Somerton is said to have given its name to the county of Somerset. It was certainly one of the main residences of the Saxon kings who built a castle here. The town was razed by Vikings in 877, but was soon rebuilt and became the largest and best defended in the area. Somerton was the stronghold of King Alfred the Great, and has had many connections with royalty throughout the ages. It is listed in the Domesday Book as the property of William the Conqueror and was the first manor to be listed in the survey of Somerset. At this time it was recorded as having fisheries and 500 sheep.
The town remained the property of the monarch until Henry II granted it to his illegitimate son, William Longspee. William later became Earl of Salisbury, in addition to holding the posts of Sheriff of Wiltshire, Constable of Dover and Warden of the Cinque Ports. Eventually, the manor passed back to the Crown and Edward II gave it to his half brother, Edmund Woodstock, who was beheaded in 1330 for attempting to restore Edward II to the throne.
Somerton Manor passed backwards and forwards to the Crown and its adherents and had several high profile occupants. These included Warwick the Kingmaker and George Duke of Clarence, the brother of Edward IV whom Shakespeare describes as having drowned in a butt of malmsey. It was the county town from the end of the 13th century for around a hundred years.
The property now known as the Manor House in the market place was originally built around the beginning of the 17th century. It is now Lloyds TSB Bank. Also in the old market place is a lovely butter cross, which is floodlit at night, alms houses and the original courthouse which is now an antiques emporium.
Somerton has many wonderful churches including St Michael and All Angels which is located in the heart of the town. Some parts of this church date from the early 13th century, whilst other parts are as recent as 2004.
The town today has plenty of restaurants, cafés, tearooms and public houses. It also boasts a number of small specialist shops, in addition to the usual high street chain stores. There are various sports facilities within Somerton including a skate park, tennis courts, basketball courts, rugby and football pitches. In addition, there are some lovely walks in and around town. Every July there is a week long Arts Festival, which features both well-known and lesser known entertainers.
Close by is the Viaduct Fishery, which specialises in coarse fishing and has six well stocked lakes in the peaceful Cary Valley. The town is served by several free car parks, which are quite a bonus these days. It has easy access to both the M5 motorway and to the A303, London to Penzance trunk road. There are plenty of public transport links with large towns such as Bristol and Bath.
- Somerton photos
- Things to do in Somerton
- Somerton accommodation