxima of approximately 21 °C (69.8 °F). In winter mean minimum temperatures of 1 °C (33.8 °F) or 2 °C (35.6 °F) are common. In the summer the Azores
Azores
The Archipelago of the Azores is composed of nine volcanic islands situated in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, and is located about west from Lisbon and about east from the east coast of North America. The islands, and their economic exclusion zone, form the Autonomous Region of the...

 high pressure affects the south-west of England, but convective cloud sometimes forms inland, reducing the number of hours of sunshine. Annual sunshine rates are slightly less than the regional average of 1,600 hours. In December 1998 there were 20 days without sun recorded at Yeovilton. Most the rainfall in the south-west is caused by Atlantic depressions or by convection
Convection
Convection is the movement of molecules within fluids and rheids. It cannot take place in solids, since neither bulk current flows nor significant diffusion can take place in solids....

. Most of the rainfall in autumn and winter is caused by the Atlantic depressions, which is when they are most active. In summer, a large proportion of the rainfall is caused by sun heating the ground leading to convection and to showers and thunderstorms. Average rainfall is around 700 mm (27.6 in). About 8–15 days of snowfall is typical. November to March have the highest mean wind speeds, and June to August the lightest winds. The predominant wind direction is from the south-west.

Economy and industry

Somerset has few industrial centres, but it does have a variety of light industry and high technology businesses, along with traditional agriculture and an increasingly important tourism sector, resulting in an unemployment rate of 2.5%. Bridgwater
Bridgwater
Bridgwater is a market town and civil parish in Somerset, England. It is the administrative centre of the Sedgemoor district, and a major industrial centre. Bridgwater is located on the major communication routes through South West England...

 was developed during the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

 as the area's leading port. The River Parrett
River Parrett
The River Parrett flows through the counties of Dorset and Somerset in South West England, from its source in the Thorney Mills springs in the hills around Chedington in Dorset...

 was navigable by large ships as far as Bridgwater. Cargoes were then loaded onto smaller boats at Langport Quay, next to the Bridgwater Bridge, to be carried further up river to Langport
Langport
Langport is a small town and civil parish in Somerset, England, situated west of Somerton in the South Somerset district. The town has a population of 1,067. The parish includes the hamlets of Bowdens and Combe...

; or they could turn off at Burrowbridge
Burrowbridge
Burrowbridge is a village and civil parish in Somerset, England, situated on the River Parrett and A361 road south east of Bridgwater in the Taunton Deane district on the edge of the Somerset Levels...

 and then travel via the River Tone
River Tone
The River Tone is a river in Somerset, England, which is about long. It rises at Beverton Pond near Huish Champflower in the Brendon Hills, and is dammed at Clatworthy Reservoir. The reservoir outfall continues through Taunton and Curry and Hay Moors, which are designated as a Site of Special...

 to Taunton. The Parrett is now only navigable as far as Dunball
Dunball
Dunball is a small hamlet west of the village of Puriton and close to the town of Bridgwater, Somerset, England.Just north of Dunball is Down End which is the site of Down End Castle a motte-and-bailey castle, which has been designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.Located on the A38, adjacent to...

 Wharf. Bridgwater, in the 19th and 20th centuries, was a centre for the manufacture of bricks and clay roof tiles, and later cellophane
Cellophane
Cellophane is a thin, transparent sheet made of regenerated cellulose. Its low permeability to air, oils, greases, bacteria and water makes it useful for food packaging...

, but those industries have now stopped. With its good links to the motorway system, Bridgwater has developed as a distribution hub for companies such as Argos
Argos (retailer)
Argos is the largest general-goods retailer in the United Kingdom and Ireland with over 800 stores. It is unique amongst major retailers in the UK in that it is a catalogue merchant...

, Toolstation and Gerber Juice. AgustaWestland
AgustaWestland
AgustaWestland is an Anglo-Italian helicopter design and manufacturing company. It was formed in July 2000 when Finmeccanica S.p.A. and GKN plc agreed to merge their respective helicopter subsidiaries to form AgustaWestland with Finmeccanica and GKN each holding a 50% share.AgustaWestland is now a...

 manufactures helicopters in Yeovil
Yeovil
Yeovil is a town and civil parish in south Somerset, England. The parish had a population of 27,949 at the 2001 census, although the wider urban area had a population of 42,140...

, and Normalair Garratt
Normalair
Normalair Garrett Limited ', or Normalair, was a British manufacturing company based in Yeovil, Somerset, England. It manufactured high altitude life support equipment for the aerospace industry...

, builder of aircraft oxygen systems, is also based in the town. Many towns have encouraged small-scale light industries
Light industry
Light industry is usually less capital intensive than heavy industry, and is more consumer-oriented than business-oriented...

, such as Crewkerne
Crewkerne
Crewkerne is a town in Somerset, England, situated south west of Yeovil and east of Chard in the South Somerset district close to the border with Dorset. The civil parish of West Crewkerne includes the hamlets of Woolminstone and Henley...

's Ariel Motor Company
Ariel Ltd
Ariel Motors Ltd is a Crewkerne, Somerset, England based low-volume performance motor vehicle manufacturing company.Founded by Simon Saunders in 1991 as Solocrest Ltd, the name was changed in 2001 to Ariel Motors, although the name change and company have nothing to do with the former Ariel...

, one of the UK's smallest car manufacturers.

Somerset is an important supplier of defence equipment and technology. A Royal Ordnance Factory
Royal Ordnance Factory
Royal Ordnance Factories was the collective name of the UK government's munitions factories in and after World War II. Until privatisation in 1987 they were the responsibility of the Ministry of Supply and later the Ministry of Defence....

, ROF Bridgwater
ROF Bridgwater
Royal Ordnance Factory Bridgwater was a factory which produced high explosives for munitions. It was located between the villages of Puriton and Woolavington in the Sedgemoor district of Somerset, UK; but was always known as ROF Bridgwater, after the nearest town...

 was built at the start of the Second World War, between the villages of Puriton
Puriton
Puriton is a village and a parish, at the westerly end of the Polden Hills, in the Sedgemoor district of Somerset, UK. The parish has a population of 2,124. The local parish church is named after St Michael...

 and Woolavington
Woolavington
Woolavington is a village and civil parish on the Somerset Levels in the English county of Somerset. It forms part of the District of Sedgemoor, and is north east of Bridgwater, south east of Burnham on Sea and west of Glastonbury...

, to manufacture explosives. The site was decommissioned and closed in July 2008.
Templecombe
Templecombe
Templecombe is a village in Somerset, England, situated on the A357 road five miles south of Wincanton, twelve miles east of Yeovil, and 30 miles west of Salisbury. The village has a population of 1,506...

 has Thales Underwater Systems
Thales Underwater Systems
Thales Underwater Systems , formerly known as Thomson Marconi Sonar, is an international defence manufacturer specialising in sonar systems for submarines, surface warships, and aircraft as well as communications masts and systems for submarines. TUS is a subsidiary of Thales Naval, part of the...

, and Taunton presently has the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office
United Kingdom Hydrographic Office
The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office is an organisation within the UK government responsible for providing navigational and other hydrographic information for national, civil and defence requirements...

 and Avimo, which became part of Thales Optics. It has been announced twice, in 2006 and 2007, that manufacturing is to end at Thales Optics' Taunton site, but the trade unions and Taunton Deane District Council are working to reverse or mitigate these decisions. Other high-technology companies include the optics company Gooch and Housego, at Ilminster
Ilminster
Ilminster is a country town and civil parish in the countryside of south west Somerset, England, with a population of 4,781. Bypassed a few years ago, the town now lies just east of the intersection of the A303 and the A358...

. There are Ministry of Defence
Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom)
The Ministry of Defence is the United Kingdom government department responsible for implementation of government defence policy and is the headquarters of the British Armed Forces....

 offices in Bath, and Norton Fitzwarren
Norton Fitzwarren
Norton Fitzwarren is a village and civil parish in Somerset, England, situated north west of Taunton in the Taunton Deane district. The village has a population of 2,325.-History:...

 is the home of 40 Commando Royal Marines
3 Commando Brigade
3 Commando Brigade is a commando formation of the British Armed Forces and the main manoeuvre formation of the Royal Marines. Its personnel are predominantly Royal Marines, supported by units of Royal Engineers, Royal Artillery, The Rifles, and the Fleet Air Arm, together with other Commando...

. The Royal Naval Air Station in Yeovilton
RNAS Yeovilton
Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, or RNAS Yeovilton, is an airfield of the Royal Navy, sited in South West England a few miles north of Yeovil in Somerset...

, is one of Britain's two active Fleet Air Arm bases and is home to the Royal Navy's Lynx helicopters and the Royal Marines Commando Westland Sea King
Westland Sea King
The Westland WS-61 Sea King is a British licence-built version of the American Sikorsky S-61 helicopter of the same name, built by Westland Helicopters. The aircraft differs considerably from the American version, with Rolls-Royce Gnome engines , British made anti-submarine warfare systems and a...

s. Around 1,675 service and 2,000 civilian personnel are stationed at Yeovilton and key activities include training of aircrew and engineers and the Royal Navy's Fighter Controllers and surface-based aircraft controllers.

Agriculture and food and drink production continue to be major industries in the county, employing over 15,000 people. Apple orchards were once plentiful, and Somerset is still a major producer of cider
Cider
Cider or cyder is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from apple juice. Cider varies in alcohol content from 2% abv to 8.5% abv or more in traditional English ciders. In some regions, such as Germany and America, cider may be termed "apple wine"...

. The towns of Taunton and Shepton Mallet
Shepton Mallet
Shepton Mallet is a small rural town and civil parish in the Mendip district of Somerset in South West England. Situated approximately south of Bristol and east of Wells, the town is estimated to have a population of 9,700. It contains the administrative headquarters of Mendip District Council...

 are involved with the production of cider, especially Blackthorn Cider
Blackthorn Cider
Blackthorn Cider is a cider produced by Gaymer Cider Company, a subsidiary of C&C Group. Previously it was known as Blackthorn Dry or Dry Blackthorn...

, which is sold nationwide, and there are specialist producers such as Burrow Hill Cider Farm
Burrow Hill Cider Farm
Burrow Hill Cider Farm is a cider farm in Somerset, England at the base of Burrow Hill overlooking the Somerset Levels.It has views of most of South Somerset on clear days. The cider is made in traditional vats and uses age old traditional methods of production...

 and Thatchers Cider. Gerber Products Company
Gerber Products Company
Gerber Products Company is a purveyor of baby food and baby products. A former American-owned company, Gerber is now a subsidiary of Nestlé, and is currently located in Fremont, Michigan, USA.-History:...

 in Bridgwater is the largest producer of fruit juices in Europe, producing brands such as "Sunny Delight
SunnyD
Sunny Delight is a popular orange-flavored drink, manufactured until recently by Procter & Gamble. It produced an estimated $450 million in revenue for Procter & Gamble in 2004.-History:...

" and "Ocean Spray." Development of the milk-based industries, such as Ilchester Cheese Company
Ilchester Cheese Company
The Ilchester Cheese Company is a cheese company based in Ilchester, Somerset. The Ilchester brands are part of Norseland, a subsidiary of Norwegian dairy company Tine BA. Ilchester do not actually manufacture any cheese from scratch, but specialise in blending a variety of British cheeses with...

 and Yeo Valley Organic
Yeo Valley Organic
Yeo Valley Organic is part of a family-owned farming and dairy company based in the village of Blagdon, in the Yeo Valley, and in Cannington, near Bridgwater, Somerset, England-History:...

, have resulted in the production of ranges of desserts, yoghurt
Yoghurt
Yoghurt, yogurt or yogourt is a dairy product produced by bacterial fermentation of milk. The bacteria used to make yoghurt are known as "yoghurt cultures"...

s and cheeses,
including Cheddar cheese
Cheddar cheese
Cheddar cheese is a relatively hard, yellow to off-white, and sometimes sharp-tasting cheese, produced in several countries around the world. It has its origins in the English village of Cheddar in Somerset....

—some of which has the West Country Farmhouse Cheddar PDO
Protected designation of origin
Protected Geographical Status is a legal framework defined in European Union law to protect the names of regional foods. Protected Designation of Origin , Protected Geographical Indication and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed are distinct regimes of geographical indications within the framework...

.

Traditional willow
Willow
Willows, sallows, and osiers form the genus Salix, around 400 species of deciduous trees and shrubs, found primarily on moist soils in cold and temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere...

 growing and weaving is not as extensive as it used to be but is still carried out on the Somerset Levels
Somerset Levels
The Somerset Levels, or the Somerset Levels and Moors as they are less commonly but more correctly known, is a sparsely populated coastal plain and wetland area of central Somerset, South West England, between the Quantock and Mendip Hills...

 and is commemorated at the Willows and Wetlands Visitor Centre
Willows and Wetlands visitor centre
The Willows and Wetlands Visitor Centre is situated at Stoke St Gregory, on the Somerset levels, north east of Taunton. The centre offers tours of over of withies, willow yards and basket workshops and explains the place of willow in the history of the Levels....

. Fragments of willow basket were found near the Glastonbury Lake Village
Glastonbury Lake Village
Glastonbury Lake Village was an iron age village on the Somerset Levels near Godney, some north west of Glastonbury, Somerset, England. It has been designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and covers an area of north to south by east to west....

, and it was also used in the construction of several Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 causeways. The willow was harvested using a traditional method of pollarding
Pollarding
Pollarding is a pruning system in which the upper branches of a tree are removed, promoting a dense head of foliage and branches. It has been common in Great Britain and Europe since medieval times and is practiced today in urban areas worldwide, primarily to maintain trees at a predetermined...

, where a tree would be cut back to the main stem. During the 1930s more than 3600 hectares (9000 acres) of willow were being grown commercially on the Levels. Largely due to the displacement of baskets with plastic bags and cardboard boxes, the industry has severely declined since the 1950s. By the end of the 20th century only about 140 hectares (350 acres) were grown commercially, near the villages of Burrowbridge
Burrowbridge
Burrowbridge is a village and civil parish in Somerset, England, situated on the River Parrett and A361 road south east of Bridgwater in the Taunton Deane district on the edge of the Somerset Levels...

, Westonzoyland
Westonzoyland
Westonzoyland is a village and civil parish in Somerset, England. It is situated on the Somerset Levels, south east of Bridgwater.-History:The name of the parish derives from its location on the "island" of Sowy, an area of slightly higher ground on the Somerset Levels between the River Cary and...

 and North Curry
North Curry
North Curry is a village and civil parish in Somerset, England, situated east of Taunton in the Taunton Deane district. The parish, which includes Knapp and Lower Knapp has a population of 1,625....

. The Somerset Levels is now the only area in the UK where basket willow is grown commercially.

Towns such as Castle Cary
Castle Cary
Castle Cary is a market town and civil parish in south Somerset, England, north west of Wincanton and south of Shepton Mallet.The town is situated on the River Cary, a tributary of the Parrett.-History:...

 and Frome
Frome
Frome is a town and civil parish in northeast Somerset, England. Located at the eastern end of the Mendip Hills, the town is built on uneven high ground, and centres around the River Frome. The town is approximately south of Bath, east of the county town, Taunton and west of London. In the 2001...

 grew around the medieval weaving
Weaving
Weaving is a method of fabric production in which two distinct sets of yarns or threads are interlaced at right angles to form a fabric or cloth. The other methods are knitting, lace making and felting. The longitudinal threads are called the warp and the lateral threads are the weft or filling...

 industry. Street
Street, Somerset
Street is a small village and civil parish in the county of Somerset, England. It is situated on a dry spot in the Somerset Levels, at the end of the Polden Hills, south-west of Glastonbury. The 2001 census records the village as having a population of 11,066...

 developed as a centre for the production of woollen slippers and, later, boots and shoes, with C&J Clark
C&J Clark
C. and J. Clark International Ltd, trading as Clarks, is a British, international shoe manufacturer and retailer based in Street, Somerset, England...

 establishing its headquarters in the town. C&J Clark's shoes are no longer manufactured there as the work was transferred to lower-wage areas, such as China and Asia. Instead, in 1993, redundant factory buildings were converted to form Clarks Village
Clarks Village
Clarks Village is a designer outlet shopping complex at Street in the English county of Somerset. The centre includes more than 90 shops. There are also coffee shops, refreshment stalls and a dining area shared by fast food chains , mostly selling goods at a discount to high street prices.It is...

, the first purpose-built factory outlet in the UK. C&J Clark also had shoe factories, at one time at Bridgwater, Minehead, Westfield
Westfield, Somerset
Westfield is a settlement lying on the Fosse Way between Radstock and Midsomer Norton in Somerset, England. In 2011 it was raised to the status of a civil parish....

 and Weston super Mare to provide employment outside the main summer tourist season, but those satellite sites were closed in the late 1980s, before the main site at Street. Dr. Martens
Dr. Martens
Dr. Martens is a traditional British footwear brand, which also makes a range of accessories – shoe care products, clothing, luggage, etc. In addition to Dr. Martens, they are known as Doctor Martens, Doc Martens, Docs or DMs...

 shoes were also made in Somerset, by the Northampton-based R. Griggs Group, using redundant skilled shoemakers from C&J Clark; that work has also been transferred to Asia.

The county has a long tradition of supplying freestone and building stone. Quarries at Doulting
Doulting
Doulting is a village and civil parish east of Shepton Mallet, on the A361, in the Mendip district of Somerset, England.-History:The parish of Doulting was part of the Whitstone Hundred....

 supplied freestone used in the construction of Wells Cathedral
Wells Cathedral
Wells Cathedral is a Church of England cathedral in Wells, Somerset, England. It is the seat of the Bishop of Bath and Wells, who lives at the adjacent Bishop's Palace....

. Bath Stone
Bath Stone
Bath Stone is an Oolitic Limestone comprising granular fragments of calcium carbonate. Originally obtained from the Combe Down and Bathampton Down Mines under Combe Down, Somerset, England, its warm, honey colouring gives the World Heritage City of Bath, England its distinctive appearance...

 is also widely used. Ralph Allen
Ralph Allen
Ralph Allen was an entrepreneur and philanthropist, and was notable for his reforms to the British postal system. He was baptised at St Columb Major, Cornwall on 24 July 1693. As a teenager he worked at the Post Office. He moved in 1710 to Bath, where he became a post office clerk, and at the age...

 promoted its use in the early 18th century, as did Hans Price
Hans Price
Hans Price was the architect responsible for much of the development of Weston-super-Mare, in North Somerset, England, during the Victorian era.-Life:Hans Fowler Price was born in Langford, Somerset. He studied under Thomas Barry in Liverpool...

 in the 19th century, but it was used long before then. It was mined underground at Combe Down and Bathampton Down Mines
Combe Down and Bathampton Down Mines
Combe Down and Bathampton Down Mines is a 6.22 hectare Site of Special Scientific Interest in Bath and North East Somerset, notified in 1991 because of the Greater and Lesser Horseshoe bat population....

, and as a result of cutting the Box Tunnel
Box Tunnel
Box Tunnel is a railway tunnel in Western England, between Bath and Chippenham, dug through Box Hill, and is one of the most significant structures on the Great Western Main Line...

, at locations in Wiltshire
Wiltshire
Wiltshire is a ceremonial county in South West England. It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. It contains the unitary authority of Swindon and covers...

 such as Box
Box, Wiltshire
Box is a village located in Wiltshire, England, about east of Bath and west of Chippenham. It is quite a large parish with several settlements, apart from the village of Box, within its boundaries....

. Bath stone is still used on a reduced scale today, but more often as a cladding
Cladding (construction)
Cladding is the application of one material over another to provide a skin or layer intended to control the infiltration of weather elements, or for aesthetic purposes....

 rather than a structural material. Further south, Hamstone
Hamstone
Hamstone is the colloquial name given to stone from Ham Hill, Somerset, England. Hamstone is a Jurassic limestone from the Toarcian, or Upper Lias, stage. It is a well cemented medium to coarse grained limestone characterised by its honey-gold colour and marked bedding planes. The stone contains...

 is the colloquial name given to stone from Ham Hill
Ham Hill Country Park
Ham Hill is a geological Site of Special Scientific Interest , Scheduled Ancient Monument, Iron Age hill fort, Roman site, Local Nature Reserve and country park, to the west of Yeovil in Somerset, England....

, which is also widely used in the construction industry. Blue Lias
Blue Lias
The Blue Lias is a geologic formation in southern, eastern and western England and parts of South Wales, part of the Lias Group. The Blue Lias consists of a sequence of limestone and shale layers, laid down in latest Triassic and early Jurassic times, between 195 and 200 million years ago...

 has been used locally as a building stone and as a raw material for lime mortar
Lime mortar
Lime mortar is a type of mortar composed of lime and an aggregate such as sand, mixed with water. It is one of the oldest known types of mortar, dating back to the 4th century BC and widely used in Ancient Rome and Greece, when it largely replaced the clay and gypsum mortars common to Ancient...

 and Portland cement
Portland cement
Portland cement is the most common type of cement in general use around the world because it is a basic ingredient of concrete, mortar, stucco and most non-specialty grout...

. Until the 1960s, Puriton
Puriton
Puriton is a village and a parish, at the westerly end of the Polden Hills, in the Sedgemoor district of Somerset, UK. The parish has a population of 2,124. The local parish church is named after St Michael...

 had Blue Lias stone quarries, as did several other Polden villages
Polden Hills
The Polden Hills in Somerset, England are a long, low ridge, extending for , and separated from the Mendip Hills, to which they are nearly parallel, by a marshy tract, known as the Somerset Levels...

. Its quarries also supplied a cement factory at Dunball
Dunball
Dunball is a small hamlet west of the village of Puriton and close to the town of Bridgwater, Somerset, England.Just north of Dunball is Down End which is the site of Down End Castle a motte-and-bailey castle, which has been designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.Located on the A38, adjacent to...

, adjacent to the King's Sedgemoor Drain
King's Sedgemoor Drain
King's Sedgemoor Drain is an artificial drainage channel which diverts the River Cary in Somerset, England along the southern flank of the Polden Hills, to discharge into the River Parrett at Dunball near Bridgwater. As the name suggests, the channel is used to help drain the peat moors of King's...

. Its derelict, early 20th century remains, was removed when the M5 motorway
M5 motorway
The M5 is a motorway in England. It runs from a junction with the M6 at West Bromwich near Birmingham to Exeter in Devon. Heading south-west, the M5 runs east of West Bromwich and west of Birmingham through Sandwell Valley...

 was constructed in the mid-1970s. Since the 1920s, the county has supplied aggregates
Construction Aggregate
Construction aggregate, or simply "aggregate", is a broad category of coarse particulate material used in construction, including sand, gravel, crushed stone, slag, recycled concrete and geosynthetic aggregates. Aggregates are the most mined material in the world...

. Foster Yeoman
Foster Yeoman
Foster Yeoman Limited, based in the United Kingdom, is one of Europe's largest quarrying and asphalt companies, owned by Swiss construction materials conglomerate Holcim.-Company history:...

 is Europe's large supplier of limestone
Limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 aggregates, with quarries at Merehead Quarry
Torr Works
Torr Works quarry, is a limestone quarry at East Cranmore, near Shepton Mallet on the Mendip Hills, Somerset, England. It is also known as Merehead Quarry....

. It has a dedicated railway operation, Mendip Rail
Mendip Rail
Mendip Rail Ltd is an independent freight operating railway company in Great Britain. It is composed of the rail-operation divisions of Aggregate Industries and Hanson Aggregates ....

, which is used to transport aggregates by rail from a group of Mendip quarries
Quarries of the Mendip Hills
The Mendip Hills are the most southerly Carboniferous Limestone Upland in Britain and are found in northern Somerset.They are composed of three major anticlinal structures, each with a core of older Devonian sandstone and Silurian volcanic rocks...

.

Tourism is a major industry, estimated in 2001 to support around 23,000 people. Attractions include the coastal towns, part of the Exmoor National Park, the West Somerset Railway
West Somerset Railway
The West Somerset Railway is a railway line that originally linked and in Somerset, England.It opened in 1862 and was extended from Watchet to by the Minehead Railway in 1874. Although just a single track, improvements were needed in the first half of the twentieth century to accommodate the...

 (a heritage railway
Heritage railway
thumb|right|the Historical [[Khyber train safari|Khyber Railway]] goes through the [[Khyber Pass]], [[Pakistan]]A heritage railway , preserved railway , tourist railway , or tourist railroad is a railway that is run as a tourist attraction, in some cases by volunteers, and...

), and the museum of the Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm
The Fleet Air Arm is the branch of the British Royal Navy responsible for the operation of naval aircraft. The Fleet Air Arm currently operates the AgustaWestland Merlin, Westland Sea King and Westland Lynx helicopters...

 at RNAS Yeovilton
RNAS Yeovilton
Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, or RNAS Yeovilton, is an airfield of the Royal Navy, sited in South West England a few miles north of Yeovil in Somerset...

. The town of Glastonbury
Glastonbury
Glastonbury is a small town in Somerset, England, situated at a dry point on the low lying Somerset Levels, south of Bristol. The town, which is in the Mendip district, had a population of 8,784 in the 2001 census...

 has mythical associations, including legends of a visit by the young Jesus of Nazareth and Joseph of Arimathea
Joseph of Arimathea
Joseph of Arimathea was, according to the Gospels, the man who donated his own prepared tomb for the burial of Jesus after Jesus' Crucifixion. He is mentioned in all four Gospels.-Gospel references:...

, with links to the Holy Grail
Holy Grail
The Holy Grail is a sacred object figuring in literature and certain Christian traditions, most often identified with the dish, plate, or cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper and said to possess miraculous powers...

, King Arthur
King Arthur
King Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who, according to Medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and...

, and Camelot
Camelot
Camelot is a castle and court associated with the legendary King Arthur. Absent in the early Arthurian material, Camelot first appeared in 12th-century French romances and eventually came to be described as the fantastic capital of Arthur's realm and a symbol of the Arthurian world...

, identified by some as Cadbury Castle
Cadbury Castle, Somerset
Cadbury Castle is an Iron Age hill fort in the civil parish of South Cadbury in the English county of Somerset. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and associated with King Arthur.-Background:...

, an Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 hill fort
Hill fort
A hill fort is a type of earthworks used as a fortified refuge or defended settlement, located to exploit a rise in elevation for defensive advantage. They are typically European and of the Bronze and Iron Ages. Some were used in the post-Roman period...

. Glastonbury also gives its name to an annual open-air rock festival
Rock festival
A rock festival, or a rock fest, is a large-scale rock music concert, featuring multiple acts.The first rock festivals were put on in the late 1960s and were important socio-cultural milestones. In the 1980s a minor resurgence of festivals occurred with charity as the goal.Today, they are often...

 held in nearby Pilton
Pilton, Somerset
Pilton is a village and civil parish in Somerset, England, situated on the A361 road in the Mendip district, 3 miles south-west of Shepton Mallet and 6 miles east of Glastonbury. The village has a population of 935...

. There are show cave
Show cave
Show caves — also called tourist caves, public caves, and in the United States, commercial caves — are caves that are managed by a government or commercial organization and made accessible to the general public, usually for an entrance fee...

s open to visitors in the Cheddar Gorge, as well as its locally produced cheese, although there is now only one remaining cheese maker in the village of Cheddar
Cheddar
Cheddar is a large village and civil parish in the Sedgemoor district of the English county of Somerset. It is situated on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills, north-west of Wells. The civil parish includes the hamlets of Nyland and Bradley Cross...

.

In November 2008, a public sector inward investment organisation was launched, called Into Somerset
Into Somerset
Into Somerset is the inward investment agency for the county of Somerset, England. - Into Somerset website It works with local authorities, other economic agencies and private sector partners, to encourage business relocation to Somerset....

, with the intention of growing the county's economy by promoting it to businesses that may wish to relocate from other parts of the UK (especially London) and the world.

Demography

Somerset Compared
UK Census 2001
United Kingdom Census 2001
A nationwide census, known as Census 2001, was conducted in the United Kingdom on Sunday, 29 April 2001. This was the 20th UK Census and recorded a resident population of 58,789,194....

 
Somerset C.C. North Somerset UA
North Somerset
North Somerset is a unitary authority in England. Its area covers part of the ceremonial county of Somerset but it is administered independently of the non-metropolitan county. Its administrative headquarters is in the town hall in Weston-super-Mare....

 
BANES UA
Bath and North East Somerset
Bath and North East Somerset is a unitary authority that was created on 1 April 1996 following the abolition of the County of Avon. It is part of the Ceremonial county of Somerset...

 
South West England
South West England
South West England is one of the regions of England defined by the Government of the United Kingdom for statistical and other purposes. It is the largest such region in area, covering and comprising Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. ...

 
England
Total population 498,093 188,564 169,040 4,928,434 49,138,831
Foreign born 7.6% 9.5% 11.2% 9.4% 9.2%
White 98.8% 97.1% 97.3% 97.7% 91%
Asian 0.3% 1.7% 0.5% 0.7% 4.6%
Black 0.2% 0.9% 0.5% 0.4% 2.3%
Christian 76.7% 75.0% 71.0% 74.0% 72%
Muslim 0.2% 0.2% 0.4% 0.5% 3.1%
Hindu 0.1% 0.1% 0.2% 0.2% 1.1%
No religion 14.9% 16.6% 19.5% 16.8% 15%
Over 75 years old 9.6% 9.9% 8.9% 9.3% 7.5%
Unemployed 2.5% 2.1% 2.0% 2.6% 3.3%

In the 2001 census
United Kingdom Census 2001
A nationwide census, known as Census 2001, was conducted in the United Kingdom on Sunday, 29 April 2001. This was the 20th UK Census and recorded a resident population of 58,789,194....

 the population of the Somerset County Council area was 498,093
with 169,040 in Bath and North East Somerset
Bath and North East Somerset
Bath and North East Somerset is a unitary authority that was created on 1 April 1996 following the abolition of the County of Avon. It is part of the Ceremonial county of Somerset...

,
and 188,564 in North Somerset
North Somerset
North Somerset is a unitary authority in England. Its area covers part of the ceremonial county of Somerset but it is administered independently of the non-metropolitan county. Its administrative headquarters is in the town hall in Weston-super-Mare....


giving a total for the historic county of 855,697. This was estimated to have risen to 895,700 in 2006.

Population growth
Population growth
Population growth is the change in a population over time, and can be quantified as the change in the number of individuals of any species in a population using "per unit time" for measurement....

 is higher than the national average, with a 6.4% increase, in the Somerset County Council area, since 1991, and a 17% increase since 1981. The population density is 1.4 persons per hectare, which can be compared to 2.07 persons per hectare for the South West region
South West England
South West England is one of the regions of England defined by the Government of the United Kingdom for statistical and other purposes. It is the largest such region in area, covering and comprising Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. ...

. Within the county, population density ranges 0.5 in West Somerset
West Somerset
West Somerset is a local government district in the English county of Somerset. The council covers a largely rural area, with a population of 35,075 in an area of ....

 to 2.2 persons per hectare in Taunton Deane
Taunton Deane
Taunton Deane is a local government district with borough status in Somerset, England. Its council is based in Taunton.The district was formed on 1 April 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, by a merger of the Municipal Borough of Taunton, Wellington Urban District, Taunton Rural District,...

. The percentage of the population who are economically active is higher than the regional and national average, and the unemployment rate is lower than the regional and national average.

Somerset has a high indigenous
Indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples are ethnic groups that are defined as indigenous according to one of the various definitions of the term, there is no universally accepted definition but most of which carry connotations of being the "original inhabitants" of a territory....

 British population, with 98.8% registering as white British
White British
White British was an ethnicity classification used in the 2001 United Kingdom Census. As a result of the census, 50,366,497 people in the United Kingdom were classified as White British. In Scotland the classification was broken down into two different categories: White Scottish and Other White...

 and 92.4% of these as born in the United Kingdom. Chinese is the largest ethnic group, while the black minority ethnic proportion of the total population is 2.9%. Over 25% of Somerset's population is concentrated in Taunton, Bridgwater and Yeovil. The rest of the county is rural and sparsely populated. Over 9 million tourist nights are spent in Somerset each year, which significantly increases the population at peak times.
Population since 1801
Year 1801 1851 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001
Somerset CC area 187,266 276,684 277,563 280,215 282,411 284,740 305,244 327,505 355,292 385,698 417,450 468,395 498,093
BANES 57,188 96,992 107,637 113,732 113,351 112,972 123,185 134,346 144,950 156,421 154,083 164,737 169,045
North Somerset 16,670 33,774 60,066 68,410 75,276 82,833 91,967 102,119 119,509 139,924 160,353 179,865 188,556
Total 261,124 407,450 445,266 462,357 471,038 479,758 520,396 563,970 619,751 682,043 731,886 812,997 855,694

Politics

The county is divided into nine constituencies for the election of Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

. As of May 2010, the constituencies of Bridgwater and West Somerset, North East Somerset
North East Somerset (UK Parliament constituency)
North East Somerset is a county constituency created by the Boundary Commission for England as the successor seat to the Wansdyke Parliamentary Seat. It came into being at the 2010 general election.- Boundaries :...

, North Somerset
North Somerset (UK Parliament constituency)
North Somerset is a county constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It elects one Member of Parliament by the first past the post system of election...

 and Weston-super-Mare
Weston-super-Mare (UK Parliament constituency)
Weston-super-Mare is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It elects one Member of Parliament by the first past the post system of election.-Boundaries:...

 elect Conservative
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 MPs, while Bath
Bath (UK Parliament constituency)
Bath is a constituency in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, previously of the House of Commons of England. It is an ancient constituency which has been constantly represented in Parliament since boroughs were first summoned to send members in the 13th century...

, Somerton and Frome, Taunton Deane
Taunton Deane (UK Parliament constituency)
Taunton Deane is a county constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It elects one Member of Parliament by the first past the post system of election....

, Wells
Wells (UK Parliament constituency)
Wells is a county constituency centred on the city of Wells in Somerset. It elects one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, by the first past the post voting system...

 and Yeovil return Liberal Democrats
Liberal Democrats
The Liberal Democrats are a social liberal political party in the United Kingdom which supports constitutional and electoral reform, progressive taxation, wealth taxation, human rights laws, cultural liberalism, banking reform and civil liberties .The party was formed in 1988 by a merger of the...

. Residents of Somerset also form part of the electorate for the South West England
South West England (European Parliament constituency)
South West England is a constituency of the European Parliament. For 2009 it elects 6 MEPs using the d'Hondt method of party-list proportional representation, reduced from 7 in 2004.-Boundaries:...

 constituency for elections to the European Parliament
European Parliament
The European Parliament is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union . Together with the Council of the European Union and the Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and it has been described as one of the most powerful legislatures in the world...

.

Local government

The ceremonial county
Ceremonial counties of England
The ceremonial counties are areas of England to which are appointed a Lord Lieutenant, and are defined by the government as counties and areas for the purposes of the Lieutenancies Act 1997 with reference to the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties of England and Lieutenancies Act 1997...

 of Somerset consists of a non-metropolitan county
Metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties of England
Metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties are one of the four levels of subdivisions of England used for the purposes of local government outside Greater London. As originally constituted, the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties each consisted of multiple districts, had a county council and...

, administered by Somerset County Council
Somerset County Council
Somerset County Council is the county council of Somerset in the South West of England, an elected local government authority responsible for the most significant local government services in most of the county.-Area covered:...

, and two unitary authorities
Unitary authority
A unitary authority is a type of local authority that has a single tier and is responsible for all local government functions within its area or performs additional functions which elsewhere in the relevant country are usually performed by national government or a higher level of sub-national...

.

The districts of Somerset are West Somerset
West Somerset
West Somerset is a local government district in the English county of Somerset. The council covers a largely rural area, with a population of 35,075 in an area of ....

, South Somerset
South Somerset
South Somerset is a local government district in Somerset, England.The South Somerset district covers and area of ranging from the borders with Devon and Dorset to the edge of the Somerset Levels. It has a population of approximately 158,000...

, Taunton Deane
Taunton Deane
Taunton Deane is a local government district with borough status in Somerset, England. Its council is based in Taunton.The district was formed on 1 April 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, by a merger of the Municipal Borough of Taunton, Wellington Urban District, Taunton Rural District,...

, Mendip
Mendip
Mendip is a local government district of Somerset in England. The Mendip district covers a largely rural area of ranging from the Mendip Hills through on to the Somerset Levels. It has a population of approximately 110,000...

 and Sedgemoor
Sedgemoor
Sedgemoor is a low lying area of land in Somerset, England. It lies close to sea level south of the Polden Hills, historically largely marsh . The eastern part is known as King's Sedgemoor, and the western part West Sedgemoor. Sedgemoor is part of the area now known as the Somerset Levels...

. The two administratively independent unitary authorities, which were established on 1 April 1996 following the break-up of the county of Avon, are North Somerset
North Somerset
North Somerset is a unitary authority in England. Its area covers part of the ceremonial county of Somerset but it is administered independently of the non-metropolitan county. Its administrative headquarters is in the town hall in Weston-super-Mare....

 and Bath and North East Somerset
Bath and North East Somerset
Bath and North East Somerset is a unitary authority that was created on 1 April 1996 following the abolition of the County of Avon. It is part of the Ceremonial county of Somerset...

. These unitary authorities include areas that were once part of Somerset before the creation of Avon in 1974. In 2007, proposals to abolish the district councils in favour of a single Somerset unitary authority were rejected following local opposition.

Culture

Somerset has traditions of art, music and literature. Wordsworth
William Wordsworth
William Wordsworth was a major English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with the 1798 joint publication Lyrical Ballads....

 and Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, Romantic, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. He is probably best known for his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla...

 wrote while staying in Coleridge Cottage
Coleridge Cottage
Coleridge Cottage is a cottage situated in Nether Stowey, Bridgwater, Somerset, England.It was constructed in the 17th century as a building containing a parlour, kitchen and service room on the ground floor and three corresponding bed chambers above...

, Nether Stowey
Nether Stowey
Nether Stowey is a large village in the Sedgemoor district of Somerset, South West England. It sits in the foothills of the Quantock Hills , just below Over Stowey...

.
The writer Evelyn Waugh
Evelyn Waugh
Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh , known as Evelyn Waugh, was an English writer of novels, travel books and biographies. He was also a prolific journalist and reviewer...

 spent his last years in the village of Combe Florey
Combe Florey
Combe Florey is a village and civil parish in Somerset, England, situated north west of Taunton in the Taunton Deane district, on the West Somerset Railway. The village has a population of 252...

.
Traditional folk music, both song and dance, was important in the agricultural communities. Somerset songs were collected by Cecil Sharp
Cecil Sharp
Cecil James Sharp was the founding father of the folklore revival in England in the early 20th century, and many of England's traditional dances and music owe their continuing existence to his work in recording and publishing them.-Early life:Sharp was born in Camberwell, London, the eldest son of...

 and incorporated into works such as Holst's
Gustav Holst
Gustav Theodore Holst was an English composer. He is most famous for his orchestral suite The Planets....

 A Somerset Rhapsody. Halsway Manor
Halsway Manor
Halsway Manor is a manor house in Halsway, Somerset, now used as England's National Centre for Traditional Music, Dance and Song. It is the only residential folk centre in the UK. It is situated off the A358 road between Taunton and Williton on the edge of the Quantock Hills.-Buildings:Halsway...

 near Williton
Williton
Williton is a medium-sized village and civil parish in West Somerset, England. It has many of the facilities of a small town, being the administrative centre for the district. Williton is situated at the junction of the A39, A358 and B3191 roads...

 is an international centre for folk music. The tradition continues today with groups such as The Wurzels
The Wurzels
The Wurzels are a British Scrumpy and Western band...

 specialising in Scrumpy and Western
Scrumpy and Western
Scrumpy and Western refers humorously to music from England's West Country that fuses comical folk-style songs, often full of double entendre, with affectionate parodies of more mainstream musical genres, all delivered in the local accent/dialect...

 music.

The Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts
Glastonbury Festival
The Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts, commonly abbreviated to Glastonbury or even Glasto, is a performing arts festival that takes place near Pilton, Somerset, England, best known for its contemporary music, but also for dance, comedy, theatre, circus, cabaret and other arts.The...

 takes place most years in Pilton
Pilton, Somerset
Pilton is a village and civil parish in Somerset, England, situated on the A361 road in the Mendip district, 3 miles south-west of Shepton Mallet and 6 miles east of Glastonbury. The village has a population of 935...

, near Shepton Mallet
Shepton Mallet
Shepton Mallet is a small rural town and civil parish in the Mendip district of Somerset in South West England. Situated approximately south of Bristol and east of Wells, the town is estimated to have a population of 9,700. It contains the administrative headquarters of Mendip District Council...

, attracting over 170,000 music and culture lovers from around the world to see world-famous entertainers.
The Big Green Gathering
Big Green Gathering
The Big Green Gathering was a festival with an environmental focus which happened during most summers between 1994 and 2007. It was held at various locations in Somerset and Wiltshire in England...

 which grew out of the Green fields at the Glastonbury Festival is held in the Mendip Hills between Charterhouse
Charterhouse, Somerset
Charterhouse, also known as Charterhouse-on-Mendip, is a hamlet in the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the English county of Somerset...

 and Compton Martin
Compton Martin
Compton Martin is a small village and civil parish within the Chew Valley in Somerset and civil parish in the Bath and North East Somerset unitary authority in England. The parish has a population of 508...

 each summer.
The annual Bath Literature Festival
Bath Literature Festival
The Bath Literature Festival held annually in Bath, Somerset, England, has become an important date in the national literary calendar, playing host to an array of journalists, novelists, poets, politicians, actors, comedians, writers and biographers....

 is one of several local festivals in the county; others include the Frome Festival
Frome Festival
The annual ten-day Frome Festival usually starts the first Friday in July, in Frome, Somerset, England.The Frome Festival was conceived by Martin Bax and the inaugural event was held in 2000. He stepped down as Director in 2007, having received the MBE for his services to the Festival...

 and the Trowbridge Village Pump Festival
Trowbridge Village Pump Festival
Village Pump FestivalStarted over 30 years ago in a barn at the lamb Inn Trowbridge, it then moved to Stowford Manor Farm, Farleigh Hungerford, England...

, which, despite its name, is held at Farleigh Hungerford
Farleigh Hungerford
Farleigh Hungerford is a village within the civil parish of Norton St Philip in Somerset, England, 9 miles southeast of Bath, 3½ miles west of Trowbridge on A366, in the valley of the River Frome....

 in Somerset. The annual circuit of West Country Carnival
West Country Carnival
The West Country Carnival is an annual celebration featuring a parade of illuminated floats , in the English West Country. The celebration dates back to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The purpose is to raise money for local charities....

s is held in a variety of Somerset towns during the autumn, forming a major regional festival, and the largest Festival of Lights in Europe.

In Arthurian legend
Matter of Britain
The Matter of Britain is a name given collectively to the body of literature and legendary material associated with Great Britain and its legendary kings, particularly King Arthur...

, Avalon
Avalon
Avalon is a legendary island featured in the Arthurian legend. It first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's 1136 pseudohistorical account Historia Regum Britanniae as the place where King Arthur's sword Excalibur was forged and later where Arthur was...

 became associated with Glastonbury Tor
Glastonbury Tor
Glastonbury Tor is a hill at Glastonbury, Somerset, England, which features the roofless St. Michael's Tower. The site is managed by the National Trust. It has been designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument ....

 when monks at Glastonbury Abbey
Glastonbury Abbey
Glastonbury Abbey was a monastery in Glastonbury, Somerset, England. The ruins are now a grade I listed building, and a Scheduled Ancient Monument and are open as a visitor attraction....

 claimed to have discovered the bones of King Arthur
King Arthur
King Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who, according to Medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and...

 and his queen. What is more certain is that Glastonbury was an important religious centre by 700 and claims to be "the oldest above-ground Christian church in the World" situated "in the mystical land of Avalon." The claim is based on dating the founding of the community of monks at AD 63, the year of the legendary visit of Joseph of Arimathea
Joseph of Arimathea
Joseph of Arimathea was, according to the Gospels, the man who donated his own prepared tomb for the burial of Jesus after Jesus' Crucifixion. He is mentioned in all four Gospels.-Gospel references:...

, who was supposed to have brought the Holy Grail
Holy Grail
The Holy Grail is a sacred object figuring in literature and certain Christian traditions, most often identified with the dish, plate, or cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper and said to possess miraculous powers...

. During the Middle Ages there were also important religious sites at Woodspring Priory
Woodspring Priory
Woodspring Priory is a former Augustinian priory beside the Severn Estuary about north-east of Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset. It was founded in the early thirteenth century, and dedicated to Thomas Becket . After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the priory was converted into a farmhouse...

 and Muchelney Abbey
Muchelney Abbey
Muchelney Abbey is an English Heritage property in the village of Muchelney in the Somerset Levels, England.It comprises the remains and foundations of a medieval Benedictine abbey, the site of an earlier Anglo-Saxon abbey, and an early Tudor house dating from the 16th century, formerly the...

. The present Diocese of Bath and Wells
Diocese of Bath and Wells
The Diocese of Bath and Wells is a diocese in the Church of England Province of Canterbury in England.The diocese covers the county of Somerset and a small area of Dorset. The Episcopal seat of the Bishop of Bath and Wells is located in the Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew in the tiny city of...

 covers Somerset – with the exception of the Parish of Abbots Leigh
Abbots Leigh
Abbots Leigh is a village and civil parish in Somerset, England, about west of the centre of Bristol.-History:The original Middle English name was Lega and the village became Abbots Leigh in the mid 12th century when Robert Fitzharding , who acquired the village as Lord of the Manor, gave the...

 with Leigh Woods in North Somerset – and a small area of Dorset. The Episcopal seat
Cathedra
A cathedra or bishop's throne is the chair or throne of a bishop. It is a symbol of the bishop's teaching authority in the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, and has in some sense remained such in the Anglican Communion and in Lutheran churches...

 of the Bishop of Bath and Wells
Bishop of Bath and Wells
The Bishop of Bath and Wells heads the Church of England Diocese of Bath and Wells in the Province of Canterbury in England.The present diocese covers the vast majority of the county of Somerset and a small area of Dorset. The Episcopal seat is located in the Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew in...

 is now in the Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew
Wells Cathedral
Wells Cathedral is a Church of England cathedral in Wells, Somerset, England. It is the seat of the Bishop of Bath and Wells, who lives at the adjacent Bishop's Palace....

 in the city of Wells
Wells
Wells is a cathedral city and civil parish in the Mendip district of Somerset, England, on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills. Although the population recorded in the 2001 census is 10,406, it has had city status since 1205...

, having previously been at Bath Abbey
Bath Abbey
The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Bath, commonly known as Bath Abbey, is an Anglican parish church and a former Benedictine monastery in Bath, Somerset, England...

. Before the English Reformation
English Reformation
The English Reformation was the series of events in 16th-century England by which the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church....

, it was a Roman Catholic diocese. The Benedictine
Benedictine
Benedictine refers to the spirituality and consecrated life in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict, written by Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century for the cenobitic communities he founded in central Italy. The most notable of these is Monte Cassino, the first monastery founded by Benedict...

 monastery Saint Gregory's Abbey, commonly known as Downside Abbey
Downside Abbey
The Basilica of St Gregory the Great at Downside, commonly known as Downside Abbey, is a Roman Catholic Benedictine monastery and the Senior House of the English Benedictine Congregation. One of its main apostolates is a school for children aged nine to eighteen...

, is at Stratton-on-the-Fosse
Stratton-on-the-Fosse
Stratton-on-the-Fosse is a village and civil parish located on the edge of the Mendip Hills, south-west of Westfield, north-east of Shepton Mallet, and from Frome, in Somerset, England. It has a population 1,045, and has a rural agricultural landscape, although it was part of the once-thriving...

, and the Cistercian Cleeve Abbey
Cleeve Abbey
Cleeve Abbey is a medieval monastery located near the village of Washford, in Somerset, England. The abbey was founded in the late twelfth century as a house for monks of the austere Cistercian order. Over its 350-year monastic history Cleeve was undistinguished amongst the abbeys of its order,...

 is near the village of Washford
Washford
Washford is a small village on the Washford River in the English county of Somerset. It is within the civil parish of Old Cleeve and is best known as the site of Cleeve Abbey, one of the best-preserved medieval monasteries in England...

.
The county has several museums; those at Bath include the American Museum in Britain, the Building of Bath Collection, the Herschel Museum of Astronomy, the Jane Austen Centre
Jane Austen Centre
The Jane Austen Centre at 40 Gay Street in Bath, Somerset, England, is a permanent exhibition which tells the story of Jane Austen's Bath experience – the effect that visiting and living in the city had on her and her writing.-Jane Austen Centre History:...

, and the Roman Baths. Other visitor attractions which reflect the cultural heritage of the county include: Claverton Pumping Station
Claverton Pumping Station
Claverton Pumping Station in the village of Claverton, in the English county of Somerset, pumps water from the River Avon to the Kennet and Avon Canal using power from the flow of the River Avon. It is a grade II listed building....

, Dunster Working Watermill
Dunster Working Watermill
Dunster Working Watermill is a restored 18th century watermill, situated on the River Avill, in the grounds of Dunster Castle in Dunster, Somerset, England....

, the Fleet Air Arm Museum
Fleet Air Arm Museum
The Fleet Air Arm Museum is located north of Yeovil, and south of Bristol. It has an extensive collection of military and civilian aircraft, as well as models of Royal Navy ships, especially aircraft carriers. Some of the museum has interactive displays...

 at Yeovilton, Nunney Castle
Nunney Castle
Nunney Castle is a castle in Nunney, Somerset, England. Built in the late 14th century by Sir John Delamare on the profits of his involvement in the Hundred Years War, the moated castle's architectural style, possibly influenced by the design of French castles, has provoked considerable academic...

, The Helicopter Museum
The Helicopter Museum (Weston)
The Helicopter Museum in Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset, England, is a museum featuring a collection of more than 80 helicopters and autogyros from around the world, both civilian and military...

 in Weston-super-Mare, King John's Hunting Lodge in Axbridge
Axbridge
Axbridge is a town in Somerset, England, situated in the Sedgemoor district on the River Axe, near the southern edge of the Mendip Hills. The town population according to the 2001 census was 2,024.-History:...

, Radstock Museum
Radstock Museum
Radstock museum in Radstock, Somerset has a range of exhibits which offer an insight into North Somerset life since the nineteenth century.The museum was originally opened in 1989 in barns in Haydon, and moved to its current site in the restored and converted Victorian Market Hall, a grade II...

, Somerset County Museum
Somerset County Museum
The Museum of Somerset is located in the 12th century great hall of Taunton Castle, in Taunton in the county of Somerset, England. The museum is run by Somerset County Council and includes objects initially collected by the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society who own the...

 in Taunton, the Somerset Rural Life Museum
Somerset Rural Life Museum
The Somerset Rural Life Museum is situated in Glastonbury, Somerset, UK. It is a museum of the social and agricultural history of Somerset, housed in buildings surrounding a 14th century barn once belonging to Glastonbury Abbey....

 in Glastonbury, and Westonzoyland Pumping Station Museum
Westonzoyland Pumping Station Museum
The Westonzoyland Pumping Station Museum is a small Industrial Heritage museum dedicated to steam powered machinery in Westonzoyland, Somerset, England....

.

Somerset has 11,500 listed buildings, 523 Scheduled Monuments, 192 conservation area
Conservation area
A conservation areas is a tract of land that has been awarded protected status in order to ensure that natural features, cultural heritage or biota are safeguarded...

s, 41 parks and gardens including those at Barrington Court
Barrington Court
Barrington Court is a Tudor manor house begun c. 1538 and completed in the late 1550s, with a vernacular 17th-century stable court , situated in Barrington, near Ilminster, Somerset, England...

, Holnicote Estate
Holnicote Estate
Holnicote Estate is a National Trust property consisting of of Exmoor National Park situated in West Somerset, England. The property has been in the ownership of the National Trust since 1932, when it was donated by the Acland family....

, Prior Park Landscape Garden
Prior Park Landscape Garden
Prior Park Landscape Garden is an 18th-century landscape garden, designed by the poet Alexander Pope and the landscape gardener Capability Brown, and now owned by the National Trust. It is south of Bath, Somerset, England by Ralph Allen Drive, and 3/4 mile from the Kennet and Avon canal path...

 and Tintinhull Garden
Tintinhull Garden
Tintinhull Garden, located in Tintinhull, Yeovil, Somerset, England is a small 20th century Arts and Crafts garden surrounding a 17th century house. The property is in the ownership of the National Trust.-House:...

, 36 English Heritage
English Heritage
English Heritage . is an executive non-departmental public body of the British Government sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport...

 sites and 19 National Trust
National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty
The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, usually known as the National Trust, is a conservation organisation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland...

 sites, including Clevedon Court
Clevedon Court
Clevedon Court is a manor house on Court Hill in Clevedon, North Somerset, England, dating from the early fourteenth century. It is now owned by the National Trust. It has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade I listed building.-History:...

, Fyne Court
Fyne Court
Fyne Court is a National Trust-owned nature reserve and visitor centre in Broomfield, Somerset, England.The nature reserve is set in parkland which was originally the pleasure grounds of a large house belonging to pioneer 19th-century electrician, Andrew Crosse, whose family had owned the house...

, Montacute House
Montacute House
Montacute House is a late Elizabethan country house situated in the South Somerset village of Montacute. This house is a textbook example of English architecture during a period that was moving from the medieval Gothic to the Renaissance Classical; this has resulted in Montacute being regarded as...

 and Tyntesfield
Tyntesfield
Tyntesfield is a Victorian Gothic Revival estate near Wraxall, North Somerset, England, near Nailsea, seven miles from Bristol.The house was acquired by the National Trust in June 2002 after a fund raising campaign to prevent it being sold to private interests and ensure it be opened to the public...

 as well as Stembridge Tower Mill
Stembridge Tower Mill
Stembridge Tower Mill in High Ham, Somerset, England is the last remaining thatched windmill in England. It is the last survivor of five windmills that once existed in the area....

, the last remaining thatched windmill in England. Other historic houses in the county which have remained in private ownership or used for other purposes include Halswell House
Halswell House
Halswell House is a country house in Goathurst, Somerset, England.The Tudor house was originally purchased by the Tynte family, which was united with the Kemeys family of Cefn Mably when Jane Kemeys married the Rev. John Tynte , 2nd baronet of Halswell, and rector of Goathurst...

 and Marston Bigot
Marston Bigot
Marston Bigot is a small village near Nunney and south of Frome in Somerset, England.-History:Marston Bigot was listed as "Mersitone-tora" in the Doomesday Book, which gave the name of the then Saxon landowner as Robert Arundel. It became known as Marston Bigot some time after it was given by...

. A key contribution of Somerset architecture is its medieval church towers
Somerset towers
The Somerset towers are a collection of distinctive, mostly spireless Gothic church towers in the county of Somerset in south west England.Where beautiful castles and church spires rise above other parts of England, the crowning glory of many Somerset towns and villages is these medieval church...

. Jenkins writes, "These structures, with their buttresses, bell-opening tracery and crowns, rank with Nottinghamshire alabaster as England's finest contribution to medieval art."

Bath Rugby
Bath Rugby
Bath Rugby is an English professional rugby union club that is based in the city of Bath. They play in the Aviva Premiership league...

 play at the Recreation Ground
Recreation Ground (Bath)
The Recreation Ground is a large open space in the centre of Bath, England, next to the River Avon, used for recreational purposes by Bath residents and the public generally....

 in Bath, and the Somerset County Cricket Club
Somerset County Cricket Club
Somerset County Cricket Club is one of the 18 major county clubs which make up the English and Welsh domestic cricket structure, representing the historic county of Somerset...

 are based at the County Ground in Taunton. The county gained its first Football League club in 2003, when Yeovil Town
Yeovil Town F.C.
Yeovil Town F.C. are an English association football team based in Yeovil, Somerset. The club play in League One after having won the League Two championship in 2004–05...

 won promotion to Division Three
Football League Third Division
The Football League Third Division was the 3 tier of English Football from 1920 until 1992 when after the formation of the Football Association Premier League saw the league renamed The Football League Division Two...

 as Football Conference
Football Conference
The Football Conference is a football league in England which consists of three divisions called Conference National, Conference North, and Conference South. Some Football Conference clubs are fully professional, such as Luton Town, but most of them are semi-professional...

 champions. They had achieved numerous FA Cup
FA Cup
The Football Association Challenge Cup, commonly known as the FA Cup, is a knockout cup competition in English football and is the oldest association football competition in the world. The "FA Cup" is run by and named after The Football Association and usually refers to the English men's...

 victories over Football League sides in the past 50 years, and since joining the elite they have won promotion again—as League Two
Football League Two
Football League Two is the third-highest division of The Football League and fourth-highest division overall in the English football league system....

 champions in 2005. They came close to yet another promotion in 2007, when they reached the League One
Football League One
Football League One is the second-highest division of The Football League and third-highest division overall in the English football league system....

 playoff final, but lost to Blackpool
Blackpool F.C.
Blackpool Football Club are an English football club founded in 1887 from the Lancashire seaside town of Blackpool. They are competing in the 2011–12 season of the The Championship, the second tier of professional football in England, having been relegated from the Premier League at the end of the...

 at the newly reopened Wembley Stadium
Wembley Stadium
The original Wembley Stadium, officially known as the Empire Stadium, was a football stadium in Wembley, a suburb of north-west London, standing on the site now occupied by the new Wembley Stadium that opened in 2007...

. Horse racing
Thoroughbred horse race
Thoroughbred horse racing is a worldwide sport and industry involving the racing of Thoroughbred horses. It is governed by different national bodies. There are two forms of the sport: Flat racing and National Hunt racing...

 courses are at Taunton
Taunton Racecourse
Taunton Racecourse is a thoroughbred horse racing venue located in Orchard Portman, two miles south of Taunton, Somerset, England. Opened in 1927, Taunton is the youngest National Hunt course in England, and the last racecourse to be opened in Britain until Great Leighs in 2008.-History:Horse...

 and Wincanton
Wincanton Racecourse
Wincanton Racecourse is a thoroughbred horse racing venue located in Wincanton, Somerset, England.The steeplechase fences are large, making it a good test of a chaser...

.

In addition to English national newspapers the county is served by the regional Western Daily Press
Western Daily Press
The Western Daily Press is a regional newspaper covering parts of South West England , mainly Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Somerset as well as the metropolitan areas of Bath and North East Somerset and the Bristol area. It is published Monday to Saturday in Bristol, UK...

and local newspapers including: the Weston & Somerset Mercury, the Bath Chronicle
Bath Chronicle
The Bath Chronicle is a weekly newspaper, first published under various titles before 1760 in Bath, England. Prior to September 2007, it was published daily.-Name changes:...

, Chew Valley Gazette
Chew Valley Gazette
The Chew Valley and Wrington Vale Gazette is a monthly local newspaper for the Chew Valley and surrounding areas of north Somerset, England.It was previously published as the Chew Valley Digest...

, Somerset County Gazette
Somerset County Gazette
The Somerset County Gazette is a weekly tabloid newspaper in Somerset, England.It is published in a tabloid format on a weekly basis and has a circulation of between 25,000 and 50,000.It was founded in 1836, and is now owned by Newsquest....

,
Clevedon Mercury
Clevedon Mercury
The Clevedon Mercury is a weekly free newspaper delivered to homes in the North Somerset area of south westernEngland. The Clevedon Mercury was set up in 1863 to communicate national news and local happenings. It continues to record the story of the town....

and the Mendip Times
Mendip Times
The Mendip Times is a monthly magazine, distributed free of charge in the Mendip Hills and surrounding areas of Somerset, England.It was launched in 2006 and has three employees, who also produce Mendip TV....

. Television and radio are provided by BBC Somerset, GWR FM Bristol, Orchard FM
Orchard FM
Heart Somerset was an Independent Local Radio station serving Somerset, England. Originally owned by Orchard Media Ltd, the company was purchased by GWR Group in 1999, and who subsequently became GCap Media in 2005...

 Taunton, Ivel FM
Ivel FM
Ivel FM was a United Kingdom radio station. The studios were based in Yeovil centre, but the station's transmission service area covered parts of south Somerset and parts of west Dorset. The station could be heard on 105.6 and 106.6 FM.-History:...

 Yeovil, and HTV
HTV
HTV, now legally known as ITV Wales & West, is the ITV contractor for Wales and the West of England, which operated from studios in Cardiff and Bristol. The company provided commercial television for the dual-region 'Wales and West' franchise, which it won from TWW in 1968...

, now known as ITV Wales & West Ltd, but still commonly referred to as HTV.

Recently there have been proposals for the introduction of an official Somerset flag for the ceremonial county.

Transport

Somerset has 6,531 km (4,058 mi) of roads. The main arterial routes, which include the M5 motorway
M5 motorway
The M5 is a motorway in England. It runs from a junction with the M6 at West Bromwich near Birmingham to Exeter in Devon. Heading south-west, the M5 runs east of West Bromwich and west of Birmingham through Sandwell Valley...

, A303
A303 road
The A303 is a 92-mile long trunk road in England. It is the main road between Basingstoke in Hampshire and Honiton in Devon. The M3, the A303 and the A30 together make up one of the main routes from London to South West England, running from London to Land's End in Cornwall...

, A37
A37 road
The A37 is a major road in southern England. It runs north from the A35 at Dorchester in Dorset into Somerset through Yeovil and Shepton Mallet before terminating at the Three Lamps junction with the A4 in central Bristol...

, A38
A38 road
The A38, part of which is also known as the Devon Expressway, is a major A-class trunk road in England.The road runs from Bodmin in Cornwall to Mansfield in Nottinghamshire. It is long, making it one of the longest A-roads in England. It was formerly known as the Leeds — Exeter Trunk Road,...

 and A39
A39 road
The A39 is an A road in south west England. It runs south-west from Bath in Somerset through Wells, Glastonbury, Street and Bridgwater. It then follows the north coast of Somerset and Devon through Williton, Minehead, Porlock, Lynmouth, Barnstaple, Bideford, Stratton, Camelford, Wadebridge and St...

, give good access across the county, but many areas can only be accessed via narrow lanes.
Rail services are provided by the West of England Main Line
West of England Main Line
The West of England Main Line is a British railway line that runs from , Hampshire to Exeter St Davids in Devon, England. Passenger services run between London Waterloo station and Exeter...

 through Yeovil, the Bristol to Taunton Line, Heart of Wessex Line
Heart of Wessex Line
The Heart of Wessex Line, also known as the Bristol to Weymouth line, is a United Kingdom railway line that runs from Bristol to Westbury to Weymouth...

 which runs from Bristol to Weymouth and the Reading to Taunton line
Reading to Taunton line
The Reading to Taunton line also known as the Berks and Hants is a major branch of the Great Western Main Line that diverges at Reading, running to Cogload Junction near Taunton, where it joins the Bristol to Exeter line....

. Bristol Airport
Bristol Airport
Bristol Airport may refer to:* Bristol Airport, serving Bristol, England, United Kingdom ** Bristol Airport , a docu-soap based on events at Bristol Airport...

 provides national and international air services.

The Somerset Coal Canal
Somerset Coal Canal
The Somerset Coal Canal was a narrow canal in England, built around 1800 from basins at Paulton and Timsbury via Camerton, an aqueduct at Dunkerton, Combe Hay, Midford and Monkton Combe to Limpley Stoke where it joined the Kennet and Avon Canal...

 was built in the early 19th century to reduce the cost of transportation of coal and other heavy produce. The first 16 kilometres (10 mi), running from a junction with the Kennet and Avon Canal
Kennet and Avon Canal
The Kennet and Avon Canal is a waterway in southern England with an overall length of , made up of two lengths of navigable river linked by a canal. The name is commonly used to refer to the entire length of the navigation rather than solely to the central canal section...

, along the Cam valley
Cam Brook, Somerset
The Cam brook is a small river in Somerset, England.It rises near Hinton Blewitt, flows through Cameley, Temple Cloud, Camerton, Dunkerton and Combe Hay...

, to a terminal basin at Paulton
Paulton
Paulton is a large village and civil parish, with a population of 4,896, located to the north of the Mendip Hills, in the unitary authority of Bath and North East Somerset , England....

, were in use by 1805, together with several tramways. A planned 11.7 km (7.25 mi) branch to Midford was never built, but in 1815 a tramway was laid along its towing path. In 1871 the tramway was purchased by the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway
Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway
The Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway – almost always referred to as "the S&D" – was an English railway line connecting Bath in north east Somerset and Bournemouth now in south east Dorset but then in Hampshire...

 (S&DJR), and operated until the 1950s.

The 19th century saw improvements to Somerset's roads with the introduction of turnpikes, and the building of canals and railways. Nineteenth-century canals included the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal
Bridgwater and Taunton Canal
The Bridgwater and Taunton Canal is a canal in the south-west of England between Bridgwater and Taunton, opened in 1827 and linking the River Tone to the River Parrett. There were a number of abortive schemes to link the Bristol Channel to the English Channel by waterway in the 18th and early 19th...

, Westport Canal
Westport Canal
The Westport Canal was built in the late 1830s to link Westport and Langport in Somerset, England. It was part of a larger scheme involving improvements to the River Parrett above Burrow Bridge. Langport is the point at which the River Yeo joins the River Parrett and the intention was to enable...

, Glastonbury Canal
Glastonbury Canal
The Glastonbury Canal ran for just over through two locks from Glastonbury to Highbridge in Somerset, England, where it entered the River Parrett and from there the Bristol Channel. The canal was authorised by Parliament in 1827 and opened in 1834. It was operated by The Glastonbury Navigation &...

 and Chard Canal
Chard Canal
The Chard Canal was a tub boat canal in Somerset, England, that ran from the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal at Creech St. Michael, over four aqueducts, through three tunnels and four inclined planes to Chard. It was completed in 1842, was never commercially viable, and closed in 1868...

. The Dorset and Somerset Canal
Dorset and Somerset Canal
The Dorset and Somerset Canal was a proposed canal in the south west of England. The main line was intended to link Poole, in Dorset with the Kennet and Avon Canal near Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire. A branch was to go from the main line at Frome to the southern reaches of the Somerset coalfield at...

 was proposed, but little of it was ever constructed and it was abandoned in 1803.

The usefulness of the canals was short-lived, though some have now been restored for recreation. The 19th century also saw the construction of railways to and through Somerset. The county was served by five pre-1923 Grouping
Railways Act 1921
The Railways Act 1921, also known as the Grouping Act, was an enactment by the British government of David Lloyd George intended to stem the losses being made by many of the country's 120 railway companies, move the railways away from internal competition, and to retain some of the benefits which...

 railway companies: the Great Western Railway
Great Western Railway
The Great Western Railway was a British railway company that linked London with the south-west and west of England and most of Wales. It was founded in 1833, received its enabling Act of Parliament in 1835 and ran its first trains in 1838...

 (GWR); a branch of the Midland Railway
Midland Railway
The Midland Railway was a railway company in the United Kingdom from 1844 to 1922, when it became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway....

 (MR) to Bath Green Park
Bath Green Park railway station
Green Park railway station is a former railway station in Bath, Somerset, England. For some of its life, it was known as Bath Queen Square.-Architecture and opening:...

 (and another one to Bristol); the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway, and the London and South Western Railway
London and South Western Railway
The London and South Western Railway was a railway company in England from 1838 to 1922. Its network extended from London to Plymouth via Salisbury and Exeter, with branches to Ilfracombe and Padstow and via Southampton to Bournemouth and Weymouth. It also had many routes connecting towns in...

 (L&SWR). The former main lines of the GWR are still in use today, although many of its branch lines were scrapped. The former lines of the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway closed completely, as has the branch of the Midland Railway to Bath Green Park (and to Bristol St Philips
Bristol St Philips railway station
St Philip's railway station was a small terminus station in Bristol built by the Midland Railway to relieve pressure on the main station at Bristol Temple Meads, which was owned by the Great Western Railway...

); however, the L&SWR survived as a part of the present West of England Main Line
West of England Main Line
The West of England Main Line is a British railway line that runs from , Hampshire to Exeter St Davids in Devon, England. Passenger services run between London Waterloo station and Exeter...

. None of these lines, in Somerset, are electrified
Railway electrification in Great Britain
Railway electrification in Great Britain started towards of the 19th century. A great range of voltages have been used in the intervening period using both overhead lines and third rails, however the most common standard for mainline services is now 25 kV AC using overhead lines and the...

. Two branch lines, the West
West Somerset Railway
The West Somerset Railway is a railway line that originally linked and in Somerset, England.It opened in 1862 and was extended from Watchet to by the Minehead Railway in 1874. Although just a single track, improvements were needed in the first half of the twentieth century to accommodate the...

 and East Somerset Railway
East Somerset Railway
The East Somerset Railway is a heritage railway in Somerset, running between Cranmore and Mendip Vale. Prior to the Beeching Axe, the railway ran from Witham to Wells, meeting both the Cheddar Valley line and Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway at the latter station.- History :The line was...

s, were rescued and transferred back to private ownership as "heritage
Heritage railway
thumb|right|the Historical [[Khyber train safari|Khyber Railway]] goes through the [[Khyber Pass]], [[Pakistan]]A heritage railway , preserved railway , tourist railway , or tourist railroad is a railway that is run as a tourist attraction, in some cases by volunteers, and...

" lines. The fifth railway was a short-lived light railway, the Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Railway
Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Railway
The Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Light Railway was conceived and built initially as a tramway to link the three small North Somerset coastal towns of Weston-super-Mare, Clevedon and Portishead in the 1880s.-Overview:...

. The West Somerset Mineral Railway
West Somerset Mineral Railway
The West Somerset Mineral Railway was a line which operated in the UK county of Somerset. It ran from the ironstone mines in the Brendon Hills to the port of Watchet on the Bristol Channel. From there the ore was carried across by ship to Newport and thence to Ebbw Vale for smelting to extract...

 carried the iron ore from the Brendon Hills
Brendon Hills
The Brendon Hills are composed of a lofty ridge of hills in the East Lyn Valley area of western Somerset, England. The terrain is broken by a series of deeply incised streams and rivers running roughly southwards to meet the River Haddeo, a tributary of the River Exe.The hills are quite heavily...

 to Watchet
Watchet
Watchet is a harbour town and civil parish in the English county of Somerset, with an approximate population of 4,400. It is situated west of Bridgwater, north-west of Taunton, and east of Minehead. The parish includes the hamlet of Beggearn Huish...

.

Until the 1960s the piers at Weston-super-Mare
Weston-super-Mare
Weston-super-Mare is a seaside resort, town and civil parish in the unitary authority of North Somerset, which is within the ceremonial county of Somerset, England. It is located on the Bristol Channel coast, south west of Bristol, spanning the coast between the bounding high ground of Worlebury...

, Clevedon
Clevedon
Clevedon is a town and civil parish in the unitary authority of North Somerset, which covers part of the ceremonial county of Somerset, England...

, Portishead
Portishead, Somerset
Portishead is a coastal town on the Severn Estuary within the unitary authority of North Somerset, which falls within the ceremonial county of Somerset England. It has a population of 22,000, an increase of over 3,000 since the 2001 census, with a growth rate of 40 per cent, considerably in excess...

 and Minehead
Minehead
Minehead is a coastal town and civil parish in Somerset, England. It lies on the south bank of the Bristol Channel, north-west of the county town of Taunton, from the border with the county of Devon and in proximity of the Exmoor National Park...

 were served by the paddle steamer
Paddle steamer
A paddle steamer is a steamship or riverboat, powered by a steam engine, using paddle wheels to propel it through the water. In antiquity, Paddle wheelers followed the development of poles, oars and sails, where the first uses were wheelers driven by animals or humans...

s of P and A Campbell
P and A Campbell
P & A Campbell Ltd of Bristol with its White Funnel Fleet became the dominant excursion-steamer operator in the Bristol Channel by the 1890s; and along the South Coast of England in the first half of the twentieth century.-The White Funnel fleet:...

 who ran regular services to Barry and Cardiff
Cardiff
Cardiff is the capital, largest city and most populous county of Wales and the 10th largest city in the United Kingdom. The city is Wales' chief commercial centre, the base for most national cultural and sporting institutions, the Welsh national media, and the seat of the National Assembly for...

 as well as Ilfracombe
Ilfracombe
Ilfracombe is a seaside resort and civil parish on the North Devon coast, England with a small harbour, surrounded by cliffs.The parish stretches along the coast from 'The Coastguard Cottages' in Hele Bay toward the east and 4 miles along The Torrs to Lee Bay toward the west...

 and Lundy Island. The pier at Burnham-on-Sea
Burnham-on-Sea
Burnham-on-Sea is a town in Somerset, England, at the mouth of the River Parrett and Bridgwater Bay. Burnham was a small village until the late 18th century, when it began to grow because of its popularity as a seaside resort. It forms part of the parish of Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge...

 was used for commercial goods, one of the reasons for the Somerset and Dorset Railway was to provide a link between the Bristol Channel
Bristol Channel
The Bristol Channel is a major inlet in the island of Great Britain, separating South Wales from Devon and Somerset in South West England. It extends from the lower estuary of the River Severn to the North Atlantic Ocean...

 and the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

. The pier at Burnham-on-Sea is the shortest pier in the UK. In the 1970s the Royal Portbury Dock
Royal Portbury Dock
The Royal Portbury Dock is part of the Port of Bristol, in England. It is situated near the village of Portbury on the southern side of the mouth of the Avon, where the river joins the Severn estuary — the Avonmouth Docks are on the opposite side of the Avon, within Avonmouth...

 was constructed to provide extra capacity for the Port of Bristol
Port of Bristol
The Port of Bristol comprises the commercial, and former commercial, docks situated in and near the city of Bristol in England. The Port of Bristol Authority was the commercial title of the Bristol City, Avonmouth, Portishead and Royal Portbury Docks when they were operated by Bristol City Council,...

.

For long-distance holiday traffic travelling through the county to and from Devon and Cornwall, Somerset is often regarded as a marker on the journey. North–south traffic moves through the county via the M5 Motorway
M5 motorway
The M5 is a motorway in England. It runs from a junction with the M6 at West Bromwich near Birmingham to Exeter in Devon. Heading south-west, the M5 runs east of West Bromwich and west of Birmingham through Sandwell Valley...

. Traffic to and from the east travels either via the A303 road
A303 road
The A303 is a 92-mile long trunk road in England. It is the main road between Basingstoke in Hampshire and Honiton in Devon. The M3, the A303 and the A30 together make up one of the main routes from London to South West England, running from London to Land's End in Cornwall...

, or the M4 Motorway
M4 motorway
The M4 motorway links London with South Wales. It is part of the unsigned European route E30. Other major places directly accessible from M4 junctions are Reading, Swindon, Bristol, Newport, Cardiff and Swansea...

, which runs east–west, crossing the M5 just beyond the northern limits of the county.

Education

State schools in Somerset are provided by three Local Education Authorities: Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset, and the larger Somerset County Council. All state schools are comprehensive. In some areas primary, infant
Infant school
An Infant school is a term used primarily in the United Kingdom for school for children between the ages of four and seven years. It is usually a small school serving a particular locality....

 and junior
Junior school
A junior school is a type of school which caters for children, often between the ages of 7 and 11.-Australia:In Australia, a junior school is usually a part of a private school that educates children between the ages of 5 and 12....

 schools cater for ages four to eleven, after which the pupils move on to secondary schools. There is a three-tier system
Three-tier education
Three-tier education refers to those structures of schooling, which exist in some parts of England, where pupils are taught in three distinct school types. A similar experiment was also trialled in Scotland....

 of first
First School
First school and lower school are terms used in some areas of the United Kingdom to describe the first stage of primary education. Some English Local Education Authorities have introduced First Schools since the 1960s...

, middle
Middle school
Middle School and Junior High School are levels of schooling between elementary and high schools. Most school systems use one term or the other, not both. The terms are not interchangeable...

 and upper
Upper school
Upper Schools tend to be schools within secondary education. Outside England, the term normally refers to a section of a larger school. There is some variation in the use of the term in England.-State Maintained Schools:...

 schools in the Cheddar Valley, and in West Somerset, while most other schools in the county use the two-tier system. Somerset has 30 state and 17 independent secondary schools; Bath and North East Somerset has 13 state and 5 independent secondary schools; and North Somerset has 10 state and 2 independent secondary schools, excluding sixth form college
Sixth form college
A sixth form college is an educational institution in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Belize, Hong Kong or Malta where students aged 16 to 18 typically study for advanced school-level qualifications, such as A-levels, or school-level qualifications such as GCSEs. In Singapore and India, this is...

s.
% of pupils gaining 5 grades A-C including English and Maths in 2006 (average for England is 45.8%)
Education Authority %
Bath and North East Somerset (Unitary Authority) 52.0%
West Somerset 51.0%
Taunton Deane 49.5%
Mendip 47.7%
North Somerset (Unitary Authority) 47.4%
South Somerset 42.3%
Sedgemoor 41.4%


Some of the county's secondary schools have specialist school
Specialist school
The specialist schools programme was a UK government initiative which encouraged secondary schools in England to specialise in certain areas of the curriculum to boost achievement. The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust was responsible for the delivery of the programme...

 status. Some schools have sixth forms and others transfer their sixth formers to colleges. Several schools can trace their origins back many years, such as The Blue School
The Blue School, Wells
The Blue School is a coeducational, secondary school located in Wells, Somerset, England. It has 1,430 students aged 11 to 18 of both sexes and all ability levels. It is currently a Church of England voluntary controlled school. The school motto is "Recta Certa" meaning straight and true...

 in Wells and Richard Huish College
Richard Huish College, Taunton
Richard Huish College is named after Richard Huish who originally established the college as a grammar school for boys in the 18th century. Since 1979 it has been a sixth form college...

 in Taunton. Others have changed their names over the years such as Beechen Cliff School
Beechen Cliff School
Beechen Cliff School is a boys' secondary school in Bath, Somerset, England. Founded in 1896, it has 1,145 students aged 11 to 18.There are around 830 boys in years 7 to 11 and a co-educational sixth form of over 200 students...

 which was started in 1905 as the City of Bath Boys' School and changed to its present name in 1972 when the grammar school
Grammar school
A grammar school is one of several different types of school in the history of education in the United Kingdom and some other English-speaking countries, originally a school teaching classical languages but more recently an academically-oriented secondary school.The original purpose of mediaeval...

 was amalgamated with a local secondary modern school
Secondary modern school
A secondary modern school is a type of secondary school that existed in most of the United Kingdom from 1944 until the early 1970s, under the Tripartite System, and was designed for the majority of pupils - those who do not achieve scores in the top 25% of the eleven plus examination...

, to form a comprehensive school
Comprehensive school
A comprehensive school is a state school that does not select its intake on the basis of academic achievement or aptitude. This is in contrast to the selective school system, where admission is restricted on the basis of a selection criteria. The term is commonly used in relation to the United...

. Many others were established and built since the Second World War. In 2006, 5,900 pupils in Somerset sat GCSE examinations, with 44.5% achieving 5 grades A-C including English and Maths (compared to 45.8% for England).

Sexey's School
Sexey's School
Sexey's School is a state boarding school in Bruton, Somerset, England that also takes some day pupils from the surrounding area. Sexey's School is named after Hugh Sexey who, in 1599, was appointed as a Royal auditor to Elizabeth I and later as a Royal auditor to James I. Sexey's Hospital was...

 is a state boarding school
Boarding school
A boarding school is a school where some or all pupils study and live during the school year with their fellow students and possibly teachers and/or administrators. The word 'boarding' is used in the sense of "bed and board," i.e., lodging and meals...

 in Bruton
Bruton
Bruton is a town and civil parish in Somerset, England, situated on the River Brue 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 has a...

 that also takes day pupils from the surrounding area. The Somerset LEA also provides special schools such as Farleigh College
Farleigh College
Farleigh College is a mainly residential special school for pupils with Asperger syndrome, situated at North Parade in Frome, Somerset. It previously occupied Farleigh House at Farleigh Hungerford, a few miles to the north, from which it took its name....

, which caters for children aged between 10 and 17 with special educational needs. Provision for pupils with special educational needs is also made by the mainstream schools.

There is also a range of independent
Independent school (UK)
An independent school is a school that is not financed through the taxation system by local or national government and is instead funded by private sources, predominantly in the form of tuition charges, gifts and long-term charitable endowments, and so is not subject to the conditions imposed by...

 or public schools
Public School (UK)
A public school, in common British usage, is a school that is neither administered nor financed by the state or from taxpayer contributions, and is instead funded by a combination of endowments, tuition fees and charitable contributions, usually existing as a non profit-making charitable trust...

. Many of these are for pupils between 11 and 18 years, such as King's College, Taunton
King's College (Taunton)
King's College is a coeducational, secondary boarding school in Taunton, Somerset, England. It is an independent school of 430 pupils aged 13 to 18, including about 300 boarders. The head of the school is currently Richard Biggs, who started his first academic year in the winter of...

 and Taunton School
Taunton School
Taunton School is a co-educational independent school in the county town of Taunton in Somerset in South West England. It serves boarding and day-school pupils from the ages of 13 to 18....

. King's School, Bruton
King's School, Bruton
King's Bruton is an independent fully co-educational secondary day and boarding school based in Bruton, Somerset, England. It was founded in 1519 by Richard FitzJames, and received royal foundation status around 30 years later in the reign of Edward VI...

, was founded in 1519 and received royal foundation status around 30 years later in the reign of Edward VI
Edward VI of England
Edward VI was the King of England and Ireland from 28 January 1547 until his death. He was crowned on 20 February at the age of nine. The son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, Edward was the third monarch of the Tudor dynasty and England's first monarch who was raised as a Protestant...

. Millfield
Millfield
Millfield is an independent school in Street in Somerset, in south-west England.The school currently has a roll of 1,260 pupils, of whom 910 are boarders...

 is the largest co-educational
Coeducation
Mixed-sex education, also known as coeducation or co-education, is the integrated education of male and female persons in the same institution. It is the opposite of single-sex education...

 boarding school. There are also preparatory schools
Preparatory school (UK)
In English language usage in the former British Empire, the present-day Commonwealth, a preparatory school is an independent school preparing children up to the age of eleven or thirteen for entry into fee-paying, secondary independent schools, some of which are known as public schools...

 for younger children, such as All Hallows
All Hallows Preparatory School
All Hallows is a co-educational Catholic prep school that provides day and boarding facilities. The school is located a mile east of Cranmore village, near the town of Shepton Mallet, Somerset, in the West of England. The school has 311 pupils, including 62 boarders...

, and Hazlegrove Preparatory School. Chilton Cantelo School
Chilton Cantelo School
Chilton Cantelo School is a small profit-making coeducational Independent school located in the village of Chilton Cantelo near Yeovil and Sherborne in Somerset, England. The school is owned and operated by the Cognita Group....

 offers places both to day pupils and boarders aged 7 to 16. Other schools provide education for children from the age of 3 or 4 years through to 18, such as King Edward's School, Bath
King Edward's School, Bath
King Edward's School , Bath, Somerset, England is an independent school providing education for 950 pupils aged 3 to 18.The school is a member of The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference....

, Queen's College, Taunton
Queen's College, Taunton
Queen's College is a co-educational independent school located in Taunton, the county town of Somerset, England. It is a day/boarding school for children aged 2–18. The school incorporates Nursery, Pre-Prep, Junior and Senior schools. The current headmaster of the Senior School is Chris Alcock...

 and Wells Cathedral School
Wells Cathedral School
Wells Cathedral School is a co-educational independent school located in Wells, Somerset, England. The school is one of the five established musical schools for school-age children in the United Kingdom, along with Chetham's School of Music, the Yehudi Menuhin School, the Purcell School and St....

 which is one of the five established musical schools for school-age children in Britain. Some of these schools have religious affiliations, such as Monkton Combe School
Monkton Combe School
Monkton Combe School is an independent boarding and day school of the British public school tradition, near Bath, England. The Senior School is located in the village of Monkton Combe, while the Prep School, Pre-Prep and Nursery are in Combe Down on the southern outskirts of Bath...

, Prior Park College
Prior Park College
Prior Park College is a Roman Catholic co-educational independent school for both day and boarding pupils.It is situated on a hill overlooking the city of Bath, in Somerset, in south-west England...

, Sidcot School
Sidcot School
Sidcot School is a British co-educational independent school for boarding and day pupils, associated with the Religious Society of Friends. It is one of seven Quaker schools in England....

 which is associated with the Religious Society of Friends
Religious Society of Friends
The Religious Society of Friends, or Friends Church, is a Christian movement which stresses the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Members are known as Friends, or popularly as Quakers. It is made of independent organisations, which have split from one another due to doctrinal differences...

, Downside School
Downside School
Downside School is a co-educational Catholic independent school for children aged 11 to 18, located in Stratton-on-the-Fosse, between Norton Radstock and Shepton Mallet in Somerset, south west England. It is attached to Downside Abbey...

 which is a Roman Catholic public school in Stratton-on-the-Fosse
Stratton-on-the-Fosse
Stratton-on-the-Fosse is a village and civil parish located on the edge of the Mendip Hills, south-west of Westfield, north-east of Shepton Mallet, and from Frome, in Somerset, England. It has a population 1,045, and has a rural agricultural landscape, although it was part of the once-thriving...

, situated next to the Benedictine
Benedictine
Benedictine refers to the spirituality and consecrated life in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict, written by Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century for the cenobitic communities he founded in central Italy. The most notable of these is Monte Cassino, the first monastery founded by Benedict...

 Downside Abbey
Downside Abbey
The Basilica of St Gregory the Great at Downside, commonly known as Downside Abbey, is a Roman Catholic Benedictine monastery and the Senior House of the English Benedictine Congregation. One of its main apostolates is a school for children aged nine to eighteen...

, and Kingswood School
Kingswood School
Kingswood School, referred to as 'Kingswood', is an independent day and boarding school located in Bath, Somerset, England. The school is coeducational and educates some 950 children aged 3 to 18. It is notable for being founded by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, in 1748...

, which was founded by John Wesley
John Wesley
John Wesley was a Church of England cleric and Christian theologian. Wesley is largely credited, along with his brother Charles Wesley, as founding the Methodist movement which began when he took to open-air preaching in a similar manner to George Whitefield...

 in 1748 in Kingswood near Bristol, originally for the education of the sons of the itinerant ministers (clergy) of the Methodist Church.

Further and higher education

A wide range of adult education
Adult education
Adult education is the practice of teaching and educating adults. Adult education takes place in the workplace, through 'extension' school or 'school of continuing education' . Other learning places include folk high schools, community colleges, and lifelong learning centers...

 and further education
Further education
Further education is a term mainly used in connection with education in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It is post-compulsory education , that is distinct from the education offered in universities...

 courses is available in Somerset, in schools, colleges and other community venues. The colleges include Bridgwater College
Bridgwater College
Bridgwater College is a further education college primarily based in Bridgwater, Somerset, England. It has centres in Cannington, Yeovil, and Paignton....

, City of Bath College
City of Bath College
City of Bath College is a Further Education college in the centre of Bath, Somerset, England.-History:The college was formed in 1892 under the combined names of Bath City Science, Art, and Technical Schools...

, Frome Community College
Frome Community College
Frome Community College is a comprehensive school in Frome, Somerset, England with specialist media arts status since 2002.It caters for approximately 1,380 students from the ages 13 to 18, as it is part of the three tier system. Students' studies at the college lead up to GCSE, GNVQ, AS-Level and...

, Richard Huish College
Richard Huish College, Taunton
Richard Huish College is named after Richard Huish who originally established the college as a grammar school for boys in the 18th century. Since 1979 it has been a sixth form college...

, Somerset College of Arts and Technology
Somerset College of Arts and Technology
Somerset College of Arts and Technology ' is a community college based in Taunton, in the county of Somerset, England. It was formed in 1974 after the merger of Somerset College of Art and Taunton Technical College. The college provides further and higher education courses, as well as a variety of...

, Strode College
Strode College
Strode College is a tertiary institution and further education college situated in Street, Somerset, England. It provides education for students aged 16 and over, after they leave secondary school. These courses are usually A-levels or BTECs...

 and Yeovil College
Yeovil College
Yeovil College is a tertiary institution and further education college based in Yeovil, Somerset, England. Its main campus is on Mudford Road, Yeovil, but the College also operates the North Dorset Skills Centre in Shaftesbury and the Construction Skills Centre, Lufton, Yeovil, not far from the...

. Somerset County Council
Somerset County Council
Somerset County Council is the county council of Somerset in the South West of England, an elected local government authority responsible for the most significant local government services in most of the county.-Area covered:...

 operates Dillington House
Dillington House
Dillington House is a residential adult education college located near Ilminster in the parish of Whitelackington, Somerset, England. The present house, which dates from the 16th century, is owned by Lord Cameron of Dillington and operated by Somerset County Council...

, a residential adult education
Adult education
Adult education is the practice of teaching and educating adults. Adult education takes place in the workplace, through 'extension' school or 'school of continuing education' . Other learning places include folk high schools, community colleges, and lifelong learning centers...

 college located in Ilminster
Ilminster
Ilminster is a country town and civil parish in the countryside of south west Somerset, England, with a population of 4,781. Bypassed a few years ago, the town now lies just east of the intersection of the A303 and the A358...

.

The University of Bath
University of Bath
The University of Bath is a campus university located in Bath, United Kingdom. It received its Royal Charter in 1966....

 and Bath Spa University
Bath Spa University
Bath Spa University is a university based in, and around, Bath, England. The institution was previously known as Bath College of Higher Education, and later Bath Spa University College...

 are higher education establishments in the north-east of the county. The University of Bath gained its Royal Charter in 1966, although its origins go back to the Bristol Trade School (founded 1856) and Bath School of Pharmacy (founded 1907). It has a purpose-built campus at Claverton
Claverton, Somerset
Claverton is a small village and civil parish about east of Bath at the southern end of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in Somerset, England...

 on the outskirts of Bath, and has 12,000 students. Bath Spa University, which is based at Newton St Loe, achieved university status in 2005, and has origins including the Bath Academy of Art (founded 1898), Bath Teacher Training College, and the Bath College of Higher Education. It has several campuses and 5,500 students.

See also

  • Outline of England
    Outline of England
    England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Its 51,092,000 inhabitants account for more than 83% of the total UK population, while its mainland territory occupies most of the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain. England is bordered by Scotland to the north, Wales to the...

  • Flag of Somerset
    Flag of Somerset
    The English county of Somerset in southwestern England has no official flag. A campaign had been running between 2006-2009 for a flag for the whole of the ceremonial county, which included the non-metropolitan county of Somerset and the unitary authorities of North Somerset and Bath and North East...

  • High Sheriff of Somerset
    High Sheriff of Somerset
    The Office of High Sheriff of Somerset is an ancient High Sheriff title which has been in existence for over one thousand years. The position was once a powerful position responsible for collecting taxes and enforcing law and order in Somerset a county in South West England. In modern times the...

  • List of Grade I listed buildings in Somerset
  • List of schools in the county of Somerset
  • List of tourist attractions in Somerset
  • Lord Lieutenant of Somerset
    Lord Lieutenant of Somerset
    This is an incomplete list of people who have served as Lord Lieutenant of Somerset. Since 1714, all Lord Lieutenants have also been Custos Rotulorum of Somerset.-Lord Lieutenants of Somerset:*John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford 1552–1555...

  • West Country dialects
    West Country dialects
    The West Country dialects and West Country accents are generic terms applied to any of several English dialects and accents used by much of the indigenous population of South West England, the area popularly known as the West Country....



External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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