There's no place like home, says 'son of Cheddar Man'

Keith Nuthall
Sunday 09 March 1997 01:02 GMT

They are the family for whom the phrase "born and bred" was made: Adrian Targett and his family have lived in the same area of Britain for 9,000 years.

Until yesterday, the Somerset village of Cheddar was best known for its cheese and its gorge. Now, it is famous across the world for the Targetts, a tribe who may not be adventurous but are certainly constant.

Adrian, a history teacher, has had his DNA matched to that of Cheddar Man, a 9,000-year-old skeleton found in a cave in the gorge, proving that generation after generation of his family have lived in the same area.

Adrian Targett is not the only member of his family to have stuck, limpet- like, to the rocky Cheddar gorge and its environs. The man at the centre of one of the most astonishing DNA discoveries has an extended family of 46 and most of them remain in Somerset.

Scientists say the genetic fingerprint he shares with Cheddar Man would have been transmitted from mother to child. Adrian Targett, 42, is an only child and has no sons or daughters. But his maternal grandparents were fertile: they had 13 children, 11 of whom are still alive, including Mr Targett's mother, Hilda, nee Gibbings.

Mr Targett himself is unsure why he and his relatives chose to remain in the Somerset and Bristol area. His father's family is also large. He had eight brothers and sisters, and they had 10 children between them. Again, few have moved away.

"We've always been a tight-knit family. If there had been any necessity to move away for work, then maybe they would have moved. But it's very pleasant living here," he said.

Mr Targett was born in Bristol and only left the West Country to go to university in Swansea. After teacher training in Bath, he returned to the family's home territory and became a history teacher at Cheddar's King of Wessex Upper School in 1981, where he has remained.

"Cheddar is not too big," he says. "It's friendly, it's close to where I work. The school is very nice, because the people near here are very nice. With Somerset, there is a sense of being proud of the county. I was glad to see the back of Avon."

Mr Targett's family is not unique: the local studies library run by Somerset County Council says there is a tradition of people staying put in rural parts of the county. Common Somerset names like Webb, Crossman and Hippsley can be read in the local military rolls from the time of the attack by the Spanish Armada, and the history teacher says at least half-a-dozen families have been in the village for more than 200 years.

The manager of the Cheddar Show Caves museum, Bob Smart, said: "We have always thought that there was a link between these early cave-dwellers and ourselves."

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