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Collinson

 The History of Somerset published by Rev John Collinson in 1791 is often quoted as the ‘gold standard’ for the history of Somerset. It may not be taught at school but it is a source that is often quoted by local historians. There are earlier histories and many subsequent histories of Somerset but Collinson’s is the first ‘modern’ history. Previous histories tend to concentrate on noble families and the church. Collinson’s still focuses on those issues but also  gives details of the geography of the area and other information of social interest.
 The Rev John Collinson was an early example of the educated, reasonably welathy clergyman who had the time and money to follow his intersts outside of the daily grind of  supporting himself and dealing with his parishioners. John Collinson was a curate in Cirencester when he became acquainted with Edmund Rack in 1881. He originally came from Norfolk but was the secretary of the Royal Bath and West England Society. Edmund Rack was employed to do the research ‘in the field’ which involved travelling through-out Somerset to conduct a survey.
 Edmund Rack had a particular interest in farming and he was critical of the farming practices he saw in Somerset. This makes the rapid improvement in the wealth of Samuel Blanning at the time even more remarkable. His survey is often quoted as ‘proof’ that the cottages now known as The Folly are the original buildings. It is possible that he saw the buildings wich are dated 1785 because he was conducting his survey between 1781 and 1787 when he died.
 His contemporary account is useful but it is not 100% accurate. He makes assumptions which subsequent reasearch has proved to be incorrect. He states that the Earl Waldegrave owned the whole parish of Chewton Mendip but the poor-law records from 1700 to 1780 and the 1794 map prove otherwise. Apart from such forgivable errors, his survey fills a gap in the history of Chewton Mendip and the Chewton hundred.
 Edmund Rack’s manuscript was initially edited by the Rev Collinson who used his classical education to add additional information. The Somerset Archeological and Natural History Society  (SAHNS) have transcribed some of the original research and have published it as a high quality book. Both this recent publication and copies of the original history published by Collinson have been used as sources for this website.
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