Monday, 13 July 2009

Pawlett /Palfleot: Place in Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Series

Pawlett is a small village 4 miles (6 km) north of Bridgwater, in the Sedgemoor district of the English county of Somerset.
The village has Roman or Saxon origins. It has a Norman church and expanded in the 17th and 18th centuries with the draining of the Somerset Levels.
During World War II it was the site of an experimental research station examining ways to bring down barrage balloons.
A survey in 2003 recorded an early system of flood banks in the "Hams" around the village which may have originated in the Roman or Saxon Period. An early field system was also identified, again possibly originating in the Saxon period. The Pawlett Hams form part of the Bridgwater Bay Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The village was mentioned in the Domesday Book, and in the 12th century the Pawlett Hams, running west of the village, were known as being the richest 2,000 acres (8 km2) in England.
The name of the village is believe to come from an 11th-century estate and may refer to a stream either with stakes or below a steep-sided hill.
The village lies on a bend of the River Parrett near to its mouth and had a landing place, called Pawlett pill, by the 15th century. It continued in use in the 18th century, but by 1780 it had been blocked by Canham sluice as part of the drainage of the Somerset Levels. In the 19th century Pawlett had a jury of sewers to view rhynes and ditches and by 1936 the parish had its own water board to supervise drainage and freshwater irrigation of the Hams. It was absorbed into the Bridgwater and Pawlett drainage board in 1946.
A village school, supported by Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, was established in the late 18th century. In 1861 a National School was established near the church. A school board for the parish was elected in 1887 and built a school on the National School site in 1888. In 1903 there were 58 children on the register and despite some fluctuations during the intervening years there were 53 children aged 5 to 11 on the books in 1975 and 75 in 1981. A new County School opened west of the village in 1977 to replace the old building.
During the Second World War defences were constructed around Pawlett as a part of British anti-invasion preparations of World War II; nearby Pawlett Hill was a defended locality on the Taunton Stop Line. The defences mainly comprise a number of pillboxes. There was also a station for carrying out experiments relating to barrage balloons. The hangar measures 100 feet (30 m) x 70 feet (21 m) x 80 feet (24 m) high and was erected in 1940–41 The hangar was needed so that the balloon being tested need not be deflated each night. The balloon was filled with a mixture of air and hydrogen made at the Weston-super-Mare gasworks. The experimental work continued until 1944. A Bristol Blenheim bomber crashed in the village during the war and the remains were excavated in 2007

The Norman Church of John the Baptist replaced an earlier Saxon structure and the church is thought to have been a popular station on medieval pilgrimages from Watchet to Glastonbury. The south doorway arch features three bands of decoration: lozenges, zigzags, and a biting beasts motif on the outer ring.

The baptismal font appears to be made from two separate fonts, the bottom part an inverted Saxon font topped with an upright plain Norman font.

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