Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cheddar

CHEDDAR, a small town in the Wells parliamentary division of Somersetshire, England, 22 m. S.W. of Bristol by a branch of the Great Western railway. Pop. (1901) 1975. The town, with its Perpendicular church and its picturesque market-cross, lies below the south-western face of the Mendip Hills, which rise sharply from 600 to 800 ft. To the west stretches the valley of the river Axe, broad, low and flat. A fine gorge opening from the hills immediately upon the site of the town is known as Cheddar cliffs from the sheer walls which flank it; the contrast of its rocks and rich vegetation, and the falls of a small stream traversing it, make up a beautiful scene admired by many visitors. Several stalactitical caverns are also seen, and prehistoric British and Roman relics discovered in and near them are preserved in a small museum. The two caverns most frequently visited are called respectively Cox’s and Gough’s; in each, but especially in the first, there is a remarkable collection of fantastic and beautiful stalactitical forms. There are other caverns of greater extent but less beauty, but their extent is not completely explored. The remains discovered in the caves give evidence of British and Roman settlements at Cheddar (Cedre, Chedare), which was a convenient trade centre. The manor of Cheddar was a royal demesne in Saxon times, and the witenagemot was held there in 966 and 968. It was granted by John in 1204 to Hugh, archdeacon of Wells, who sold it to the bishop of Bath and Wells in 1229, whose successors were overlords until 1553, when the bishop granted it to the king. It is now owned by the marquis of Bath. By a charter of 1231 extensive liberties in the manor of Cheddar were granted to Bishop Joceline, who by a charter of 1235 obtained the right to hold a weekly market and fair. By a charter of Edward III. (1337) Cheddar was removed from the king’s forest of Mendip. The market was discontinued about 1690. Fairs are now held on the 4th of May and the 29th of October under the original grants. The name of Cheddar is given to a well-known species of cheese (see Dairy), the manufacture of which began in the 17th century in the town and neighbourhood.

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