Removals and storage in Yeovil, Dorset
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Yeovil: A potted history
Yeovil is an English town and civil parish in South Somerset, with a population of 45,000. It is close to Somerset’s southern boundary with Dorset.
In the 20th century it developed into a centre for the aircraft and defence industries, which made it a target for bombing in the Second World War, with one of the largest employers being Westland Aircraft. Additionally, the Fleet Air Arm has a station, RNAS Yeovilton (HMS Heron), the primary base of the Royal Navy’s Westland Wildcat and Westland EH101 helicopters, several miles north of the town, and the Ministry of Defence is a major local employer. Several other manufacturing and retail companies also have bases in the town.
Yeovil Country Park, which includes Ninesprings, is one of several open spaces with educational, cultural and sporting facilities. Religious sites include the 14th-century Church of St John the Baptist. The town is on the A30 and A37 roads and has two railway stations on two separate railway lines. There is also a small railway museum.
Archaeological surveys of the town have yielded palaeolithic remains, in the shape of burial and settlement sites mainly to the south of the modern town,particularly in Hendford where a Bronze Age golden torc (twisted collar) was found.
Yeovil is on the main Roman road from Dorchester to the Fosse Way at Ilchester. The route of the old road is aligned with the A37 from Dorchester, Hendford Hill, Rustywell, across the Westland site, to Larkhill Road and Vagg Lane, rejoining the A37 at the Halfway House pub on the Ilchester Road. The Westland site has evidence of a small Roman town. There were several Roman villas (estates) in the area, including finds at East Coker, West Coker and Lufton.
Yeovil was first mentioned in a Saxon charter dated 880 as Gifle. The name derives from the Celtic river-name gifl “forked river”, an earlier name of the River Yeo.
The estate was bequeathed in the will of King Alfred the Great to his youngest son Aethelweard. It was recorded in the Domesday Book as Givele, a thriving market community. The parish of Yeovil was part of the Stone Hundred. After the Norman Conquest the manor, later known as Hendford, was granted to the Count of Eu and his tenant Hugh Maltravers, whose descendants became Earls of Arundel and held the lordship until 1561. In 1205 it was granted a charter by King John. By the 14th century, the town had gained the right to elect a portreeve.
The Black Death exacted a heavy toll, killing approximately half the population.
In 1499 a major fire broke out in the town, destroying many of the wooden, thatched roofed buildings. Yeovil suffered further serious fires, in 1620 and again in 1643.
After the dissolution of the monasteries the lord of the manor was the family of John Horsey of Clifton Maybank from 1538 to 1610 and then by the Phelips family until 1846 when it passed to the Harbins of Newton Surmaville. Babylon Hill across the River Yeo to the south east of the town was the site of a minor skirmish, the Battle of Babylon Hill, during the English Civil War, which resulted in the Earl of Bedford’s Roundheads forcing back Sir Ralph Hopton’s Cavaliers to Sherborne.
During the 1800s Yeovil was a centre of the glove making industry and the population expanded rapidly. In the mid-19th century it became connected to the rest of Britain by a complex set of railway lines which resulted from competition between the 7 ft broad gauge lines of the Great Western Railway (GWR) and the 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in standard gauge lines of the London and South Western Railway (LSWR). In 1853 the Great Western Railway line was opened between Taunton and Yeovil.
The first railway in the town was a branch line from the Bristol and Exeter Railway near Taunton to a terminus at Hendford on the western side of the town, which opened on 1 October 1853. As an associated company of the GWR, this was a broad gauge line. The GWR itself opened Yeovil Pen Mill railway station on the east side of the town as part of its route from London on 1 September 1856 (this was extended to Weymouth on 1 January 1857), and the original line from Taunton was connected to this. The LSWR route from London reached Hendford on 1 June 1860 but a month later the town was by-passed by the extension of the LSWR to Exeter. A new station at Yeovil Junction was provided south of the town from where passengers could catch a connecting service to Hendford. On 1 June 1861 passenger trains were withdrawn from Hendford and transferred to a new, more central, Yeovil Town railway station.
In 1854, the town gained borough status and had its first mayor. In the early 20th century Yeovil had around 11,000 inhabitants and was dominated by the defence industry, making it a target of German raids during World War II. The worst of the bombing was in 1940 and continued until 1942. During that time 107 high explosive bombs fell on the town. 49 people died, 68 houses were totally destroyed and 2,377 damaged.
Industrial businesses developed in the area around the Hendford railway goods station to such a degree that a small Hendford Halt was opened on 2 May 1932 for passengers travelling to and from this district, but the growth of road transport and a desire to rationalise the rail network led to half of the railway stations in Yeovil being closed in 1964. First to go was Hendford Halt which was closed on 15 June along with the line to Taunton, then Yeovil Town closed on 2 October. Long-distance trains from Pen Mill had been withdrawn on 11 September 1961 leaving only Yeovil Junction with a service to London, but the service between there and Pen Mill, the two remaining stations, was also withdrawn from 5 May 1968.
As a former centre of Britain’s leather industry, the town is post-industrial in character. Journalist John Harris, for instance, described the towns Taunton, Yeovil and Bridgwater as a ‘post-industrial, hardscrabble place that contain[s] 19 of the council wards in the 20% of English areas classed as the most deprived.’
There is, in Johannesburg, South Africa, a suburb called Yeoville which has a link to Yeovil. It was proclaimed in 1890 by one Thomas Yeo Sherwell, a native of Yeovil. He named the streets after his sons, friends and business associates.
Yeovil lies in the centre of the Yeovil Scarplands, a major natural region of England. The suburbs include: Summerlands, Hollands, Houndstone, Preston Plucknett, Penn Mill, New Town, Hendford, Old Town, Forest Hill, Abbey Manor, Great Lyde. Outlying villages include East Coker, West Coker, Hardington, Evershot, Halstock, Stoford, Barwick, Sutton Bingham, Mudford and Yetminster. Other nearby villages include Bradford Abbas, Thornford, Corscombe, Montacute (where one will find Montacute House), and Pendomer. The village of Brympton, now almost a suburb of Yeovil, contains the medieval manor of Brympton d’Evercy. Tintinhull is also a village close to Yeovil featuring the National Trust owned Tintinhull House and Gardens.
Ninesprings Country Park is in the south east near Penn Hill. It is linked to by a cycleway following the route of the old railway to Riverside Walk, Wyndham Hill and Summerhouse Hill forming the 40-hectare (99-acre) Yeovil Country Park.
Yeovil’s reputation as a centre of the aircraft and defence industries lived on into the 21st century despite attempts at diversification, and the creation of numerous industrial estates, the principal employer is the aviation group AgustaWestland. This firm was created through the acquisition of Westland Helicopters by Finmeccanica in 2000. In January 1986 the proposed sale of Westland to the American Sikorsky Aircraft group led to the Westland affair, a crisis in the Thatcher government, the resignation of Michael Heseltine as Secretary of State for Defence and the resignation two weeks later of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Leon Brittan, after his admission of leaking of a governmental law officer’s letter which harshly criticised Mr Heseltine.
Yeovil Aerodrome is 1 nautical mile (1.9 km) west of the town centre. British defence giant BAE Systems also operate a site which produces high-integrity networked software, primarily for the military.
The Screwfix Direct company is based in Houndstone, having started life as the Woodscrew Supply Company in 1979; it is now a subsidiary of Kingfisher plc. The company’s warehouse was relocated to Stoke-on-Trent following failure to gain planning permission for building expansion.
In 2015, the leather manufacturer Pittards managed to buy back its 1964 purpose-built tannery in Sherborne Road, Yeovil.
One of the symbols of Yeovil is “Jack the Treacle Eater”, a folly consisting of a small archway topped by a turret with a statue on top. This is actually located in the village of Barwick, just to the south of the town. The hamstone Abbey Farm House was built around 1420 by John Stourton II, known as Jenkyn, and the associated Abbey Barn dates from the same period.
Hendford Manor in the centre of the town was built around 1720 and has since been converted into offices. It is a Grade II* listed building. Newton Surmaville is a small park and house which is also known as Newton House. It was built between 1608 and 1612, for Robert Harbin, a Yeovil merchant. It has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade I listed building.
Yeovil has two theatres; The Octagon, and The Swan, a ten-screen cinema and 18-lane ten-pin bowling alley.
In April 2006 Yeovil became the first town in Britain to institute a somewhat controversial system of biometric fingerprint scanning in nightclubs. The scheme is no longer in operation. According to Nigel J Marston, Licensing Manager of South Somerset District Council, the scheme was short-lived as, “The company that originally supplied went through various changes of ownership and the project became unsupported. In February 2007, Yeovil Town Council became the first English council to ban the children’s craze Heelys in the centre of the town and High Street. Skateboards, roller skates and roller blades are also illegal in the area. Councillors have stated this is due to “numerous complaints about the activities of youngsters”.
The free, informal recreational space of Mudford Rec, as it is known colloquially, was frequented by England Cricket great Ian Botham during his childhood stay in Yeovil. Another regeneration project was to have included the demolition of Foundry House, a former glove factory, however a local campaign led to this becoming a listed building.
The town’s football team, Yeovil Town FC, play in green and white livery at Huish Park, and currently compete in Football League Two. Known as the “Glovers” (a reference to the town’s glove-making past), they were founded in 1895. In women’s football, Yeovil Town LFC were founded in 1990 and won promotion to England’s highest tier, the FA Women’s Super League, in 2016.
Other football teams within the town include Westland’s Sports Football Club who play at Alvington Lane and Pen Mill Football Club.
Yeovil Olympiads Athletics Club was founded in 1969, and has produced many international athletes since its creation. The first was Eric Berry who came 6th in the 1973 European Juniors in the hammer event. Olympians who started with the club include Max Robertson and Gary Jennings, both 400 metres hurdlers.
Yeovil is home to Ivel Barbarians Rugby Club. Ivel was formed in 1995 by the merger of Yeovil Rugby Club and Westlands Rugby Club. South Somerset Warriors were formed in 2010 and played in the South West Division of the Rugby League Conference until folding in 2011.
Yeovil is known in Thomas Hardy’s Wessex as “Ivell”.
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