Dowlish Wake is a small picturesque parish village in South Somerset and is nestled between Kingstone, Oxenford and Cudworth. Situated on the Dowlish Brook, it is crossed by a 17th-century packhorse bridge which was widened in the 1990s and a road bridge dating from the 18th century. There was a flour mill on the brook in the 17th century but only the Mill House survives today.

Until the early 1990s parts of the village were regularly cut off by floodwaters between two fords which cross the main road, however this has largely been prevented by recent drainage improvements.

The village was the centre for the manufacture of silk and there are the remains of several limestone quarries. It was on the route of the Chard canal, which was built around 1835-40 and was intended to be part of a ship canal between the Bristol Channel and the English Channel, but this was never built.

In 2004 a stone in a village garden, used by a widow to mark the grave of her pet cat, was identified by the village potter as a 9th century Anglo-Saxon carving of St Peter.

As a civil parish Dowlish Wake has its own parish council with responsibility for local issues. The village is part of the South Somerset local government district within the wider Somerset County Council, having previously been part of Chard Rural District.

 

The village is the home of the cider produced at Perrys Cider Mill, manufacturers of several award-winning Ciders. The barn which is used as the cider mill, and now also contains a museum, has 16th-century origins, and may originally have been used as a smithy. A cafe opened at the cider mills in 2008.

Manor House

The hamstone Manor House has 11th-century origins, with the present building being from all periods from the 15th century. It was known as Dowlish Farm by 1688, having been held by the Wake family from the 12th century; it passed through marriage to the Speke family at the end of the 15th century; they sold it in 1920.

 

Dower House

The Dower House dates from 1664 and was leased to female members of the Speke family during the later 18th century giving the building its name.

 

St Andrews Church & Speke Hall

The hamstone Norman Church of St Andrew includes fragments of the chancel dating from the 13th century, a 14th-century tower and aisles added in 1528; however, most of the church was rebuilt in 1861–62. It has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade II* listed building.

 

Speke Hall, next to the church, was used as the day and Sunday school from its erection by William Speke in 1840 until 1949. It now serves as the village hall, hosting regular social functions.

Notable residents

The Manor was the home of the family of John Hanning Speke who took part in 3 expeditions to Central Africa from 1854-1862, the last two in search of the source of the Nile. He discovered Lake Victoria and maintained that it was the source of the White Nile. On his 3rd expedition Speke identified Ripon Falls, the outlet of Lake Victoria, as the source of the Nile; this was confirmed by Henry Morton Stanley in a later expedition. Speke was killed in Neston Park in Wiltshire by his own gun while hunting with his cousin on 18 September 1864; Dr David Livingstone and Sir Roderick Murchison, President of the Royal Geographical Society attended his funeral. There is a life size bust of Speke and a memorial to him in the church.

Meadowbank was the home of the family of Gary Mortimer, hot air balloonist.

Geographic coordinates:
Latitude: 50.91° N
Longitude: 2.89° W
Elevation: 210 ft / 64 m

Dowlish Wake   Ilminster   Somerset

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