Wedmore – village centre
Wedmore is a village in Somerset, situated on raised ground (the Isle of Wedmore), amidst the Somerset Levels between the River Axe and River Brue. It is found 4 miles south of Cheddar, 7 miles west of the city of Wells and 7 miles north-west of Glastonbury.
A modest village but a centre amongst the surrounding farmsteads, Wedmore has such facilities as doctors, a dentist, butchers, a village store, three pubs and several small shops. It is most famous for the Treaty of Wedmore of 878 which settled a division of England between Wessex and the invading Danes.
Three villages together, Wedmore, Blackford and Theale, for the civil parish of Wedmore, along with fourteen hamlets clustered around them, all with a population of 3,111 according to the 2001 census.
South of Wedmore are the Tealham and Tadham Moors, a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest which form part of the extensive grazing marsh and ditch systems of the Somerset Levels and Moors. The water table is high throughout the greater part of the year and each winter the River Brue floods across the meadows. 113 aquatic and bankside vascular plant species have been recorded from the field ditches, rhynes and deep arterial watercourses. A wealth of invertebrate types is associated in particular with ditches that have a good submerged plant community. The water beetle fauna is exceptionally rich, with the nationally rare species hydrophilus piceus and hydrochara caraboides together with the rare soldier flies stratiomys furcata and odontomyia ornata. Good numbers of dragonflies and damselflies occur including the hairy dragonfly (brachytron pratense) and the variable damselfly (coenagrion pulchellum).
The parish church is the Church of St Mary. Its fabric is predominantly of the 15th century, although some 12th and 13th century work survives. It is a Grade I listed building.
The church tower was built around 1400, and has a number of interesting features; buttresses set-back and triple two-light bell chamber windows of which those to the centre are louvred, those to each side blank.
A rare wall painting of St Christopher dating from the late 15th century or possibly early 16th survives. While the theme of St Christopher was common in mediaeval church wall-paintings, that at Wedmore uniquely features ships and a mermaid at the feet of the saint, odd additions redolent of the sea rather than a river crossing.
There was an Anglo-Saxon royal estate in the area. The name Wedmore derives from Old English and probably means "hunting lodge".
After winning the Battle of Ethandun (possibly at Eddington) in 878, Alfred the Great caused the Viking leader Guthrum and his followers to be baptised at Aller and then celebrated at Wedmore. Guthrum took the baptismal name "Athelstan". After this the Danes withdrew to East Anglia. In a treaty known as the Treaty of Wedmore, Guthrum accepted King Alfred as his adoptive father. They agreed the division of England between Wessex and the Danes (up the River Lea, to its source, in a line to Bedford, up the River Great Ouse to Watling Street and thereafter along Watling Street to the "Northwelsh"). Alfred left the estate of Wedmore to his son Edward the Elder in his will.
In 1853 a hoard of 200 silver coins dating from the Saxon period was found in the churchyard. In 1998 a Saxon ring, made of copper alloy with a unique knot design, dating from the 6th or 7th century was found in the village by Tim Purnell and was authenticated by the British Museum. A modern copy made by a local jeweller.
In the medieval period Wedmore was the centre for the surrounding agricultural area, with weekly markets as well as a larger annual one. The market cross dates from the 14th century.
In the 17th century Dr John Westover built a mental hospital to which patients came from all over the West Country. This is believed to have been England's first private lunatic asylum. Apparently the doctor treated his patients compassionately, ensuring that they had luxuries such as playing cards and tobacco. He also kept a record of the ailments of Wedmore people over a period of 15 years.
The Post Office dates from Georgian times, while the Old Vicarage was built at the end of the 15th century. The George Hotel was a 16th-century coaching inn. In the Victorian period, John Tonkin built a fashionable house, in the Italianate style, which is now the pharmacy.
In 1799 Hannah More established a Sunday School for children in Wedmore in the face of opposition from the vicar and local gentry.
Between 1881 and 1898 the Rev Hervey produced the Wedmore Chronicle which gives a picture of the people and area at the time.
Wedmore has a number of annual village festivals, a summer street fair, Wedmore by Lamplight street fair at Christmas, and a large Harvest Home and village parade on the playing field each year.
Local people created and host the original Turnip Prize, a parody of the Turner Prize.
Wedmore hosts Somerset's largest beer festival, the Wedmore Real Ale Festival.
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