The River Isle, also referred to as the River Ile, originates near Combe St Nicholas and flows through Somerset before merging with the River Parrett south of Langport near Midelney. It is formed by the convergence of several small springs in the vicinity of Wadeford, after which it follows a northward course, passing by Donyatt, Ilminster, Puckington, and Isle Abbotts before joining the Parrett.
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The upper section of the river descends 250 feet over a distance of 6 miles, while the subsequent 8 miles witness a gentler descent of 80 feet. This topography facilitated the construction of numerous mills along the upper reaches of the river, some of which were already established during the time of the Domesday Book. These mills played a pivotal role in the local economy, particularly in relation to the wool trade.To regulate water levels when the Westport Canal was built in the 1830s, a lock was constructed at the confluence of the River Isle and the River Parrett. The canal itself joins the river approximately 1 mile before reaching the Parrett. In the 1840s, Chard Reservoir was created by damming the River Isle to supply water for the Chard Canal.The town of Ilminster has a rich historical background, with records dating back to 725 AD and a charter granted by King Ethelred in 995 AD to the nearby Muchelney Abbey, located 10 miles to the north. The Domesday Book of 1086 mentions Ilminster as "Ileminstre," meaning "The church on the River Isle," derived from the Old English words "ysle" and "mynster." By that time, Ilminster had developed into a thriving community and was granted permission to hold a weekly market, a tradition that continues to this day. Ilminster was part of the hundred of Abdick and Bulstone.During the English Civil War in 1645, a skirmish took place in Ilminster between parliamentary troops led by Edward Massie and Royalist forces under Lord Goring. This confrontation centered around the control of the bridges in preparation for the Battle of Langport.