The villages of Seavington St Mary and Seavington St Michael in South Somerset


Until the mid 20th century agriculture was the main occupation of the villages with a mixture of livestock and cash crops sustaining both villagers and landowners. By the end of 18th century much flax was being cultivated but the Seavingtons were spared the associated industrialisation that went with the growth of the textile industry. Instead, products were exported to nearby industrial towns of Chard and Crewkerne and, to a lesser extent, Ilminster. The reason for this escape is hard to understand when the nearby and much smaller hamlet of Sea was able to boast a ropewalk (Willy’s Ropewalk) which worked up to recent memory and some of whose buildings still stand.

However, a small exception to this were the menial tasks of the washing of wool and preparation of flax in the village pond before export. This latter process comprised the “retting” of the flax by soaking in water to separate the desirable fibres; this is still recognised by the local surname “Retter” although the title of retter was also given to net makers. The industrial revolution brought from the neighbouring towns some limited outworking, glove and collar making, carried out by the women and girls.

A century later, the villages are still surrounded by agriculture but consolidation of land holdings, mechanisation and government inspired rationalization means that it is very much a minority employer. Even the traditional Somerset cider orchards have been grubbed out to create grazing and arable land. By the time of the 2000 census half of the two villages’ working population was employed in managerial and professional positions; with the exception of a few home-workers these travel to jobs away from the villages.

With the exception of the pub, The Volunteer (so named in the 1830s) in Seavington St Michael there are only three substantive employers in the villages, a dealer in imported Japanese handling equipment, a wholesale potato merchant and a repairer of domestic gardening equipment. There is thus very little opportunity for full or part time employment in either village. About 20% of the combined populations are over 65 and therefore retired.

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