A colourful eighteenth century map of Somerset showing towns and villages around Radstock A colourful eighteenth century map of Somerset showing towns and villages around Radstock Show image info

A Map of the Country Eleven Miles round the City of Bath by Benjamin Donne, cartographer, 1790, ref: 0596/2/1

The hand-held bell on the hill

Written in 2019 by a member of a creative writing class, through a collaboration between Bath Record Office and the St. John’s Foundation.

Having spent six years in France, around the Dordogne/Lot et Garonne border, moving to Somerset didn’t feel too different. The landscapes felt similar, with rolling green fields and dense woodland. The biggest difference was there appeared to be a time delay in France, like being back in Somerset fifty years ago. The place was less populated, the pace was slower; paysans still wore berets and cooked in a pot over the fire. Somerset was more urban and populated, with towns spilling into the countryside, yet there are pockets which remain unchanged through the winds of time.

Our old farmhouse where we live, speaks to us through creaks in the framework, warped through the weathering of 400 years. The old stone walls have stood firm through centuries of storms. Many features from the era of Thomas Hardy remain, and it isn’t hard to imagine the milk maids living alongside the landowner in this long old house.

This was the chosen spot to raise our family. Four children have known this place as the backdrop and fabric of their early childhood; happy idyllic days, with hens in the yard, and horses grazing in the fields. The village school on the opposite side of the valley, home to the famous Jack and Jill Well and steep hill tumbling down to the village below, was their first school. The sound of the hand-held bell ringing out at playtime and the happy voices and laughter, which would follow, echoing across the valley. These were happy days.

Brimble Wharton, February – March 2019