Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy

7/9/2004

Somerset

Somerset, maritime county in SW. of England, bounded N. and NE. by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the Severn, and from NE. round to SW. by the counties of Gloucester, Wilts, Dorset, and Devon; greatest length, N. and S., 43 miles; greatest breadth, E. and W., 67 miles; area, 1,049,812 acres, population 469,101. The coast line is generally low and marshy in the E., but lined with lofty slate cliffs in the W. The interior consists of ranges of hills separated by valleys, or by extensive low marshy flats.

The principal ranges are the Mendip Hills, the Polden Hills, the Quantock Hills, the Brendon Hills, and Exmoor. The chief rivers are the Avon and the Parret (with its tributaries the Yeo or Ivel, Isle, and Tone), the former forming the boundary on the NE., the latter traversing the centre of the county; the other streams are the Yeo, Ax, and Brue. Both soil and climate are well adapted for agriculture, particularly in the low alluvial tracts; and in the Vale of Taunton heavy crops of the finest wheat are raised. The rich meadows rear large numbers of cattle, and the hilly grounds are pastured with numerous flocks of sheep. In the E. of the county are some small isolated coalfields, the most southerly in England, the quarries which furnish the famous Bath stone, and a large development of magnesian limestone; the W. of the county consists chiefly of slaty rocks, forming the wild moorlands of Exmoor. The chief minerals worked are lead, iron, and slate. The principal manufactures are woollen and worsted goods, gloves, lace, linen, crape, silk, paper, glass, and bath-bricks. There are salmon, herring, and other fisheries in the Bristol Channel. An important chain of internal communication is formed by the Yeo and Parret navigation and the Glastonbury Canal. The county contains 40 hundreds, 2 liberties, 489 parishes with parts of 3 others, the parliamentary and municipal boroughs of Bath (2 members) and Taunton (1 member), and the municipal boroughs of Bridgwater, Chard, Glastonbury, Wells, and Yeovil. It is nearly co-extensive with the diocese of Bath and Wells. For parliamentary purposes it is divided into 7 divisions – viz., Northern, Wells, Frome, Eastern, Southern, Bridgwater, and Western or Wellington – 1 member for each division; the representation was increased from 6 to 7 members in 1885. (Transcribed from Bartholomew’s Gazetteer of the British Isles, 1887. -C.H.)

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