The Advents of Somerset

We have our advent calendars ready for this weekend and are all set to begin the count down to Christmas. This got us wondering what interesting advents Somerset has to boast about. It turns out quite a few, but here are five we enjoyed finding out about this week:

The autobiography, 1576.

Thomas Whythorne was an English composer born in Somerset. He lived between 1528 and 1595 and is thought to have penned the earliest known surviving autobiography. A book titled “booke of songs and sonetts with longe discourses sett with them”. So it may not be a catchy title, but we can still claim the Somerset first!

America’s first “bestseller”, 1682

Mary White was born in Somerset and lived there until her family moved to Salem, Massachusetts. In 1675 during King Philip’s War, Native Americans kidnapped Mary where she was ransomed and released. Some years later she wrote about her experience of thriving on the fear of Native Americans. The book became a bestseller and was reprinted four times. She is considered to be the first bestseller of American literature.

Australia’s first novel, 1831

Henry Savery was born in Somerset (and who can blame him). Through misadventure and some highly questionable moral judgments he began trading forged bills of credit. The law caught up with him and sentenced him to be hanged. However, owing to some good connections he managed to change the sentence to transportation and a day before he was due to be killed he departed for Australia. While there and during further misadventure he started to pen the crime novel, Quintus Servinton: A tale founded upon Incidents and Real Occurrence and although it received favourable reviews in its day, it is now noted for its historical value over its literary merits.

The Headmasters and Headmistresses Conference, 1869.

Edward Thring was the Headmaster of Uppingham School who wrote to a few of his colleagues and asked them to his house to discuss setting up an annual gathering of headmasters. The institution he founded is still running with around 280 schools affiliated to it. Edward was a son of Somerset, being born in Alford. He is recognised as a pioneering educator, and a quote attributed to his philosophy is “honour the work and the work will honour you”.

The three speed bike, 1901.

Before the three speed hub came along we were stuck in two speeds and forget freewheeling down the hills on one of those things! That was until Henry Sturmey of Norton sub-Hamdon got to tinkering. He and James Archer invented the Sturmey-Archer three speed hub for bicycles. He gave the sole rights to the Raleigh bicycle company and we have never looked back (mostly because it makes the bike wobble).The three speed bike, 1901.

And before you go…

…did you know that the words to the song Danny Boy were written by a barrister and lyrist born in Portishead? It is true; Fredrick Weatherly wrote the song in Bath in 1910, set to the Irish tune Londonderry Air.

If you would like to ask a question, suggest a topic or even submit your own Somerset five things, please get in touch.

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