SHAWS ORCHARD HISTORY
THIS GREEN ENGLISH VILLAGE SITE, DOCUMENTED AS AN ORCHARD SINCE c1575.
The very special Greenfield Orchard land (now known as Shaw’s Orchard) is set on a flood plain in a tiny village rich with history, the site has already yielded rare Saxon finds from just one sample exploratory dig. The campaign by local people and environmentalists had fought off a host of bids over the years. They were separate bids for 7, 8, 12, 13, and 16 houses later followed by the refusal of three appeals by Inspector David Grace for the Secretary of State for 8,12, and 16 houses on the ancient Saxon site. That green land comprises the believed oldest Orchard use site in Britain possibly the world, a Heritage Site lost to the nation for ever.
Speculators are finally preparing to build 6 Executive style houses having had the site up for sale since being granted planning permission ultimately by a delegated internal decision. The appeal Inspector described the previous planning applications as “over dominant”, “residential estate character” and “suburban.” stating “at odds with the character of Bawdrip”. What has changed?
Original councillors requested a high-density village grouping at the village end of site to east. This would have protected the Orchard within landscape conditions already tied to planning consent, this did not happen.
The original Planning guidance was debated and endorsed by the full SDC council, who recommended a maximum limit of 4 to 6 houses on the historic site, in its rapidly over-developing small village. They felt this could be accommodated at the east end of the site, set away from disturbing the orchard and Saxon area, and set away from the flood plain area of high risk functional flood status, at the end of the day this was forgotten. Most of this fragile Saxon site will be compacted, covered in “stone fill” materials, built up, to an additional five feet (1.5 meters) higher than the orchard floor, before construction can start. This is required to comply with the Environment Agency high “flood risk” mitigation conditions.
EVIDENCE MOUNTS THAT “HISTORIC ORCHARD USE SITE” SETS BENCHMARK, UK OLDEST?
Somerset’s County historian has examined documentary evidence. He concludes that it “strongly suggests” that this is the orchard connected to “Grange Cottage”. The holding is part of the succession title to its first recorded sale of orchard land c1575 AD. The Guinness book of records can show none older (like it). Sedgemoor can claim from evidence to date, the oldest traditional orchard site with continuity of records, still planted, in the UK, possibly anywhere! Community orchard specialist, Common Ground Trust to date have no evidence to the contrary. English Heritage recognise “it is an historic land use feature”. It could now be destroyed?
VERY RARE SAXON COMB FOUND IN PRELIMINARY ARCHAEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION.
The carved antler comb was featured in the Somerset archaeological journal October 02, it is of a type believed to have originated from Frisia (North Germany) c800 AD. The nearest one found to the west country was discovered in an ancient Saxon trading centre at Southampton. This adds to the belief that the Crandon part of the tiny hamlet of Bawdrip was also an international trading port. This way back to Roman times, up until c1677 when Dutch engineers altered the tidal River Parrett away from Bawdrip, and severed its long association with the sea. This site has proved connections with Roman, Saxon, Norman, and Tudor Periods. Just two small trenches have been excavated, revealing Romano British, and Saxon finds relating to a period of a local Saxon Chieftain called “Merleswein” (the Sheriff). District archaeology Chairman Mr David Baker said this very important site “merits further investigation”.
Article provided by Don Raynor