Although the town of Langport itself is small, with a current population of about a thousand (over 3,000 in the built-up area that includes adjacent Huish Episcopi), it has a rich and fascinating history. It has always been an important civic and economic hub, and for 80 years, until 1974, its Rural District Council covered a large part of what is now South Somerset.
Langport was first mentioned in a 10th century Anglo-Saxon document called the Burghal Hidage, but archaeological remains suggest that, centuries before, the Romans built a causeway crossing over the River Parrett here.
Langport’s location has been its fortune. As one of the few places where the marshes and moors of the Somerset Levels could be safely travelled through, it sits at a natural crossing point on the River Parrett between two hills – Hurds (or Herd’s) Hill to the west and Langport hill to the east. The town originally grew up around a marketplace at the top of the hill on the eastern side, but as river trade grew, the town expanded towards it and the centre moved to what is now its main street to the Bridge over the Parrett. Langport became the hub for trading in all sorts of goods, attracting custom from miles around to its frequent markets and fairs, its shops and services.
The Battle of Langport, one of the last battles in the English Civil War, was fought to the east in 1645, and the routed Royalist soldiers fled through the town and over the bridge, pursued by Cromwell’s forces. Stuckey’s Bank was founded here in 1770 and became one of the most important country banks, with its banknote circulation second only to that of the Bank of England. In 1826 Walter Bagehot was born above the Bank, where his father was a Manager. He followed a career in banking, journalism and writing, and is still quoted today as an authority both on the workings of the constitution and on finance. James Kelway founded his nursery in Huish Episcopi in 1851, and grew it into a world-wide business, famous for peonies and irises.
Follow the links below to learn more about Langport’s history.