125-year history of Somerset County Council marked

County Councillors have marked a moment in Somerset County Council history by standing for a commemorative photograph for the Council’s 125th birthday year.

It is 125 years since the County Council was founded, with a first meeting chaired by Sir Richard Horner Paget at Highbridge Town Hall in 1889.

Before its foundation, unelected Justices of the Peace had been responsible for providing the county’s justice and administration.

However, the County Council’s remit swiftly developed, with Somerset’s roads making the greatest demand on resources as the Council acted to modernise routes used by pony and trap for the age of the motor car.

Today, Somerset County Council’s Highways team maintains 6,640km of Somerset roads – the equivalent straight line distance from County Hall to the centre of Alaska. In 2013-14 the team succeeded in repairing a staggering 25,000 safety defects and took 25,000 enquiries from customers.

Details from the 1881 Census show that around 510,000 people lived in Somerset at that time, in an area including Bath and North Somerset and reaching as far as the borders of Bristol. This is compared to the almost 530,000 people recorded in the 2011 Census living in the five Somerset districts we know and love in 2014.

In 1881 the county was also divided into Poor Law Unions and registration districts rather than wards, with an average of five people per household – twice as many as now.

2014’s Chairman of Somerset County Council, David Fothergill, said: “For 125 years the County Council has been supporting the people of Somerset in all aspects of their lives, from their roads, rights of way and school services, to social care and libraries.

“The contribution made by so many officers and members over this time has been enormous, and despite current challenges I am confident about the supportive strength of the Council in the future.”

SOM CC FULL COUNCIL Nov 2014 resize

Check out our Flickr Gallery to see more photos of Somerset County Council over the years: https://www.flickr.com/photos/somersetcountycouncil/sets/72157649165603228/

Notes to editors

1881 census data can be seen at www.visionofbritain.org.uk/unit/10134780