01. History of Somerton

Somerton was a Saxon royal town at which King Ina met his council and promulgated a law code for Wessex. The town was later captured by the King of Mercia and held by him for some years, before being restored to the kingdom of Wessex. The Witan (royal council) met here at least once in the 10th century. No evidence of the Saxon period remains.

In the 13th century the town became the county town of Somerset, with the courts being held here and the county gaol established perhaps in the area which is now Cow Square.

During the 14th century Somerton was inherited by junior members of the royal family and was no longer in royal ownership by the time of Elizabth 1st, when it was sold to the Hext family of Low Ham, who greatly improved the town, providing the Town Hall, the Butter Cross and the Hext almshouses in West Street.

The 17th and 18th centuries were the most prosperous in Somerton's history, when it was an important coaching centre on the route from Taunton to London and from Wells to the south coast. The buildings in the old town centre mostly date from this period of prosperity.

In the 19th century when the roads were improved in other parts of the county and railways reached Langport and Yeovil, Somerton declined. A collar factory provided work for women, some shoe-making was done and there was a brewery. Most people worked on the land, and there were the shops and businesses necessary to support a very small market town.