Dulverton

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Dulverton is a town and civil parish in the heart of West Somerset, England, near the border with Devon. The town has a population of 1,630. The parish includes the hamlets of Battleton and Ashwick which is located approximately 3.5 miles (5.6 km) north west of Dulverton. To the west of the hamlet lies Ashwich House, built in the Edwardian style in 1901.

Dulverton is a popular tourist destination for exploring Exmoor, and is home to the Exmoor National Park Authority headquarters.

The name Dulverton was first recorded in 1084 as dieglaford-tun meaning “hidden ford“-tun. The Domesday Book records it as Dolvertune and suggests it was a royal manor before the Norman Conquest.

The town lies below the iron age hillforts of Oldberry Castle, Mounsey Castle and Brewer’s Castle.

The manor was granted to the Turbervilles by William I and in the late 12th century they gave the church and some land to Taunton Priory. The remainder of the manor passed to the Shete family. The parish of Dulverton was part of the Williton and Freemanners Hundred.

The Middle Ages saw continued growth and the establishment of fairs and markets, with several small industries based upon the traditions of upland farming and the wool trade. These include related works such as laundries: originally used for the washing of sheep fleeces in the leats feeding the wide and fast-flowing River Barle, the surviving 19th-century industrial laundries continue to provide a service to surrounding businesses. The market house in Fore Street, which is believed to date from 1760, was converted into the town hall in 1866, with the porch and external double staircase being added in 1930 by Sir Albert Richardson.

The manor was held by the Sydenhams, who had acquired it in 1568, until 1858 when it was sold to the Earl of Carnarvon.

Exmoor House was built as the Dulverton Union Workhouse in 1855. It is now the headquarters of the Exmoor National Park Authority.

The parish council has responsibility for local issues. The town falls within the Non-metropolitan district of West Somerset, which was formed on April 1, 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, having previously been part of Dulverton Rural District. It also falls within Somerset County Council.

As Dulverton falls within the Exmoor National Park some functions normally administered by district or county councils have, since 1997, fallen under the Exmoor National Park Authority, which is known as a ‘single purpose’ authority, which aims to “conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Parks” and “promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the Parks by the public”, including responsibility for the conservation of the historic environment.

It is also part of the Bridgwater and West Somerset county constituency represented in the House of Commons. It is also part of the South West England constituency of the European Parliament.

The town lies in the deep, wooded valley of the River Barle, at an ancient route convergence and river crossing. The river and the Barle Valley are both designated as biological Site of Special Scientific Interest. The river passes under the Tarr Steps a prehistoric clapper bridge possibly dating from 1000 BC. The stone slabs weigh up to 5 tons apiece. According to local legend, they were placed by the devil to win a bet. The bridge is 180 feet (55 m) long and has 17 spans. It has been designated by English Heritage as a grade I listed building. The other bridges over the Barle include the five span Barle Bridge which is medieval in origin. It has double rings on the downstream side and single rings on the upstream side. It was repaired in 1624, and subsequently widened in 1819 by John Stone. It was further repaired in 1866 and in 1952–1953 after flood damage. The 18th century Marsh Bridge was altered in 1866 when the central pier was removed and an iron bridge inserted. The parapet was destroyed in 1952 and reconstructed in steel in 1979. Towards Brushford the River Barle is crossed by the New Bridge dating from 1870, which led to Pixton Park, which was the home of John Dyke Acland and his wife Harriet Acland and later the family of Evelyn Waugh and Auberon Waugh.

The other major river in the parish is the River Exe, which is on the parish boundary with Brompton Regis, which is crossed by the medieval Chilly Bridge and Hele Bridge, and the 18th century Weir Bridge.

In between the town centre and the river is a large recreation meadow which recently underwent renovation by locals (including the pupils of Dulverton Middle School) supported by a Barclays Bank New Futures Scheme.

South of the town is Briggins Moor a biological Site of Special Scientific Interestwhich provides an example of unimproved mire of a type which is restricted to south-west England and Wales and which has been significantly reduced in extent in the recent past. Purple Moor-grass (Molinia caerulea) and Meadow Thistle (Cirsium dissectum) are abundant. There is a large colony of the Marsh Fritillary butterfly (Eurodryas aurinia).

Two miles from Dulverton is the village of Brushford, where the Dulverton railway station on the Taunton to Barnstaple line used to be. It opened in 1873 and closed to passengers, who transferred to Dulverton by bus, in 1963. The station buildings are still visible and it is clear where the lines used to run as the railway embankment is still visible and worn in places although the rails have been lifted.

The parish Church of All Saints in Bank Square has a tower from the 15th century, which was extensively restored between 1853 and 1855 when the rest of church was rebuilt by Edward Ashworth. It has been designated as Grade II* listed building

Two ships of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Dulverton after the Dulverton Hunt. The first Dulverton (L63), launched in 1941, was a type II Hunt-class destroyer. She served in World War II and was scuttled in 1943 after being severely damaged by German air attack. The second and current Dulverton (M35), launched in 1982, is a Hunt-class minesweeper.

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