Movin’ on

Having conceded defeat on the location of the Battle of Edington, I take up another issue. First, a new map (much like several others already posted): this is from the Langport and River Parrett Visitor Centre and is an illustration of the present day extent of the Somerset Levels. These are now largely drained except when there is flooding: no permanent swamps, but you can still see the familiar shapes of several ‘islands’ and the westward pointing ‘finger’ of the Polden Hills.

The Levels and some interesting places

The Levels and some interesting places

In early modern times there was a ferry between Combwich and Pawlett, and before that there was thought to have been a Roman ford.  Combwich itself had a harbour and this whole area was quite heavily Romanised. There are the remains of a Roman settlement under the M5 by Pawlett.

I’ve marked the Fosse Way and the Roman road along the Poldens, both passing through the Roman Lindinis (Ilchester); also the crossings from Street to Glastonbury and from Combwich to Pawlett. The main mass to the north is Mendip, of course, pushing out to Brean Down and Kewstoke;  to the west, beyond ‘Cummidge’ and Cannington, are the Quantocks.

Crandon Bridge, now across the King’s Sedgemoor Drain, was in earlier times on the River Parrett whose course roughly corresponded in places with where the Drain is now. And Crandon Bridge was in fact a port in Roman times. This is an article by Stephen Rippon about the coastal trade at the time of the Romans. I have purloined one of his diagrams (below). I hope he will not mind: it is so very à propos as it shows where the old course of the river was. I have added a bit of colouring.

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 21.29.01According to Stephen Rippon’s article in which he wrote up details of the excavations carried out before the M5 destroyed so much of the archaeology, the main goods seem to have been pottery and coal, and perhaps stone for building. He suggests the port supplied the legionary fortress at Caerleon, where a large Roman port has also been recently discovered.

This is all very interesting, but next I want to look at Combwich and Cannington which have provided more grounds for speculation. What I wanted to establish here was that this was a centre of navigation as well as having good communications by road; that the Parrett was navigable as far as Crandon Bridge and beyond.


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