18th and 19th century - The Industrial period

This time is called the Industrial period. New scientific inventions, like steam power, changed the way people lived for ever. Factories were built that could cheap mass-produce goods were made and sold all over the world. Many people moved from the countryside to the cities. Ordinary people started to own more things. Towns and cities grew and more ordinary people worked in factories. Even in the countryside there were changes as people worked out ways of producing more food. At the same time, with all these changes, people began to appreciate the beauty of the natural world.

Changes in the Quantock landscape

More big changes happened to the look of the Quantocks during the 18th and 19th centuries.

  • You can see 18th century landscape park land, around Cothelstone, big new fields just below skyline and in the foreground, large fields that have been made by joining together smaller, older fields.

Landowners continued to improve their estates. They replaced their old manor houses with fine new houses and created beautiful parkland Today, some of these oak trees (now called veterans) have grown very large indeed.

They also reorganised their farms, making new fields which were bigger and more regular in shape than the older fields. The parkland and the new fields had boundaries of high beech-banks to keep the deer in (or out). You can still see the old beech banks which are a special Quantock feature.

Farmers learnt how to improve the soil by putting lime on it. This made the soil less acid. They made the lime by burning limestone in specially made kilns. Some of the limestone was quarried locally but most came from Wales, shipped across the Bristol channel. You can still see lime kilns at East Quantoxhead and Kilve.

Changes for Quantock people

Most Quantock people still earned their living as farm labourers, and they were often very poor. In the 18th and 19th centuries the wooded combes on the eastern side of the hills were very busy places. People worked there coppicing the trees, burning charcoal and peeling bark for the local burning charcoal and peeling bark for the local tanneries at Holford and Nether Stowey.

Generations of Quantock families worked in the the clothing industry doing jobs like spinning, weaving, dyeing, washing and finishing the cloth and making clothes. Marsh Mills changed from making woollen cloth to silk.

There were other jobs. For a while, people mined copper near Holford. Stone was needed for new buildings and roads, so the quarries at West Quantoxhead, Halsway and Triscombe were kept busy.

The Quantocks were less cut off from the rest of the world. Transport improved, and new turnpike roads were made. The railways came to West Somerset in Victorian times, which made more jobs for local people, and brought outsiders in. Writers like Wordsworth and Coleridge came to the Quantocks in search of beauty.

Villages grew bigger. Many of the buildings still used today were built during this time.

We know a lot about some of the people who lived in the Quantocks in the 18th century because of Parson William Holland’s diaries.

Ideas and beliefs were changing. People like Tom Poole of Nether Stowey and his friends, (including the scientist Andrew Crosse) met to discuss politics, science and religion. They tried to make life fairer for ordinary people. Schools were started that were open to anyone, not just the rich. By the end of this period there were schools everywhere.