Village life: Westonzoyland
PUBLISHED: 16:20 07 November 2017
This month Andrea Cowan visits Westonzoyland - site of a historic battle and home to one of Somerset’s oldest carnival clubs
Westonzoyland, situated in the Sedgemoor district, is the largest of the three ‘Zoys’ – the others being Middlezoy and Chedzoy. It was formed in 1515 when a parish called Sowy, an area of slightly higher ground on the Somerset Levels, was split up and it became the western settlement.
It is a village steeped in history, still very prevalent today. First to mention is the 13th century St Mary’s Church: magnificent in its own right, but it also houses an exhibition dedicated to the Battle of Sedgemoor, the last major battle on English soil, fought to the north of the village on 6 July, 1685. It was the conclusion of the Monmouth Rebellion, an unsuccessful uprising against King James II, and subsequent ‘rebel’ prisoners were held overnight in the church before they were handed to the ruthless Judge Jeffreys. It is a moving exhibition, with graphic depictions and accounts of the courageous battle.
There is also a corner of the church which honours local airmen from WWI and II, which leads us neatly to the home of the Westonzoyland Microlight Aircraft Club to the east of the village. It has a varied history, including its use for air combat and the transport of ground troops to France during WWII. It is now a largely recreational club, with members known as the ‘Zoyboyz’, but it is also a member of Sky Watch Civil Air Patrol, one of the largest charitable air observation organisations whose mission is “to identify situations where people and property are at risk”.
Another claim to the village’s illustrious history is the Westonzoyland Pumping Station, Somerset’s earliest steam-powered pumping station. Built in 1830 to drain low-lying land on the Levels, it is now home to a volunteer-run museum open every Sunday. There are set days when you can see steam-powered demonstrations of the land drainage machine and other working exhibits, and the last one for 2017 is Sunday 1 October.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that this village is a living museum: it is bustling with activity. There is a popular primary school and pre-school, and the site of the old village school is now home to the Somerset Young Farmers Club. There is a grocery store and butchers, and a bright and spacious village hall with a busy weekly schedule including short mat bowls, keep fit, bingo, ballroom and latin dance nights and WI meetings.
Just down from the church is the village’s pub, the Sedgemoor Inn. The pub hosts weekly meetings of the Westonzoyland Carnival Club, one of the oldest clubs on the Somerset circuit and particularly busy close to carnival season in early November. The club will have spent the last year designing and building their cart ready to participate in probably the largest illuminated carnival in Western Europe. I can’t wait to see this year’s innovative design.
Did you know...?
In the 2011 census Westonzoyland had a population of approximately 1,800
According to local estate agents Charles Dickens, the average house price is approximately £300,000