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Donyatt, or Doniet as it was then known, is listed in the Domesday Book and has the distinction of being mentioned as a Park, the only one listed in the Somerset Domesday, but can trace its origins back even further.
Although it is a very old settlement and has expanded a little over the centuries, Donyatt is still quite small. Currently the village is made up of a church, a public house/restaurant, village hall, bowls club, a number of homes, a small number of farms, plus beautiful green fields and a stretch of the River Ile. Whilst Donyatt may look like a sleepy little backwater, it is in fact a vibrant and active community.
The Montacute family held the manor of Donyatt in the 1300's and built a castle or fortified manor house. The manorial chapel had a Sheela na Gig which was recovered and is now incorporated into a private house in Donyatt. The Sheela na Gig is a carved stone figure of a nude female. These are thought to have had roots in pre-Christian religions and were symbols of fertility. However they were incorporated into Christian buildings, to ward off evil.
John Dunster of London founded the village almshouses in 1624 which can still be found in Church Street and are still serving their original purpose. In the same street, is the Old School House, which dates to the 19 th century. The school house is now a private property.
From the 12 th century there were potteries in Donyatt producing utilitarian and practical pottery items and in the 18 th century the village was also home to woollen mills. Many examples of Donyatt pottery have been found in Virginia and Maryland, with other examples being housed in the Somerset Museum in Taunton.
The old Chard Branch Line ran through Donyatt before reaching Ilminster and there is a Halt which originally served the village. Now there is the Chard/Ilminster cycle route, which runs along the old railway line, Donyatt Halt is on the route and is being preserved and maintained as part of Donyatt's history.
There are World War 11 defences adjacent to the Halt. This allowed an inspection post to be quickly established between the village and Ilminster, to check trains passing through, when the threat of invasion was deemed high. You can see the cut out stones at the entrance to the Halt, either side of the cycle path where a barrier would have been placed.
Our farms generate a range of produce, including dairy products, various meats, honey, preserves, eggs and vegetables, some of which are sold at the monthly Farmers Market, which takes place in the village hall on the second Sunday of each month along with the Big Breakfast. This market also offers some locally produced crafts.
The village holds various events throughout the year, such as a Duck Race, Auction of Promises, Summer Fete, Flower Show, theatre productions, suppers and lunches, quizzes and bingo to raise funds for the three village based charities, established to maintain our beautiful old church - St Mary’s -, our refurbished and extended Village Hall and our Recreation Area.
The village has a local news sheet – The Donyatt Despatch - which is produced on a monthly basis and distributed to the homes in the village, to keep residents informed of things that have been going on in the previous month and of upcoming events. The news sheet is also available on the News and Events page of this website, if you are interested to see what’s going on in Donyatt.
We have a local skittles league which has gained popularity and which plays a series of matches at the bowls club throughout the winter months. A village football club has also been set up, which uses the Recreation Area to practise and play. The Recreation area also has children's play equipment and is a safely enclosed area on Donyatt Hill. There is a twice monthly Whist Drive, a T-Cosy as well as other monthly opportunities for residents (and others) to meet and socialise.
So, although ours may not be a big settlement – blink and you might miss it on the A358 – it does offer its residents and visitors the opportunity to be part of a real community, with plenty on offer to get involved with and enjoy.