The Parish of North Curry

There are two “Parishes of North Curry” – the Civil Parish of North Curry, defined for local government purposes, and the Ecclesiastical Parish established by the Church of England. They have almost identical boundaries and comprise the compact village of North Curry, the hamlets of Wrantage and Knapp, a wider area including smaller settlements and isolated houses & farmsteads and surrounding countryside including Hay Moor & Curry Moor north of the ridge, and part of West Sedge Moor to the south.

These peat moors lie within the wetlands known as the Somerset Levels.  The land is used extensively for summer grazing and attracts a variety of waterfowl including swan and heron. The River Tone is tidal as far as North Curry before joining the River Parrett and flowing into the Bristol Channel at Bridgwater Bay. Salmon venture up the Tone to reach spawning grounds above Taunton. Most public services are found in the village, though there are public houses in Wrantage and Knapp and an animal feed and pet supplies shop in Wrantage.

The Civil Parish

By area, the parish is one of the largest in Taunton Deane at 2,300 hectares – only Wiveliscombe is bigger. The Parish Council has executive and tax raising powers (by precepting the district) and statutory rights to be consulted. The Council Office, with part-time Clerk, is in the North Curry village. Members of the Parish Council are elected for a period of four years; the next elections will be held on Thursday 2 May 2019.

The parish sits within the Borough of Taunton Deane, whose Council provides certain local government services and can raise taxes for itself and precepted by the Parish and County Councils. The parish is represented on Taunton Deane Borough Council by two ward councillors, who also represent the adjacent parishes of Stoke St Gregory, Burrowbridge and Durston. The district is due to merge with West Somerset District on 1 April 2019 with larger wards. North Curry will then be included with Henlade, Thornfalcon, Ruishton and Stoke St Mary (but excluding Durston), and elections for the combined wards will be held at the same time as parish council elections.

Taunton Deane (and West Somerset) sit within the County of Somerset. The County Council has responsibilities for Education, Social Services and Highways. The parish is represented at County by the divisional councillor for Monkton Heathfield and North Curry.

The Ecclesiastical Parish

North Curry is part of the wider Benefice of Athelney along with the neighbouring parishes of Stoke St Gregory, Burrowbridge and Lyng (Lyng is in Sedgemoor local authority district). The “isle” of Athelney is an area of higher land within the Somerset Levels where King Alfred rested before taking on the Danish army (and reputedly let the cakes burn while his mind was on affairs of state}. Athelney Benefice is part of Sedgemoor Deanery, Taunton Archdeaconry and the Diocese of Bath & Wells.

The Vicar has responsibility for all four Church of England parishes in the Benefice. Residents can claim the rights to be married in the parish church and buried in the churchyard.

Transport

Before motorised traffic, the principal means of conveying goods in this area was by river. The River Tone passes across the parish from Taunton on its way to the River Parrett at Burrowbridge and thence to Bridgwater and into the Bristol Channel. The Tone is tidal to North Curry and was navigable as far as Taunton.

The Bridgwater to Taunton canal was opened in 1827 and runs close to Knapp, and a start was made on a branch through Wrantage towards Chard. However, canal trade was quickly captured by the Taunton to Exeter railway and the canals largely fell out of commercial use. The Taunton to Paddington stretch of the Great Western Railway runs across the northern extremity of the parish, and there was a passenger station and coal yards at Durston. The Bristol branch is also close by.

In the 1970s, the M5 completed the motorway link between London & the Midlands and Exeter. The South West Expressway A303/A358 is also close by, and due in the next few years to be upgraded throughout to dual carriageways, joining the M5 near Taunton.

A bus service runs through North Curry village between Taunton and Stoke St Gregory, and along the Taunton to Langport road past Wrantage and Newport.

Buildings

It is the geology of the local area that makes the buildings of the parish so distinctive. North Curry sandstone outcrops in small areas and is used as a building stone close to its source, for example between Knapp and Stoke St Gregory. Blue Lias limestone is found in the eastern part of the Blackdown Hills, in a prominent ridge extending to Hatch Beauchamp and Langport. Ham Hill limestone has been quarried west of Montacute since Roman times and is the most widely used stone for dressings in Taunton Deane, particularly on churches and older, high status, country houses. There is evidence on Ordnance Survey maps of small quarries locally, for example on the driveway to Morden House and at Knapp.

Population

The 2011 Census counted 1,640 men, women and children resident in North Curry parish. Of these 710 (44%) were spread across 90% of the parish area, with 930 (56%) concentrated in North Curry village.

The first UK census was taken in 1801 and has continued at ten-year intervals up to 2011 except during the second world war. An additional sample census was taken in 1966. The first world war fell between censuses, so there was no discontinuity then.

The resident population of the parish peaked to just over 2,000 in 1841, due to engineers, builders and stonecutters being employed in building the aqueduct for the Chard Canal across the Turnpike Road at Wrantage. After 1841, the population dropped for a hundred years until the second world war, recovering a little after the war then dropping again to a low point in 1961. Every census since 1961 has shown North Curry parish to have grown.