Hidden in the hills only four miles north and slightly west of the ancient City of Bath, the village of Woolley dates back to Saxon times and a visit to this most tranquil hamlet is a most uplifting experience. The author Arthur Mee wrote in the 1930s: “We found Woolley after riding about for miles on the hills that look down on Bath; it stands superbly on a ridge in that great valley to which we look down from one of the loveliest heights in Somerset on the way from Bath to Gloucester. But we must wind and wind and wind through a maze of the countryside if we would find Woolley as it is. There is just room to get a car between the hedges without hurting the grasshoppers if we would come to this gem among green fields”. Little has changed and a time traveller from a hundred years ago would have difficulty in recognising any change.

The village sent thirteen young men from thirteen different families to the Great War of 1914-1918 and all of them returned to give thanks in the uniquely designed All Saints Church. One had suffered wounds at the Battle of Ypres (‘Wipers’ to the British Tommy), one had been gassed and a third, Private Owen, had been awarded the Croix de Guerre for distinguished gallantry. This little Somerset village (like Stocklinch) was doubly blessed in that fifteen young men were sent to fight against the Axis Powers twenty years later and, once again, they all returned.

A brass plaque in the Church records the gratitude of the village for their good fortune:

To the glory of God and in thankful remembrance of the safe return of all the men
Connected with this Parish who by land and sea served their King and Country
In the Great War

The hand of History and Divine Providence has been laid on this small, picturesque and very certainly most Thankful of Villages.

November, 2011 - Thanks to Mr. Sam Priestman, of Woolley, we have learned  that All Saints Church now contains an additional brass plaque to commemorate the safe return of all the men and women who fought in the Second World War. Mr. Priestman also informs us that the church was designed by John Wood the Younger, the architect of the city of Bath's Circus and Royal Crescent.

Text and photo - Rod Morris

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