Wellington, Somerset

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Wellington is a small industrial town in rural Somerset, England, situated 7 miles (11 km) south west of Taunton in the Taunton Deane district, near the border with Devon, which runs along the Blackdown Hills to the south of the town. The town has a population of 13,696, which includes the residents of the parish of Wellington Without, and the villages of Tone and Tonedale.

Known as Weolingtun in the Anglo-Saxon period, its name had changed to Walintone by the time of the Domesday Book of 1086. Wellington became a town under a royal charter of 1215 and during the medieval period it grew as a centre for trade on the road from Bristol to Exeter. Major rebuilding took place following a fire in the town in 1731, after which it became a centre for clothmaking. Wellington gave its name to the first Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, who is commemorated by the nearby Wellington Monument. The Grand Western Canal reached the town in 1835 and then the Bristol and Exeter Railway in 1843. The town’s own railway station survived until 1964. Wellington was home of Fox, Fowler and Company, which was the last commercial bank permitted to print their own sterling banknotes in England and Wales. In the 20th century closer links with Taunton meant that many of the residents of Wellington commuted there for work, and the M5 motorway enabled car journeys to be made more easily.

Local industries, which now include an aerosol factory and bed manufacturers, are celebrated at the Wellington Museum in Fore street. Wellington is home to the private Wellington School, and state run Court Fields Community School. It is also home to a range of cultural, sporting and religious sites including the 15th century Church of St John the Baptist.

In a grant of between 899 and 909, Edward the Elder, gave the land then known as Weolingtun, which means “from the wealthy estate”, along with West Buckland and Bishops Lydeard to Bishop Asser. This was in exchange for the monastery of Plympton in Devon. An alternative explanation for the origin of the name is “the settlement in the temple clearing”. By the time of the Domesday Book of 1086, the name had changed to Walintone, and the estate was owned by Gisa (Bishop of Wells). The parish of Wellington was part of the Kilmersdon Hundred.

A royal charter of 1215 gave Wellington its status as a town, and during the medieval period it grew as a centre for trade on the road from Bristol to Exeter, being laid out, with the church at the east end of town, in a similar manner to other towns of this era. In 1548, the manor was sold to Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, but reverted to the control of the bishops after his execution. By the end of the 16th century it had come under the protection of John Popham (Lord Chief Justice) and his descendants who built a manor house which was destroyed during the English Civil War.

Major rebuilding took place in the town following a fire in 1731. After this the town’s importance grew as it became a centre for clothmaking across Somerset and Devon, its importance as trade centre enhanced by fires in Taunton and Tiverton. By the 1831 census, 258 people were recorded as cloth workers in Wellington.

Wellington gave its name to the first Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley. Nearby Wellington Hill boasts a large, spotlit obelisk to his honour, the Wellington Monument. The Wellington Monument is a floodlit 175 feet (53 m) high triangular tower designated by English Heritage as a grade II* listed building. It was erected to celebrate the Duke of Wellington’s victory at the Battle of Waterloo. The foundation stone was laid in 1817, on land belonging to the Duke, but the monument was not completed until 1854. It is now owned by the National Trust, who announced plans to reclad the monument at a cost of £4 million in 2009.

In the 18th century turnpikes arrived in the area and then in the 19th communications improved with the building of the Grand Western Canal, which reached the town in 1835, and then the Bristol and Exeter Railway.[4] Wellington station was opened when the line reached the town on 1 May 1843. It was a typical Brunel design but was rebuilt in 1932 when two loop lines were put in. This entailed the platforms being moved back to accommodate the widened lines. These platforms are clearly visible and a goods shed still stands on the east side of the line at the Taunton end of the station, although the station closed on 5 October 1964. Wellington was an important station as it stood at the foot of a steep incline. Banking locomotives were kept here, ready to assist heavy westbound trains up to Whiteball Tunnel.

In the 20th century closer links with Taunton meant that many of the residents of Wellington commuted there for work, and the M5 motorway, which opened in sections in the 1960s and 1970s, enabled car journeys to be made more easily.

Wellington has three tiers of local government at parish, district and county level. The present system dates from 1 April 1974 when the Local Government Act 1972 came into effect.

The lowest tier is Wellington Town Council, formed as a successor parish to Wellington Urban District Council in 1974.

The middle, or district, tier of administration is the borough of Taunton Deane. The upper tier is Somerset County Council.

For elections to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, Wellington forms part of the Taunton Deane constituency. For European Parliament elections, the town is included in the South West England constituency.

The town has many dependent villages including West Buckland, Langford Budville, Nynehead, Sampford Arundel and Sampford Moor. The formerly independent village of Rockwell Green, to the west of the town, has been incorporated into the town however there is still a green wedge of land in between them. Wellington Park was a gift from the Quaker Fox family to the town in 1903 as a memorial to the coronation of King Edward VII. The 2 hectares (4.9 acres) gardens were laid out by F.W. Meyer, who included a rock garden which used 80 tons of limestone from Westleigh quarry near Burlescombe. It is Grade II listed on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England. It was restored at a cost of £412,827 which included a grant of £296,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund Public Parks Initiative.

There are Local Nature Reserves at Wellington Basins on the western fringe of the town. It includes a small pond and boardwalk with a variety of wildlife habitats. The grassland, hedges and woodland are home to a varied flora and fauna including birds such as the Grey Wagtail, dipper and Reed Bunting. Five separate bat species have been recorded at the site. Swains Pond in the south of Wellington is another Local Nature Reserve, which used to be the site of orchards. It now includes a pond which provides a home for amphibians including the Great Crested Newt, Palmate Newt and toads.

The town has a population of 13,696. Large growth occurred during the 1970s when housing developments were built on the south side of the town. These were largely prompted by Wellington’s proximity to Junction 26 of the M5 motorway.

Wellington’s main industry was wool-making and in November 2009, Deborah Meaden, best known from Dragons’ Den a BBC television programme, invested in the Fox Brothers Mill which produces wool cloth for Savile Row, designers and clients around the world. The Fox family established the mill in 1772. The Tonedale mill complex includes two listed buildings, some of which were still being used until 2000. The Prince’s Regeneration Trust have been supporting the Tone Mill Regeneration Partnership in attempting to preserve and regenerate the area with a mixed development for commercial and residential use. It is included in the Buildings at Risk Register produced by English Heritage.

Local industries are celebrated at the Wellington Museum in Fore street. Wellington was home of Fox, Fowler and Company, which was the last commercial bank permitted to print their own sterling banknotes in England and Wales.

The town is still largely dependent on industry, notably its aerosol factory. Swallowfield plc benefited from the growth of own-brand products during the 1970s and now produces aerosol, cosmetic and toiletry products. It was founded in 1876 as Walter Gregory & Co Ltd who manufactured animal husbandry products. The company diversified and in 1950 produced the first commercial aerosols in the UK which were basically farm products, air fresheners and insecticides.

Bed manufacturers Relyon employ some 400 people. The company started in 1858 as a wool merchant, Price Brothers and Co., but the business soon moved into manufacturing beds and in 1935 changed its name to Relyon Ltd. In 2001 it was acquired by Steinhoff International Holdings Ltd., a quoted South African group.

The town had its own railway station on the Bristol and Exeter Railway from 1 May 1843 until 5 October 1964. It was here that extra locomotives were attached to heavy trains to help them up the incline to Whiteball Tunnel on their way south. The railway from Penzance to London, and also to Bristol and the North, continue to pass through the town, but no trains stop. The nearest stations are Taunton and Tiverton Parkway. A campaign was started to reopen the station in 2009.

The town is close to junction 26 of the M5 motorway, which spent a year in the 1970s as a temporary terminal junction, whilst the motorway between junctions 26 and 27 was finished. The A38 is also still an important link to Taunton.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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