Somerset eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 291 pages of information about Somerset.
perhaps be discerned in the fact that when, in 1688, the Prince of Orange drove James from his throne, his march took him through Somerset, and he had a skirmish with the royal troops at Wincanton.  In connection with Somerset’s share in the events of James’s reign, it deserves to be mentioned that Bishop Ken, of Bath and Wells, was among the seven prelates who presented the famous petition against the king’s Declaration of Indulgence.

The ecclesiastical history of Somerset may be briefly related.  When Cenwealh of Wessex (who had been converted to Christianity by the King of East Anglia) established the bishopric of Winchester, such parts of Somerset as belonged to the West-Saxon kingdom were included in that see.  Ina divided his augmented territories between two bishoprics, Winchester and Sherborne, the latter including Somerset, with Wilts, Berks, and Dorset.  The first Bishop of Sherborne was Aldhelm (705), who only filled the see for four years, dying at Doulting in 709.  Ina also founded Wells, but as a collegiate church of secular canons, not as the cathedral of a diocese.  It was not until 909 that Somerset had a bishop all to itself, who was styled the Bishop of the Somersaetas, with his seat at Wells (the first appointed being Aethelm.) In 1088, in accordance with the policy of removing bishoprics from localities of little importance, the see was transferred from Wells to Bath, the bishop (John de Villula) at the same time becoming the abbot of the monastery.  In 1192 Bishop Savaric procured for the see the rich abbey of Glastonbury, and became its abbot; and he and his immediate successor, Joceline, the builder of the W. front of Wells, were styled Bishops of Bath and Glastonbury.  In 1224, however, another change was made, and the bishop took his title from Bath and Wells, as he has done ever since.  Up to the Reformation the title was justified, both the monks of Bath and the canons of Wells taking part in episcopal elections; but, with the suppression of its monastery, Bath naturally lost this distinction.

Of religious houses Somerset possessed a fair proportion.  The chief were Glastonbury, Bath, Bruton, Dunster, Muchelney, Stogursey (which were Benedictine), Cleeve, Barlynch (Cistercian), Hinton, Witham (Carthusian), Taunton, Woodspring, Stavordale (Augustinian), Montacute (Cluniac).  The Templars had a preceptory at Templecombe, and the Knights of St John had establishments at Bridgwater and Mynchin Buckland (near Durston).

  [3] Thorpe’s translation.

  [4] See a paper on “Ethandune” by the Rev. C.W.  Whistler (reprinted
  from “The Saga-book”—­“Proceedings of the Viking Club,” 1898), who
  thinks that the Danish fortress may have been Bridgwater.


The principal antiquities of Somerset may be classified as (1) earthworks and other survivals of a primitive time; (2) the Roman remains at Bath and elsewhere; (3) the ecclesiastical and other buildings of the Middle Ages.

Project Gutenberg
Somerset from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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