Useful Notes: The West Country
'Cause I got a bran' new combine 'arvester an' Ah'll give you the key!
Gerrorf moi lan'!
Technically it's the South West Country but that doesn't have the same ring to it. A crucial note before we begin; in the UK "Cider" refers exclusively to Hard Cider with alcohol in it, anything else is called apple juice.
The West Country is the informal term for the area of the United Kingdom
that encompasses the counties of Cornwall
, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Bristol. Known for being very rural with towns and cities being small and spread out (resulting in very poor support for the Labour Party, who came fifth
in European elections) As such it's mostly depicted on TV as farmer towns where the inhabitants wear wellies and tweed and speak with thick Somerset accents
, even though the majority of people living in the South West actually speak perfectly standard English. Known to everyone else as "Mummerset". Expect plenty of 'oo-ar's!' to be heard and some cunning wit or action to follow. Was known as "Zedland" to wits in the 19th century, owing to the way the accent turns S to Z ("Oi be drinkin' zoider!") Generally a laid-back set of counties too, especially considering the amount of comedians the area has produced. Bristol is the only major city in the region note
and as such is the focal point for most events of notice.
Known for producing huge amounts of cider and scrumpy, cheddar cheese,note
clotted cream and Cornish pasties. Naturally, they are all consumed in greater quantities down there than in the rest of the UK. Also gave us the Glastonbury Festival
too and also is the location of Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Also, Yorkshireman Patrick Stewart
trained as an actor in this area. Weston-super-Mare in Somerset was also fairly well known for its pier by the beach and was an icon in the West Country; the pier was seriously damaged by a fire in 2009, but has reopened as of late 2010. Is also quite popular amongst engineers due to having such marvels like the Severn Bridges and the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, the fact Bristol also had an important role in the Aerospace Industry and helped build Concorde also helps, Concorde's last flight ended up returning it to Bristol, where it now stands at Filton Airport until a permanent museum can be built. The local airport also started doing flights from there to New York City a few years back. Bristol also is somewhat notorious for its relationship with Pirates
because the Bristol Channel coast was a major sea-trade region during the age of pirates, and the coast was a notoriously dangerous for shipwrecks (not always accidental), so some of the speech is derived from pirate jargon (Plymouth and Cornwall also have the pirate association, since many pirates came out of Plymouth and Cornwall's economy was once 90% reliant on smuggling!). Has recently had some of the city renovated and tidied up. Word of advice though: Avoid Knowle West unless you absolutely have to go there, although that area is improving.
Plymouth and most of West Devon are liberally drenched in references to Sir Francis Drake, British National Hero of the 16th Century and the last interesting person to come out of the county (apart from actor twins Harry And Luke Treadaway
); Plymouth is also the site of the Mayflower Steps and the departure of various soon-to-be-Americans from the country.note
Generally West Country folk share more of a rivalry with the Welsh
than the rest of England. Part of this is due to the allegations that the Welsh were unhappy with the fact that the first Severn Bridge had its toll booth on the English side, prompting the second bridge to have the booth on the Welsh side.
Pretty cheesed off that Gordon Brown
's government imposed a 10% price increase on cider, as if that was unexpected. Luckily that hike was scrapped because of the impending elections in order to save other pieces of legislation.
Examples of famous/fictional people:
- J. K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter was born in Yate, a small town just north of Bristol. However, the series was conceived in Edinburgh.
- Popular rock band Muse hail from Teignmouth in Devon.
- The Wurzels: Somerset band who make songs about cider, farming and the West Country in general, usually perform with a pint of cider in their hands. Popular amongst the West Country and also amongst university students for obvious reasons.
- Banksy: well known graffiti artist born in Bristol
- Blackbeard: The famous buccaneer was also born in Bristol.
- Jenson Button: 2009 Formula One world champion. Born in Frome, Somerset.
- Simon Pegg: The comedian and actor was born in Gloucester. The film Hot Fuzz was set in a fictional West Country town which pretty much showcases the typical West Country stereotypes.
- Justin Lee Collins: Another comedian who was born in Bristol.
- Bill Bailey: Yet another actor/comedian. Born in Bath, Somerset. You can probably see the trend here.
- Jethro: And another comedian, this one born in Cornwall.
- Russell Howard: And yet again, another comedian!. Also born in Bristol.
- Lee Evans: one more comedian for you. Born in Avonmouth, Bristol.
- Edgar Wright: The director of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead was born in Poole, Dorset, but grew up Wells, Somerset.
- Doctor Who
- Amy Pond in was born in Scotland and moved to a village about twenty miles out of Gloucester when she was a kid.
- Jon Pertwee received some of his education in Dorset, although he was born in Chelsea.
- Billie Piper was born in Swindon.
- John Cleese of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers was born in Weston-super-Mare in Somerset and was educated in Bristol.
- David Prowse was also born in Somerset and educated in Bristol too, Vader as a farmer, eh.
- In fact, that's why James Earl Jones dubbed him over; Prowse's voice was just to friendly.
- Since Trip Hop got started in Bristol, its early creators embody this: Massive Attack, Portishead (named after their hometown) and Tricky (from Knowle West, Bristol).
- Michael Adams, Britain's current #1 chess player, was born and brought up in Cornwall, and now lives in Somerset.
- Fictional example: Bomber from Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, portrayed as a Bristolian by Pat Roach (really from The Midlands).
- Doc Martin is set in a small fishing village somewhere Cornwall-ish.
- The moles of Redwall, with their infamously incomprehensible Funetik Aksent, were based on some Somerset inhabitants Brian Jacques met during RAF training.
- How could we forget Archie Leach (AKA Cary Grant), born and raised in Bristol.
- The members of XTC are from Swindon.
- Stephen Merchant makes yet another comedian, co-writer of The Office (UK) and Extras (with a small part in the first, and larger part in the second) and also voiced Wheatley in Portal 2.
- Although Terry Pratchett was born in Buckinghamshire, his family moved to Somerset when he was a child and he's spent much of his adult life in Somerset and then Wiltshire.
- Robert E. Howard's "somber puritan" Solomon Kane came from Devon.
- James Purefoy, who played Solomon Kane, as well as Mark Antony in Rome, is a lad from Somerset.
- Phil Harding from Time Team who, despite being a highly accomplished and internationally renowned archaeologist, took a particular delight in cultivating a West Country yokel image with Wild Hair and poacher's hat.
- The novelist and poet Thomas Hardy was from Dorset, and set his novels in a realistic but fictionalized version of the West Country.
- Most working class characters from series/The Archers sound like they're from here even though the series is allegedly set in The Midlands. The series was originally conceived at a time when not many BBC employees would have known the difference, and it's stood ever since.
- Robert Newton, English actor, whose portrayal of Long John Silver in Treasure Island using an exaggerated form of his native Dorset accent gave the world the Talk Like a Pirate trope. Arrrr!
- Skins is set in Bristol, and the characters exhibit or encounter those who exhibit certain West Country stereotypes