Somerset Urban Archaeological Surveys (EUS) The Somerset EUS

Langport and Frog Lane by Miranda Richardson

This is one of a series of reports on the archaeology of the urban (and formerly urban) areas of Somerset commissioned by English Heritage as part of its Extensive Urban Survey (EUS). The reports were prepared by Somerset County Council in 1994-98. There is a brief history of the town extracted from the report or you can download the whole report and maps in Portable Document Format (PDF).

Download Langport report

A brief history of Langport

Langport occupies a very particular landscape setting, covering a small steep hill, just below the confluence of the Yeo and the Parrett at a narrowing of the river valley. With Hurds Hill occupying a similar position on the west bank, the river could be bridged and the crossing protected, making Langport an ideal settlement location. To the north and south of the town the land was marshy, probably providing only summer pasture, until the advent of modern drainage. It has been suggested that the causeway linking the river crossing to the higher ground is of prehistoric date and although there is as yet no direct evidence of this stray finds and earthwork features of prehistoric date make occupation of this area likely. Similarly, although Roman occupation of the town site and use of the causeway and river crossing has not been proven both are likely, particularly as Roman material has been found in the town centre. There is also good evidence of Roman settlement on the west bank of the river at Frog Lane and at Wearne to the north of the town.

It is, however, the Saxon occupation of the town, which has most interested archaeologists. The settlement was recorded as a burh in the early 10th century Burghal Hideage and in 1086 the Domesday book records 34 burgesses. By 930 a mint was established within the town which continued production into the 11th century. The town remained a royal possession throughout the Saxon period. The parish of Langport is extremely small with little land outside the immediate vicinity of the town, being surrounded on three sides by the neighbouring parish of Huish Episcopi. It is, therefore thought that the economy of the town was based on trade, as a distribution centre by road and river, connected to the royal estate of Somerton.

In the medieval period Langport remained an important trading centre and harbour and was held from 1181 until the early 16th century as part of the manor of Curry Rivel. The wealth of the town was such that in the early 14th century a new suburb was established on the west bank of the river in an attempt to expand Langport's success. 31 burgesses are recorded at Southwick by 1358 and the borough survived into the 16th century. In the post-medieval period Langport was to be the site of a renowned battle of the Civil War.

Trade was maintained as an important part of the economy by the trading company of Stuckey and Bagehot, founded in the town in about 1770. In the late 19th and early 20th century river trade was replaced by rail with the construction of two lines close to the town. In recent years Langport has expanded physically as a dormitory town for both Taunton and Yeovil.