The approach to Yeovil from the east
Babylon Hill (actually in Dorset) and its associated north-south ridge, forms Yeovil's immediate skyline as you leave the town heading east towards Sherborne along the A30. Alternatively, if you are travelling from the east, Babylon Hill gives you your first glimpse of Yeovil.
The hill was the site of a minor skirmish, the Battle of Babylon Hill, during the English Civil War, which resulted in the Earl of Bedford's Parliamentarian forces driving back Sir Ralph Hopton's troops to Sherborne.
As demonstrated by the 1811 map shown below, the old London Road (today's A30) took a completely different route across Babylon Hill. From Yeovil Bridge the road ran along what is today's Compton Road as far as the bend in the road by the houses before continuing east-southeast across today's fields. This direct assault on the hillside meant that the gradient was steep and at the top of the hill was an 'S'-curve.
As more and more cars began to use the road the 'S'-bend became ever more dangerous. Consequently during the first half of the twentieth century the road was re-aligned. The new line of the road, still single carriageway, swept around the northwest-facing slopes of the hill to take advantage of the hill's contours to lessen the gradient and at the same time eliminating the dangerous 'S'-bend. The lower edge of the 'S' survives and now forms the parking lay-by still used today - as the road descends, the parking lay-by is on the left.
During the 1960s the A30 road was made into a dual carriageway, as seen in the Gallery below, using the new alignment.
In 1977 part of Babylon Hill was designated as a 2.2 hectare (5.4 acres) geological Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Maps & Aerial photographs
The 1811 topographical Ordnance Survey map of Babylon Hill and the eastern approaches to Yeovil. At this time the London Road (today's A30) took a completely different route across Babylon Hill, highlighted below. From Yeovil Bridge the road ran along what is today's Compton Road as far as the bend in the road by the houses before continuing east-southeast across today's fields. This direct assault on the hillside meant that the gradient was steep and at the top of the hill was a dangerous 'S'-curve.
This overlay of the modern Ordnance Survey over that of 1811 shows the line of today's A30 in pink, highlighting the difference in routes.
This aerial photograph of Babylon Hill dates to 1946 and shows the re-aligned single carriageway A30 taking a gentler approach to the hill by using the contours of the hillside. The 'ghost' of the original road is discernible from the bend in the Compton Road to the 'S'-bend at top right which is enlarged below.
An enlargement of the previous 1946 aerial photograph showing the line of the earlier road approaching from centre left before developing into the 'S' bend. At the lower edge of the 'S', outlined with a row of trees, is the part of the surviving earlier road now used as the parking lay-by still used today - as the road descends, the parking lay-by is on the left.
This modern aerial photograph 'borrowed' from Google shows a 'ghost' of the former road running from the bend in the Compton Road across the centre of the photograph to the brown outcrop north of today's road towards centre right, which was the original 'S' bend location.
Courtesy of Steve Wills
A 2013 aerial view of Babylon Hill. The line of the old road is discernible left of centre, marked by a distinct change of colour running across the field.
Yeovil viewed from Babylon Hill in a sketch published by Porter & Custard in 1839.
Work begins on making the A30 dual carriageway in the mid-1960s. This photograph was taken from the Yeovil Bridge Toll House. At lower left is the start of Compton Road, line of the original road to London. The buildings right of centre in the mid-distance were Guppy's garage and petrol filling station.
In the mid-1960s the Babylon Hill section of the A30 was converted to dual carriageway. Rock and soil was taken from the top of the hill by the 'S'-bend and used to fill the low-lying field alongside the existing road seen here.
Photographed by Geoff Bowler, courtesy of Sue Bowler
The new dual carriageway approaches Yeovil Bridge in 1969.
At centre is the remaining section of the old road, now used as a car lay-by. And no, I didn't use my camera while hurtling along to Sherborne - I nicked this from Google.