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Help and advice for Somerset

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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.)

Archives and Libraries

  • The Somerset Heritage Centre (Incorporating what was formerly the Somerset Record Office and the Somerset Local Studies Library) can be found at Langford Mead in Taunton. Opening times are Mondays 1pm to 5pm, Tuesday to Friday 9am to 5 pm and the second Saturday of each month from 9am to 1pm.
  • Saturdays when the Centre is open from 9am to 1pm in 2015 are 10 January, 14 February, 14 March, 11 April, 9 May, 13 June, 11 July, 8 August, 12 September, 10 October, 14 November, 12 December.
  • For further information on the new Somerset Heritage Centre please see the Somerset Heritage Service Website. The Heritage Centre has an email address:archives[at][dot]uk. Enquiries can be made on 01823 278805 and Bookings (which are advisable although not essential) on 01823 337600.
  • The Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) Record Office in Bath, is open on Tuesday to Thursday from 9am - 1pm and 2pm - 5pm and on Friday from 9am - 1pm and 2pm - 4.30pm.
  • Please note, however that the office has 'Collection Weeks' for the third full week of every month and it is closed to the general public during these weeks. These weeks are used for the Staff and Volunteers to carry out many tasks which are just not possible when the public is present. Detals for the work being done can be found at Collection weeks for 2015 are 19 - 23 January, 16 - 20 February, 16 - 20 March, 20 - 24 April, 18 - 22 May, 15 - 19 June, 20 - 24 July, 17 - 21 August, 21 - 25 September, 19 - 23 October, 16 - 20 November, 21 - 25 DecemberLast updated 02 July 2015 - Malcolm Daniels
  • Each Library in Somerset has its own web page. The index page to libraries leads to each of the libraries along with the facilities to be found there.


Church Records

Civil Registration





The Harleian Society transcript of the Herald's Visitation of Somerset in the year 1623, courtesy of Nigel Batty-Smith's UK Genealogy Archives site.

Land and Property

  • Pat Johnson has a large collection of original Family Deeds. Abstracts, with name and parish indexes are provided onsite, with transcriptions of the full documents available for a modest fee. In addition, the original deed may also be available for purchase if required.

Merchant Marine

Military Records

Roy Parkhouse has provided a list of 10,987 names of the fallen in the 1914-18 War. It was derived ( by scanning) from a leather-bound book called the Somerset County War Memorial. From the first page, it is:

  • Report of administration of Fund
  • Order of dedication service
  • List of subscribers
  • Roll of Honour

It was published by E. Goodman and Son, The Phoenix Press, Taunton, 1923. It has no author. The bulk of the book is taken up with the Roll of Honour which is an index to the Memorial Book held, I understand, in Wells Cathedral. About 8000 of the names are of men who were Somerset born. The remaining (approximately 3000) men were not Somerset born.

    Names, Personal

    • Some names (22k) taken from the Journal of a Somerset Rector 1803/34 by John Skinner, mainly from his own parish of Camerton (nr Bath) and places around. There are also a few extracts from the book. The book is published by Kingsmead, ISBN 0 901571 57 1.


    • Coalmining Somerset Coalmining Life - A miner's memories, by Fred Flower, Millstream Books, 1990, 141pp, ISBN 0948975237
    • Watchmakers and Clockmakers: Information on West Country Watchmakers and Clockmakers has been provided by Paul Mansfield.

    Probate Records

    • Printed indexes of Somerset Probate Inventories and of Somerset Estate Duty Office Wills and Letters of Administration (1805-1811 and 1812-1857) are available from Harry Galloway Publishing.