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Themes Explorers and Adventurers Nobel Prize Winners
Actors/Actresses and Directors Famous People Places of Interest
Anglo-Saxons and Danes Historic Events Prime Ministers
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty Inventors and Scientists Royal Consorts and Heirs
Artists and Architects Monarchs World Heritage Sites
Composers National Parks Writers and Poets


Somerset lies in south-western England on the Bristol Channel. In 1974 the north of the county together with part of Gloucestershire formed the new county of Avon. Avon has since been broken up into smaller authorities.

Towns include the county seat of Taunton.

Anglo-Saxons and Danes

Anglo-Saxon Kings Danish Kings

Once part of the West Saxon kingdom of Wessex.

In 955 King Edred died at Frome. He was buried at Winchester in Hampshire.

King Edred
Monarchs buried at Winchester

Glastonbury Abbey holds the remains of three Saxon King's of England. Edmund I, who died in 946. His son Edgar, who died in 975 and who had been crowned in Bath Abbey in 973. Edmund II, who died in 1016.

Edmund II

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
The very first AONB to be designated in England was the Quantock Hills AONB in 1956. The sandstone hills run from the Vale of Taunton Deane northwards to the Bristol Channel and provide spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.

The county of Dorset lies on Somerset's southern border and 44% of the county - including much of its coastline - was designated an AONB in 1957. The protected area stretches from Lyme Regis in the west to Brownsea Island near Poole in the east and includes such beauty spots as Lulworth Cove and Chesil Beach.The northern edge of the AONB lies in Somerset.

The Cotswolds stretch over six counties, with their southwestern corner in Somerset. They became the country's largest AONB on its creation in 1966. The area is distinctive due to the underlying limestone rock which has created a unique landscape and habitat for plants and animals.

The Mendip Hills were designated an AONB in 1972. Running eastward from the Bristol Channel they dominate the Somerset Levels from which they rise. They include such famous places as Cheddar Gorge and the Wookey Hole Caves.

Cranborne Chase and the West Wiltshire Downs was designated an AONB in 1981 and spreads across four counties with the majority of its southern portion lying in Dorset. The mainly chalk landscape includes the wooded Vale of Wardour which separates Cranborne Chase in the south from the Wiltshire Downs in the north. The area was once heavily forested and home to several royal hunting forests of which remnants still remain.

A further range of hills which have been designated an AONB in the county are the Blackdown Hills. They run along part of the county's western border with Devon and were designated in 1991.

Artists and Architects
In 1981 the artist and writer Christy Brown died at his home in Parbrook near Glastonbury (he had lived there since 1978). He is buried in Dublin, the city of his birth. Paralysed from birth with cerebral palsy he could only control his left foot and this he used to paint and write. His autobiography My Left Foot was published to critical acclaim in 1954 detailing his struggle with his paralysis in working-class Dublin. In 1989 it was made into a film with Daniel Day-Lewis winning an Academy Award for his genial depiction of the adult Christy (Hugh O'Conor played the young Christy). Brenda Fricker won an Academy Award for playing Christy's mother.

Explorers and Adventurers
The navigator and pirate William Dampier was born in 1652 near Yeovil. His activities took him from Central and South America to Africa and Asia and in 1688 he became the first Englishman to land on the continent of Australia (then called New Holland). In 1704 he was in command of the ship on which Alexander Selkirk was a crewmember. Due to Dampier's cruelty Selkirk asked to be left on one of the Juan Fernández Islands which lie in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Chile. Selkirk stayed on the uninhabited island for over four years before being eventually rescued, a story which is said to have been the basis for Daniel Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe".

William Dampier

John Hanning Speke was buried in the church at Dowlish Wake - near his family's ancestral home - in 1864. In 1856 he had set out with Richard Francis Burton to find the source of the Nile and in 1858 they became the first Europeans to reach Lake Tanganyika. Burton, suffering from malaria, had to turn back and it was Speke travelling on alone who discovered the river's source which he named Lake Victoria. Speke died when he accidentally shot himself during a partridge shoot in Wiltshire.

John Hanning Speke

Famous People
The politician and pioneer of the trade union movement Ernest Bevin was born in the Exmoor village of Winsford in 1881. He was instrumental in building up the powerful National Transport and General Workers' Union, becoming its general secretary from 1921 until 1940 when he was offered an influential position in Winston Churchill's coalition government. In 1945 he became Foreign Secretary under Clement Attlee, using his negotiating skills to deal with the many difficulties facing post-war Europe. He resigned in 1951 due to ill health and died shortly afterwards. His ashes are interred in Westminster Abbey.

Ernest Bevin
Famous people buried at Westminster Abbey

There never has been a war yet which, if the facts had been put calmly before the ordinary folk, could not have been prevented . . . The common man, I think, is the great protection against war.
(Speech at the House of Commons, 1945)

Historic Events

Major Battles
In 1685 at the Battle of Sedgemoor near Bridgwater, the Royalists under the Earl of Feversham put down the Monmouth Rebellion against the Catholic reign of James II. The Duke of Monmouth, an illegitimate child of Charles II, had landed in Dorset to take the crown back for the Protestant cause. Following the defeat he was taken to the Tower of London and executed. Sedgemoor was the last battle to take place on English soil.

Duke of Monmouth

Famous people imprisoned at the Tower of London

Important Events
In 1178 the first Carthusian priory - or Charterhouse - to be built in England was established at Witham Priory in the county. The Carthusians were a monastic order founded in 1084 in the Chartreuse valley in France. They led austere lives, ate and dressed simply and took vows of silence. Although they established fewer houses than other religious orders (only nine in England), the Carthusians had many influential supporters amongst the monarchy and nobility. England's second Charterhouse was also founded in the county, at Hinton in 1227.

National Parks

Exmoor is England's smallest National Park and was created in 1954.

Nobel Prize Winners

The chemist John Pople was born at Burnham-on-Sea in 1925. In 1998 he shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry with the American Walter Kohn for his work in quantum chemistry.

The ashes of the American-born winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948 T.S. Eliot, who wrote the poem The Waste Land, were interred at the church at East Coker in 1965. His ancestors had left the village in the 17th century to emigrate to the USA.

T.S. Eliot
Academy of American Poets: T.S. Eliot
Poetry Archive

In my beginning is my end.

Four Quartets - East Coker (1940)

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Four Quartets - Little Gidding (1942)

So, while the light fails
On a winter's afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.

Four Quartets - Little Gidding (1942)

Places of Interest

Cadbury Castle at South Cadbury was believed to be the location of Camelot, the court of the legendary King Arthur.

King Arthur

Cathedrals and Abbeys
Bath Abbey

Glastonbury Abbey has been associated with the mythical Avalon where in legend King Arthur and his Queen Guinnevere are supposedly buried.

Wells Cathedral

Historic Buildings
Samuel Taylor Coleridge's home, Nether Stowey

Notable Places
Glastonbury Tor was said to be where the Holy Grail was hidden.

World Heritage Sites

The City of Bath was founded by the Romans as a thermal spa and was designated a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1987.

Writers and Poets
For T.S. Eliot see Nobel Prize Winners

While living at Nether Stowey from 1797 to 1799 Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and - together with William Wordsworth who in 1798 took up residence nearby at Alfoxden House near Holford - the Lyrical Ballads.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Friends of Coleridge
Coleridge Way

"God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends that plague thee thus!
Why look'st thou so?" - With my cross-bow
I shot the albatross.

Coleridge - The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798)

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is the father of the Man;
Wordsworth - My heart leaps up (1807)

The science fiction writer Arthur C. Clark was born as Arthur Charles Clark in Minehead in 1917. The film 2001: A Space Odyssey was based on his short story The Sentinel. In the 1950s he emigrated to the island of Sri Lanka. In 2008 he died at his home on the island near the capital of Colombo where he is buried.

Arthur C. Clark
Arthur C. Clark Foundation

The poet Siegfried Sassoon was buried in Mells in 1967. He was one of the famous First World War poets whose experiences in the trenches of France drove them to write of the futility of war.

Siegfried Sassoon
First World War
Poetry Society

"Good-morning; good morning!" the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of 'em dead,
And we're cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
"He's a cheery old card," grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.
But he did for them both by his plan of attack.

The General (1918)

For Christy Brown see Artists and Architects

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