If you’re from Yeovil or know Yeovil a bit here are some facts that may surprise you! How many of them did you know about? And if you don’t know Yeovil (you haven’t lived 😂) but please read on to find out a little more about this sparkling gem of a town in South Somerset!
1.Greyhound racing. So you may know the “Greyhound” as a once popular pub in Yeovil (now a hotel) but did you know that Yeovil has had four venues for greyhound racing? This includes a venue at Huish (from 1928), Barwick Fields (from 1931), West Hendford (replacing Barwick Fields from 1932) and from 1946 a £30,000 stadium was built at Larkhill.
The stadium closed in 1972 and the area is now covered by housing around the Larkspur Cresent area.
2. Tara the Lion. In the 1970s there was a one-eyed lioness who lived out the back of her owner’s shop, the Cooker King, in Reckleford. Her owner could be seen walking her around Yeovil until 1976 when the “Dangerous Wild Animals Act” came in. He also owned a camel named Jasmine.
3. The UK’s first motor car with internal combustion engine. Yeovil was one of Britain’s first automobile producing companies. Twin brothers, Percy and Ernest Petter started their apprenticeship in the ironmongersy and foundry business, once leaving school, run by their father.
By 1892 a self-propelled oil engine was designed and made by the twins. In 1895, along with their Engineer Ben Jacks, they produced a new engine of one horse-power designed to propel a horseless carriage.
It had a top speed of 12 mph and their 12th model of the Yeovil car was proudly exhibited at the 1897 Motor Car Exhibition, Crystal Palace.
Sadly, they achieved no commercial success and almost bankrupted their company, consequently adapting their engines for agriculture and industry.
4. Film and TV! Frankie and Johnnie is a BBC film screened in 1987 and shot on location in Yeovil! It stars acclaimed actor Hywel Bennett of Eastenders and Dr Who fame. You can catch it on YouTube, I would say watch it for the shots of Yeovil only as the story itself leaves a little to be desired! (Yes I have sat through it 🤣).
Aliens in the Family was a 1987 kids TV show, also shot in Yeovil. This was quality TV and was nominated for a British Academy TV award!
5. Yeoville, Johannesburg. Four years after the discovery of gold led to the founding of Johannesburg, Yeoville was proclaimed as a suburb by Thomas Yeo Sherwell who came from Yeovil, UK!
Mandela was given shelter in Yeoville by one of his comrades when he was on the run from the police on the early 1960s.
6. The Chesterfields: West Country live music scene. The Chesterfields are an indie pop band heading for a comeback! They formed in 1984 and have four albums and appearances at both TOTP and Glastonbury under their belt. Songs include “Last train to Yeovil” “Love Mountain” “Ask Johnny Dee” and “Shame about the rain”. They have an upbeat vibe with influences of The Smiths in my opinion.
There’s a place that I’ve
I’ve wanted to take you
And I’ve wanted to show you my home-Last train to Yeovil
The band have recently reformed with founder Simon Barber (bass, vocals), Andy Strickland (guitar), Rob Parry (drums) and Helen Stickland (guitar, vocals). Davey Goldsworthy who was in the original line up sadly passed away at the age of 40. There is a bench to honour his memory in the most beautiful spot in Ninesprings, with views of Wyndham Hill.
7. Wolf Solent. This is the name of the lead character as well as the title of the acclaimed novel by author John Cooper Powys, published in 1929. It was the first of four Wessex novels by the author who was in New York City at the time of writing, travelling the US as a lecturer. The novel follows Wolf, a 35 year old history teacher and is set in Sherborne and Yeovil, though they are named Ramsgard and Blacksod (!) in the novel.
8. Roman Villas in Westlands and Lufton areas In 1916 a hoard of 4000 Roman coins was discovered by workers who were laying drains to the South of Westland Road. Later investigations in 1925 and between 1927 & 28 revealed an actual Roman Villa in the field to the West of Seaton Road and it is now thought that there was a small town. A mosaic was lifted and is now housed at the Community Heritage Access Centre.
Dr James Gerrard from Newcastle University (although originally from the area) is now leading the research of the Villa at Lufton which was originally discovered in the 1950s. It is one of four known villas with similar structures. It boasts underfloor heating and mosaic pavements.
9. The UK’s oldest builders’ merchants. Bradfords building supplies has been “growing with the community since 1770” with William Bradford’s quarries in Derbyshire produced lime for fertiliser. Bradfords today has over 40 branches and the longest running branches are located near railway stations, as the fastest methods for distribution.
Three cheers for 250 years!
The Yeovil branch was the very first branch to open in 1853 by Jabez Bradford, who later went on to be the mayor of Yeovil. The Railway Inn opposite provides a clue to Yeovil’s past, as Hendford Station which also opened in 1853 was the first station to open in Yeovil. Quarries near Pibsbury sent supplies via Langport East Railway station and business has been thriving ever since despite both stations having since closed!
10. Ice rink. So, you may well remember that Yeovil once had a ski slope which is now closed. But did you know that there was once an ice rink opposite the Manor Hotel in Hendford? By the 1960s it was a parade of shops, called “the rink” in homage before becoming a furniture warehouse.
I hope you have enjoyed this post and maybe there are one or two things that have surprised you!