Bath is one of Somerset's finest cities. Dating back to Roman times it is one of the oldest cities in the country as well as being the best preserved Georgian town. Situated on the River Avon it has the only natural hot springs
in Great Britain.
Built in Bath stone, Pultenay Bridge crosses the River Avon near the city centre and was built in 1774. Commisioned by William Johnstone a wealthy lawyer and MP and named after his wife Frances Pultenay, it was designed in Palladium style by Robert Adam. It is one of only four bridges in the world with shops across its full span on both sides. Grade 1 listed, it is 980ft long and 58ft wide, and is still used by buses and taxis.
Reminiscent of Ponte Vecchio in Florence it is part of a World Heritage Site.
The magnificent Royal Crescent is part of Bath's Georgian heritage. The majestic sweep of 30 houses is faced with 114 huge ionic columns. Number 1 has been restored and can be visited to see something of the lifestyle of the upper class in the city at the end of the 18th century.
In 1680 a Hugeunot girl refugee called Soli Luyan, later Sally Lunn, arrived in Bath and found employment with a baker in Lilliput Alley. She told the baker about the French brioche type of bread or buns which were to become famous and forever associated with her name. This light and delicious bun soon became popular at afternoon tea’s which were part of Bath’s tradition.
The baker’s premises are still there and said to be the oldest building in the city, probably dating back as far as AD200.
Sally’s original kitchen and contents, in use up to the late 19th century. is still preserved in the cellar where it can be visited. Present day Sally Lunn’s can also be enjoyed in the refreshment rooms above, indeed the rich round buns are still made in a modern bakery on the second floor.
Sally’s original recipe was found in a secret cupboard in the 1930’s and is passed with the deeds to the building.
South west of Bath, Wells is one of the smallest cities in the country. The town is dominated by its fine 13th century cathedral.
South of the cathedral a medieval gateway gives entrance to the fortified and moat ringed Bishop's Palace.
Weston-Super-Mare on the Bristol Channel is one of Somerset's
premier seaside resorts.
Watchet is a small harbour town on the Bristol Channel where Coleridge started writing his poem The Ancient Mariner. A fine statue on the quay side commemorates the event.
The old Market House in West Street is now a museum.
A tiny building under the rear steps is the old Court Leet lock-up.
Prior to the early 1800's, the Court Leet was responsible for law and order in Watchet. Prominent local men took up various duties to administer justice at Court Leet Sessions which were held at the Bell Inn, handily placed across the road from the lock-up.
EAST COKER is a large village near Yeovil. The churchyard is the last resting place for the ashes of poet and playwright T.S Eliot.Some gypsies were fortunate at Taunton Assizes in 1876 when, charged with the murder of a policeman, they were rather surprisingly convicted of manslaughter.
PC Nathaniel Cox was the well respected village policeman at East Coker where he lived with his wife and four young children. On the night ofThe local doctor later said in evidence, of PC Cox, ‘I found he had a compound comminuted fracture of the scalp on the left side of the head and the brain was protruding. The left ear was badly lacerated.’ He said he thought that the terrible injuries had been caused by a succession of heavy kicks. Comminute means to break into little pieces, to crush or grind. PC Stacey was critically ill for some weeks with severe concussion, but eventually recovered.
November 1876, PC Cox was kicked and bludgeoned to death whilst in
the discharge of his duty. Nat Cox was
37 years of age, broad shouldered, thick in fist, a brave man who could look
after himself and normally a ready match for any law breaker. It was the eve of Yeovil Fair which often
meant trouble for the local police with an increase of horse thieving and
poaching. Taking no chances, the police
were patrolling in pairs and Cox was with a younger colleague, PC Henry Stacey
from West Coker, when they had occasion to stop and check a horse and cart being
driven by one man with three other men walking alongside. Suddenly PC Cox was struck a heavy blow on
the head which left him sprawled on the road.
PC Stacey, who went to his assistance, was also felled with a blow to
the head which left him unconscious in a ditch. When he came round there was no sign of the
cart, the four men, or indeed PC Cox.
The seriously injured policeman managed to summon assistance from a
nearby farm and PC Cox was subsequently found lying dead a short distance away.
A police notice was soon circulating naming three members of a well known family of poachers – George Hutchinson (55) and his two sons, Giles (30) and Peter (26). The three men had disappeared but a fourth man, Charles Baker, was soon arrested and charged with murder. George and Giles Hutchinson eventually gave themselves up and Peter was subsequently found hiding in a loft at West Coker. All four men eventually appeared at Taunton Assizes charged with the murder of PC Cox and the attempted murder of PC Stacey.
The dramatic evidence to’d and fro’d about what had happened on the fateful night. The local populace had no doubt about the guilt of the four accused men, but Lord Chief Justice, Sir Alexander Cockburn, told the jury, ‘When PC Cox met his death, it was by foul means, both gross and brutal…. That the violence was the act of some, if not all the prisoners is, I feel, clear. But as to how and in what precise circumstances the constable met his death, we are left absolutely in the dark.’ After deliberating for just 45 minutes the jury found all four guilty of manslaughter! There was a gasp of disbelief around the courtroom. His Lordship then said, ‘The jury have taken a merciful view in your case and I think have acted wisely too. I don’t think this was a case of premeditated murder.’ He decided that George Hutchinson had taken no part in the attack and gave him a free pardon. This followed a dramatic interruption by the accused Baker, who told the judge that the older man had not left the cart and took no part in the assaults on the two constables. The other three men were sentenced to 24 years penal servitude.
In time, widow Mrs Cox, told an uncanny story. On the night before her husband’s death he had had a restless night. He told her, ‘I’ve had a bad time. I dreamt that I had a fight with some gypsies and they gave me a horrible smack on the head.’
PC Cox was buried in the churchyard at East Coker where a nice stone marks his grave.