YEOVIL in 2000?
In celebration of King George V’s Silver Jubilee on 6 May 1935, several local journalists produced a Souvenir programme. One of the contributors looked forward to Yeovil in the year 2000 and this was his vision (tongue somewhat in cheek perhaps) of the town in the brave new world 65 years later:
‘The flood-lit air port was astir with the busy hum of machines and hurrying figures when I arrived by the night mail. It was my first glimpse of Yeovil after many decades. I had returned to take part in the city’s celebrations at the birth of the year 2,000.
‘I knew that the one-time old Somerset market town had become the hub of the West, the key town to one of England’s most flourishing shires, but the transformation that had taken place was startling. Looking out of the windows of my host’s car as it glided silently through the town, ablaze with light, it might well have been a dream city.
“No wonder you fail to recognise it” said my old friend, smiling at my bewilderment. “Of course you must remember that a very large area of Yeovil as you knew it was scheduled for demolition long ago and has been rebuilt,” he explained.
“One of the first steps taken by the City Council was the re-planning of Yeovil into industrial and residential zones. There has been a clean sweep, and most of the old landmarks have disappeared. There are still some romantic old-world corners left, but you will have to go out into the countryside to find them for many of the villages of your day are now suburbs of Yeovil.”
‘It had been a gala day in Yeovil, and thousands of people were present at the opening by the National Director of pastimes of the huge new sports stadium, where a display had been given by many famous speedway “stars.” Now the night-life of the city was in full swing, and Yeovil’s “Broadway” glittered with light.
‘Later I was to discover that in spite of the robot-like efficiency with which the life of the city was carried on, the architect, in planning the new Yeovil, had built with the mind of an artist, and had given it a new beauty. There were spacious parks, broad avenues and boulevards that had taken the place of narrow, crowded streets with great motor ways.
‘Garden cities, with their own communal halls and social centres, had replaced the old housing estates, while in the industrial zone itself, though the factories were working at full pressure, smoke and grime were things of the past. The system of employment was so designed that there was work for all.
‘The feature of the new Yeovil was its imposing Guildhall, the centre of civic administration, with its lofty Gothic pillars and noble facade.
‘For the old market place, nestling under the shadow of the Mother Church, now a cathedral, I looked in vain, but on a new site, covering many acres, Yeovil Market had grown to become another Smithfield.
‘Despite the growth of aviation and the impetus it had given to one of Yeovil’s most flourishing industries, railways continued to play an important part in the nation’s life as far as heavy freightage was concerned. This was apparent by the big railway depot, Yeovil Central, which had taken the place of the three stations that formerly served the town.
‘With its rise to fame and the cosmopolitan character it had acquired, there had sprung up a new culture. Yeovil had become one of the most musical towns in the country. Its schools and colleges were well known, the Engineering Institute having gained world-wide repute.
‘Yeovil Hospital, too, in its park-like surroundings, had also moved with the times, and was the centre from which sprang many new health services, ranging from delightful hostels for mothers and babies to the rest home for the aged in the eventide of their lives.
‘What fascinated me most, perhaps, was the new accent that the inhabitants had acquired. Had any one asked, in the plaintive tones of the old days, “Where be I too?” he would have been regarded with as much curiosity as an aborigine. Fashions had also changed, but it was the men who now set the pace in raiment of colourful hue.
‘Sleepy Somerset had gone for ever. As the vision of Yeovil faded, I realised the very name of the place had changed. Yeovil was no longer Yeovil but Yeotopia.’