Somerset VI

Somerset Vol VI
Edited by: 
R.W. Dunning
First Published: 
1 January, 1992

Andersfield, Cannington, and North Pether-ton hundreds together occupy the Lower Par-rett valley stretching from the Quantock ridge in the west to King's Sedgemoor in the east, and from the Bristol Channel in the north to the river Tone in the south. By the late 11th century the settlement pattern was dense, especially between the Quantocks and the Par-rett, an area crossed by the Saxon 'herpath' in the north and including the 10th-century strongholds of Athelney and Lyng in the south and the Domesday royal manors of Can-nington, North Petherton, and Creech St. Michael. The origin of the medieval royal park at North Petherton can be traced to a pre--Conquest royal forest on the Quantocks, and North Petherton was an extensive minster parish. Bridgwater, a chartered borough from 1200, is the only significant town. By the later Middle Ages its port served central, south, and west Somerset, and until the 19th century heavy goods continued to be transported along the Parrett, the Tone, and the Bridgwater and Taunton canal into Dorset and Devon. The pattern of settlement is varied, with a few nucleated villages, roadside villages, and many dispersed hamlets. Interlocking parish boundaries indicate complex economic units and late parochial formation. Arable farming predominated until the 16th century, partly in open arable fields. In the 17th century there was an emphasis on stock rearing and an increase in dairying and orchards, large-ly the result of improved drainage. Cheese was an important product of the area in the 18th century, and in the 19th baskets from locally grown willow. Woollen cloth production con-tinued into the 17th century. From the late 17th century the alluvial clays of the Parrett valley provided material for the bricks and tiles for which Bridgwater became well known in the 19th century. Substantial estates whose houses wholly or partially survive include Fairfield, Gothelney, Gurney Street, West Bower, and Sydenham. Halswell House was from the later 17th century the grandest mansion in the area, and Enmore Castle was built in the later 18th century.