All Saints, Aisholt

The Saxon Village of Aisholt clings to the eastern side of Somerset’s Quantock Hills above Canning Brook roughly seven miles north of Taunton and six miles West of Bridgwater. The Poet Coleridge described the setting of this hamlet as ‘that green, romantic chasm’ and it retains its character to this day. Another poet, Sir Henry Newbolt, lived in the Old Schoolhouse at the bottom of the hill, below the beautiful All Saints Church and clearly both he and Lady Newbolt were denizens of the local community. Sir Henry’s poetry reflected the patriotic mood of the late Victorian and Edwardian era and frequently returned to the themes of a soldier’s lot and the sacrifices involved. In his poem ‘The Schoolfellow’ he wrote:

Our game was his but yesteryear;
We wished him back; we could not know
The self-same hour we missed him here
He led the line that broke the foe

Blood red behind our guarded posts
Sank as of old and dying day;
The battle ceased; the mingled hosts
Weary and cheery went their way:

“Tomorrow well may bring” we said,
“As fair a fight, as clear a sun”
Dear Lad, before the world was sped,
Forevermore thy goal was won.

Sir Henry Newbolt's cottage

Eight Aisholt men left the village to fight in the Great War of 1914-18 and all eight returned. Their names still hang proudly in the Parish Church of All Saints together with the words:

These men of ours unselfish, unafraid,
Went to the World-wide fight,
Forget not how they fought and how we prayed,
For England and for right.

Herbert Biffin   Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment
Thomas Floyd   Machine Gun Corps
William Floyd   Royal Field Artillery
John House   Worcestershire Regiment
C. H. Merewether   Royal Army Service Corps
J. E. B. Merewether   Royal Naval Reserve
Dennis Morse   Somerset Light Infantry
Walter Mullins   Dorsetshire Regiment

This record was placed here by the wish of
F. Evelyn Duckworth of Orchardleigh and Aisholt

Stand quietly in the grounds of Aisholt’s Parish Church on a chilly November afternoon with the winter sun threatening to disappear behind the Quantock Hills and all you will hear is bird song and, perhaps, the sound of red deer foraging on the hillside. Listen again and you might hear the echo of marching boots making their weary way home all those years ago to this most picturesque of Thankful Villages.

Text and photos - Rod Morris

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