One of the 172 Parish Returns compiled by Joseph Henry Warner in 1918 and in the Somerset Heritage Centre is from our village of Pawlett. We do not know who wrote it, although we believe it to have been our vicar who gloried in the name Reverend Eugene de Romestin and it was a poignant and valuable resource when we commemorated the centenary of the end of World War I in 2018.
Its opening paragraph: “Pawlett, Somerset is but a small parish, with a population, according to the last census of 375. It lies just halfway between Highbridge and Bridgwater 3 ½ miles from either, on the great road to the West. The Pawlett Hams, some of the finest grassland in England, are situated in the Parish. Practically all inhabitants are workers on the land, though some few are still more or less engaged in the fishing industry”.
Pawlett’s boundaries haven’t changed since then and we now call the great road to the West the A38 but Reverend de Romestin would find many changes – even his 12th Century Church, St John the Baptist is now a different colour having been lime-washed in 2014. The population is some 1200 people, there are houses where there would have been fields and orchards and whereas he would have known most of the village’s 375 inhabitants who would either have attended the Parish Church or the Methodist Chapel the average congregation at St John the Baptist is now 26 worshippers1 and a Rector who serves a benefice of five Parishes, living in Woolavington instead of the magnificent Georgian Vicarage in Pawlett which has been a private home for over 40 years2.
This is Pawlett in 2022, an historically significant time because we are emerging from Covid-19 and celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. It is a popular village albeit with no Post Office or village Shop and although it is popular for retired people and there are many bungalows, the largest age group is 45-59 year-olds who account for over 27% of the population whereas there aren’t many children, only 16% are aged between 0 and 173. Statistics don’t tell you about the people though, and villages like ours are not a collection of properties, they are a community.
It could be said that Covid “shut the village down”. The School, Churches, Village Hall – which meant its regular clubs and societies, the Royal British Legion Club and Pawlett Pavilion were all victims of lockdown and then the necessity to follow strict covid guidelines – covid laws. The village hall, with its regular clubs and societies was closed from March 2020 to July 2021; usually the centre of so many village activities it served as an example of just how total the closures were. We were no different to the rest of the country and got through with small and large acts of neighbourly kindness and generosity. This is possibly what made the Platinum Jubilee so welcome, with its two days of Bank Holiday followed by a weekend, an opportunity to celebrate, socialise and generally let our hair down without masks or socially distancing!
In common with most communities across modern England, Pawlett’s backbone is a small army of volunteers who give their time and energies to provide clubs, put on events and simply turn up when needed while, sadly, others just turn up! These aren’t necessarily retired people with time on their hands, it’s a certain kind of person who wants to make things happen for the good of their village; we were blessed that we could rely on them to make our Platinum Jubilee Celebrations four days of disparate, engaging, celebratory events. It brought together the whole village with co-operation and liaison between the various societies, groups and Churches that gives us an overview of the village institutions as they are today.
Planning for the Platinum Jubilee Celebrations began with an informal meeting at the Royal British Legion Club, Old Main Road in February 2022 where representatives from these groups and people who just wanted to help, got together to plan spectacular celebrations the village would never forget and using the template of village celebrations that had been planned for VE75 (75 years since VE Day), abandoned because of Covid in 2020. This in itself informs us what happens in Pawlett. It wasn’t a committee but a bringing together planning group and it worked. When compared with other local villages, Pawlett punched above its weight but it has to be noted that although most of the village participated in the events, it was less than 20 people who organised it all and that is typical of most village events. In the following description of these events, I’ve put in a few of these names – for the record.
The groups that were involved included the Village Hall Committee4, Churches Together in Pawlett (our two Churches, Church of England Parish Church and Methodist Chapel who are bound together by a Covenant for mutual co-operation, serving the community and Christian mission5); The Royal British Legion Club6, The Royal British Legion Pawlett Branch7, The Pawlett Pavilion8, The Women’s Institute9, Pawlett Primary School Academy10 and various local businesses who donated prizes and products. The Parish Council11 was not involved in the planning but donated money for the Beacon and on the initiative of a Parishioner, a metal bench, originally bought to celebrate the Queen’s coronation was refurbished12. In May, with the activities planned and prepared, a leaflet13, outlining the timetable of events was delivered to each individual household – around 500 from the A38 to the far reaches of Stretcholt – so that everyone could participate.
We have to remember that all of the Committees and village groups are not entities, they are made up of individuals – there is no such thing as The Church or The Royal British Legion Club, they could not continue to run without hard-working and proactive people with vision, prepared to give up their time and resources for the good of their community.
Celebrations kicked off on the morning of Thursday 2nd June; the Royal British Legion Club, with help from the Pawlett RBL Branch, waived its normal entry requirements for the four days of celebration and opened its door for people to watch the Trooping the Colour on a large screen TV and enjoy coffee and cake – provided by the WI – and a chat. The centre piece was a magnificent Union Jack cake baked by local caterer Norma Whitfield. Jubilee art by the children of the school and pre-school was on display in the skittles alley! Pawlett Pavilion – our village sports ground and social club on Gaunts Road – were open from lunch-time with food stalls, children’s entertainments and games and they had even managed to order glorious sunshine which brought many families and children out to enjoy the afternoon and on into the evening to celebrate – with the rest of the country – spectacular lighting of a beacon, supplied by Pawlett Parish Council at a cost of £500. Luckily, White Watch from Bridgwater Fire and Rescue Service – who had attended earlier to show off their Fire Appliance and answer questions much to the delight of an appreciative audience, mainly adults – weren’t needed1.
On Friday morning, the Village Hall Committee held a very popular and well attended Platinum Jubilee Coffee Morning. There was a fun dog show held on the green of Monmouth Farm estate and then in the evening, the Royal British Legion Club hosted a Jubilee Quiz – again, well supported and attended and where each round consisted of questions about each decade of the Queen’s reign.
The Centrepiece for Saturday was a bring-your-own-picnic on the Village Green, and Children’s Royal Fancy Dress Parade2. Sadly the weather finally changed and it was held inside the village hall because of rain but there was a delightful selection of Princes, Princesses, a beefeater, a guardsman and a Gruffaloe. Each participant was awarded a special Jubilee medal on a ribbon with the legend Donated by Pawlett Pavilion on the reverse as they had been funded by them. Only 100 had been produced and those who received them will hopefully treasure them – they were also awarded for winners of games at the Pawlett Pavilion. On Saturday and Sunday nights the Royal British Legion Club once again welcomed guests to enjoy evenings of live music with Lucy Mason singing songs from the shows on Saturday and Tim Pitman on Sunday.
More cake – Sunday brought a cream tea in the afternoon, organised and run by members of Churches in Pawlett Together with cream supplied by North Farm’s Clucky Moo, run by Steph Charlotte Heal. And then, to round the events off, St John the Baptist Church hosted a service of Songs of Praise3, with hymns chosen by people from the Village who also gave their reason for why the hymn was special to them. This was conducted by our Rector, Reverend Kirsty Wells and was another popular and well attended event. During the afternoon the Church had been open for visitors and our own local historian, 90 year old Geoffrey Smith (who had recently retired after 65 years as a bellringer) was on hand to talk and answer questions about our astonishing and beautiful 12th century, Grade I Listed Church.
While these events continued, mainly in an effort to get the village decorated from Stretcholt to the village green, and to get people walking around our village, a Best Decorated House Competition had been organised4 with generous cash prizes of £100 donated by the Village Hall Committee and £50 from the Pawlett Pavilion. The standard was incredibly high and there was bunting galore and flags flying but the overwhelming and popular winner was 21 Manor Road which included a dais with a throne, a model of the Queen and even one of her corgis. Judging had been by the people of the village who had a scoring sheet on the back of a village map.
Apart from the village beacon which can be used again, and the refurbished Coronation Bench, other lasting legacies are trees planted by children from the village school at the Pawlett Pavilion and also trees planted on the village green and donated by the Royal British Legion Club. As well as the memories and the photographs!
A snapshot of 2022 has to mention possibly the most significant contribution to village cohesion and the dissemination of information of the past ten years and one that should not be underestimated. Social Media. Over 1600 people are members of a Facebook group called Pawlett Village Life. It is immediate, it is informative and entirely village-based.
This is a group for everyone who Lives / Lived in and around Pawlett to share their memories and local news and community events (THIS IS NOT A FOR SALE SITE) Please refrain from posting such post as they will be deleted, Although we are happy to promote local businesses this is not a sale group. Thank you.
Started in 20145 it flourishes with over 1600 members and organising the Platinum Jubilee celebrations would have been very difficult without it6. We have a monthly Benefice Magazine, The Link produced by the Church which 100 households subscribe to but nothing has the immediacy of Social Media or the reach. Posts vary from advertisements for events to comments and detail about planning permission to “just seen a sheep on its back in River Road …” as well as glorious photographs of our lovely village. It’s the town crier, the village noticeboard – it’s become a lifeline for the village.
We don’t know all of our neighbours, we don’t participate in every event or club or organisation but when it matters, when the community needs to come together then Pawlett becomes a true village community, as it was in 1918 and we hope it will continue to be for years to come.
Bannock Farm, Puriton