THE HISTORIC MARKET TOWN OF CHARD, SOMERSET
This historic market town is surrounded by beautiful countryside and a wealth of lovely places to visit and is an ideal location for either a short break or longer stay in the West Country.
Now a town of 12,000 inhabitants, Chard has long been a place of some importance and is situated in the southern part of Somerset close to the borders of Devon and Dorset. As an ancient borough, it dates from the 13th Century. However, there are remains of an Iron Age settlement west of Chard and the Romans left their mark having built a villa at South Chard and constructed the military road running east from Chard, now called the Fosse Way. Chard Manor appears in the Domesday Book of 1086, having been owned by Bishop Giso of Bath, (a Frenchman from Lorraine) following the Norman conquest of 1066. 170 years later, the then owner, Bishop Jocelyn, founded a borough by a charter dated 15 January 1235.
Chard became a major cloth-making town in the Middle Ages and later, the manufacture of machine lace became the principal industry into the last century. To support this, considerable skills in light engineering developed and these have served the town well, generating a number of specialised offshoot industries that flourish to the present day. Agriculture has also been the basis of many Chard industries through the ages.
A grammar school was founded in 1671 and continues in use today in union with a range of later schools. The Monmouth rebellion passed through Chard in 1685 and the first powered flight took place in the town in 1848. A model of John Stringfellow's early steam powered aeroplane can be seen in the local museum which is opposite Ammonite Lodge. There are a number of interesting buildings in Chard, including the fine parish church of St Mary's which dates back to the 1400's and the Guildhall which was once the Corn Exchange. Today, Chard is a traditional bustling market town with a wide variety of shops and services, although employment is still very much centred on manufacturing with about a third employed in this sector.
THE HISTORY OF AMMONITE LODGE GUEST HOUSE, CHARD, SOMERSET
Ammonite Lodge was built in the 1780's and is thought to have been originally used as workers cottages for the brewery which stood nearby.
Over the course of two centuries it has been used for many purposes including a butcher, a tea room and a car showroom before the current use as a Guest House.
In 1985, during the course of converting the house into a Guest House, some repair work was being carried out on the 10 foot high flint garden wall at the south east corner of the garden. One of the masons removed what he thought was a loose piece of sandstone. When he examined the back of the stone, he found embedded in it, a large ammonite which had suffered some damage but in essence was an incredible specimen with open cavities. He handed it to the owner of the property and it has been passed on to each new owner ever since. It is believed that the wall in which it was lodged was built at the same time as the property itself, which means that it was there from about 1780 up until it was found in 1985.
Experts who have examined the ammonite say it is between 300 and 400 million years old.
Because it was lodged in the wall, it was decided to call the Guest House "Ammonite Lodge".