How Somerset has inspired names across the world
- Credit: SUB
Our county has leant its name to a variety of different items and places that are now recognised across the world. HOLLY LOUISE EELS highlights some - a few might surprise you
Somerset House is a major art and cultural centre in London and was built on historic foundations around one of the most beautiful courtyards in Europe. Founded in 1547 by Edward Seymour, Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset, it became home to Princess Elizabeth in 1553 until she was crowned Queen Elizabeth I. It opened its outdoor space to the public in 2000, hosting major events and attractions, including a spectacular ice rink, fashion events and art installations.
Dating back to its artillery use in 1815, the Somerset Cannon is located at the Grade II listed Wellington Monument. It is now owned by the National Trust. Cannons were sold for scraps to cover costs and help the war effort. The one cannon remaining in Exeter was brought to the Monument in 1977 and installed in 1984.
There have been four British Royal Navy ships named HMS Somerset. The first ship to carry the name HMS Somerset (1698) served as Admiral Sir George Rooke’s flagship at the Battle of Vigo Bay in 1702, which won Battle Honours. It was followed by the second ship (1731) and third (1748). The fourth HMS Somerset (F82), which is described as a ‘fast, versatile Type 23 Frigate’ and is one of the Royal Navy’s hardest workers, escorting Russian craft and training helicopter crews.
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Somerset is also the name on four USS ships (United States Vessels), in 1862, 1917 and the AK-212, constructed for the US Navy towards the end of World War II. The USS Somerset (LPD-25), was named in honour of the passengers who died on United Airlines Flight 93, which was hijacked during the terror attacks. The passengers prevented the plane from reaching its intended target by forcing it to crash in Stonycreek Township in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
The Somerset Space Walk
Visit The Somerset Space Walk to see a true scale model of the Solar System. The planets are placed at their correct intervals along the towpath of the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal and each one has a concrete pillar with a plaque of information about it. Pip Youngman, a local astronomer and inventor, came up with the idea, designed it and built the pillars. In August 1997 British astronomer Heather Couper officially opened it.
The Duchess of Somerset
The name Somerset wis used among lots of royalty, including The Duchess of Somerset. A title held by the wives of the Dukes of Somerset, there have been 17 Duchesses of Somerset, dating back to Anne Seymour, second wife of Edward Seymour, the 1st Duke of Somerset (1553). Edward was the eldest brother of Jane Seymour, the third wife of Henry VIII. There is also The Duchess of Somerset’s hospital in Wiltshire, which is not a hospital, but a sheltered housing scheme for women.
American professional baseball team Somerset Patriots in Bridgewater, New Jersey, provide entertainment at the Beautiful TD Bank Ballpark. Attracting more than 380,000 fans per season, they are members of the Liberty Division of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. Their first season was in 2008 and they are six-time Atlantic team champions. One of their mascots is an anthropomorphic dog called Sparkee. His name refers to the Patriot’s first manager, Sparky Lyle.
William Somerset Maugham
English playwright, novelist, and short-story writer, William Somerset Maugham was a big name in his time. His first novel was Liza of Lambeth (1897), and he had huge success with his play Lady Frederick in 1907. He also wrote short stories and 32 plays, boasting film adaptations of his work including The Razor’s Edge, Up at the Villa and The Painted Veil. He had an affair with Syrie Wellcome, wife of Henry Wellcome, and they had a daughter together, Liza.
As we have discovered Somerset is not just a name in the West Country. Our county has influenced many towns and cities across the world to name their destination Somerset, including Canada and South Africa. There is even an island in Bermuda. America has more than 20 places named Somerset, from the deep south in Kentucky, to high in the north in Colorado, two counties in California and a village in Wisconsin. Even Singapore’s underground MRT station shares the name.