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History

The name Huish Episcopi is mostly thought to derive from the Old English hiwisc for lands or household and episcopi meaning belonging to the bishop, although Huish may possibly derive from the Celtic wych, pronounced ooish, for water.

A number of prehistoric remains have been found in the area – ammonites at the Pibsbury quarries, a mammoth's tooth in the River Yeo at Bicknell's Bridge, a giant elk's jawbone in Wagg Drove and a wild horse skull on Common Moor – and Early Britons established a number of scattered hamlets on this semi-island area including Combe, Wearne, Pibsbury and Wagg. Romano-British remains, including burials, coins and tesserae dating from the 3rd and 4th Centuries, have been found around Wearne.

Under Saxon rule the inhabitants became farmers and common grazing rights were established at this time - the Common Moor name continues to this day, divided up in 1797 and held in trust by the local parishes of Langport, Huish Episcopi and Aller. The Domesday Book (1086) called Huish "Littleney", meaning the small island, as opposed to the large island of Muchelney, where King Ine had founded a Benedictine Abbey at the beginning of the 8th Century. Littleney with Combe and Pibbesyrig became part of the newly formed Diocese of Wells in 909 and it is after this time that it becomes known as Huish Episcopi. Local tradition has it that the bishops had a summer palace in Wearne and certainly they held the manor until 1859 when it was sold off to tenants.

Huish Episcopi probably initially had a withy church followed by more substantial buildings. St Mary's retains a beautiful Norman arched doorway, which survived the church being burnt down in the 13th Century, and the present church dates from the early 16th Century. With the building of a bridge at Bridgwater, and to offset the subsequent reduction in shipping trade, the locals maintained barge traffic but confined the River Parrett and drained the moors, thus recovering rich and fertile ground which continues to this day. The Black Death badly affected the area as many died, including three Vicars, and the scarcity of general labour meant the land was turned over predominantly to the less labour intensive sheep farming with associated wool dying and weaving, bringing relative prosperity.

By the time of the English Civil War Langport held a Royalist garrison, provisioned by Huish Episcopi and the other surrounding villages. Huish Episcopi residents increasingly felt oppressed and alienated by the local Royalists and became Parliamentarian. The final engagement of the Civil War the Battle of Langport, known locally at the time as the Battle of Wagg Drove, took place on 10th July 1645. Many Somerset peasants also supported the Monmouth Rebellion of 6th July 1685 and three Langport area men were hung drawn and quartered at the Hanging Chapel as a deterrent to further revolt.

By the 19th Century main road systems were improving, altering the access into the parish where once stagecoaches had made their way along what are now just footpaths and very minor roads, such as through Combe from Bridgwater. After the upkeep was passed over to public maintenance, the local Bridge Land Charity instead funded scholarships to Langport Grammar School and then suitable grants for the benefit of parishioners. The Bond and Tilley Charity disbursed money or coal to the deserving poor of the parish. These two charities now form the Huish Episcopi Parish Charities.

Quarrying seems to have been the most important occupation in the parish after farming. Pibsbury quarries provided stone for repairing Bridgwater parish church in 1414–15 and for a slipway at Bridgwater in 1488. The stone was transported by river from a wharf near Pibsbury ford and the wharf continued in use at least until 1858. In 1858 there were three quarries and by 1875 the firm of Bradford and Sons was working the quarry at Pibsbury and continued there until the early 1920s. With the advent of countrywide rail travel Langport East Railway Station had been built in 1853 followed by Langport West Station in 1906 and the Iron Bridge across the Parrett at Northstreet Moor. Unfortunately both stations were closed in 1962 and 1964 respectively. Limekilns had been built in various places by 1886 and quarries with limekilns had been opened in Frog Lane, operated with Merrick's Farm. Some of the kilns were still in use in 1971.

Minor occupations in the parish in the 19th Century included gloving, brewing, withy-growing and the manufacture of straw hats. A tannery was established in the parish by 1832 and gave its name to Tanyard Lane. The business closed in the 1920s, but the premises continued as a slaughter-house and are now the major abattoir in the south west. Kelways Nurseries were established by James Kelway on May Day 1851 and many local fields grew peonies, iris and gladioli and this is recognised in a number of street names and references locally to the Brookland Road estate as "Peony Valley".

Economy

The largest employer in Huish Episcopi is the abattoir on Muchelney Road, recently acquired by the Irish Food Group ABP. An Abattoir Liaison Group comprising members from the village helps to resolve community issues such as smells, heavy goods vehicles on the narrow roads and light and noise pollution. The Westover Trading Estate near Langport's Bow Bridge, with a wide variety of businesses, is also within the parish.

Education

The parish is home to the secondary school Huish Episcopi Academy and Huish Sixth, with 1500 pupils between 11 and 18, and Huish Leisure a sports and leisure complex including an open air swimming pool, as well as Huish Episcopi Primary School with about 200 pupils.

Governance

Huish Episcopi Parish Council has responsibility for local issues, including setting an annual precept (local rate) to cover the council's operating costs and producing annual accounts for public scrutiny. The parish council evaluates local planning applications and works with the local police, district council officers, and neighbourhood watch groups on matters of crime, security, and traffic. The parish council's role also includes initiating projects for the maintenance and repair of parish facilities, as well as consulting with the district council on the maintenance, repair, and improvement of highways, drainage, footpaths, public transport, and street cleaning. Conservation matters, including trees and listed buildings, and environmental issues are also the responsibility of the council in consultation with the district council.

The parish falls within the non-metropolitan district of South Somerset, which was formed on 1st April 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, having previously been part of Langport Rural District. The district council is responsible for local planning and building control, local roads, council housing, environmental health, markets and fairs, refuse collection and recycling, cemeteries and crematoria, leisure services, parks, and tourism.

Somerset County Council is responsible for running the largest and most expensive local services such as education, social services, libraries, main roads, public transport, policing and fire services, trading standards, waste disposal and strategic planning.

It is also part of the Somerton and Frome county constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and part of the South West England constituency of the European Parliament which elects seven MEPs.

This has been compiled incorporating information from a number of sources mainly:

The Book of Huish

'Parishes: Huish Episcopi', A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 3 (1974), pp1-13. Available: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=66482

[Accessed: 11 November 2011]

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