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All posts by Discover North Somerset Team

Friends of the Museum talks

The Friends of Weston Museum host regular talks on topics of local historical interest. Two talks are planned in October and November: 

Friends of Weston Museum

On 18 October,  Stuart Burroughs (Director of the Museum of Bath at Work) will present ‘They Took to the Sea’ – a film made in 1962 about a group of children from Birmingham brought to Weston by train for a day’s outing; some had never seen the sea before. The film shows many places in 1960s Weston and may bring back some wonderful memories for any visitors who came here in decades past. 

The Friends welcome Amal Khreisheh, Assistant Curator from the South West Heritage Trust on 15 November to talk about ‘Bringing Weston Museum to Life: how we made the new displays’.  Amal looks after the North Somerset collections and played a key role in the museum’s redevelopment. She will talk about the gallery re-display from a curatorial perspective, highlighting some star items from the displays.

Talks are free to members of the Friends, a small fee on the door applies to non-members.  More details about the Museum and the Friends can be found on the museum website.

Heritage Action Zone in North Somerset

Heritage Action Zones 

Heritage Action Zones, Historic England
Heritage Action Zones, Historic England

Heritage Action Zones will unleash the power in England’s historic environment to create economic growth and improve quality of life in villages, towns and cities.

Working with local people and partners, Historic England will help to breathe new life into old places that are rich in heritage and full of promise – unlocking their potential and making them more attractive to residents, businesses, tourists and investors. We will do this with joint-working, grant funding and sharing our skills.

Historic buildings that have deteriorated through decades of neglect will be restored and put back into use; conservation areas improved to kick-start regeneration and renewal; and unsung places will be recognised and celebrated for their unique character and heritage, helping instil a sense of local pride wherever there’s a Heritage Action Zone. 

Great Weston Heritage Action Zone

Over three years Great Weston Heritage Action Zone aims to boost economic growth and keep Weston on the map as a great place to live and work.

  • Researching Weston’s heritage and urban development, to inform a new book
  • Reviewing Weston’s listed buildings
  • Bringing the town centre’s historic buildings back into use as high quality homes
  • Grant schemes to improve the public realm, shop signs and shopfronts
  • New, clear heritage routes across the town, plus new pedestrian access to Weston Museum, Weston Town Square, the seafront and side lanes
  • Improved design standards and quality in conservation areas and surrounding areas
  • A local listing project
  • Heritage health walks and a ‘Looking Up’ initiative to encourage appreciation of Weston’s heritage

Great Weston Heritage Action Zone aims to help unlock the economic potential of historic sites in Weston by encouraging local partners to make use of their resources in a creative and focussed way, to enhance local places and achieve sustainable growth. Weston’s beautiful, but often underappreciated, Victorian and early 20th century buildings stand ready to become new business premises and homes. The regeneration of Weston’s historic shopfronts and public places will tempt more shoppers and attract new businesses. Better links between the town centre, railway station and seafront will make sure visitors don’t miss all Weston has to offer.

The Great Weston Heritage Action Zone contact is Cara MacMahon.  E:    T: 01934 42 6825

Historical maps launched online

For the first time, historical maps of North Somerset are now freely available online thanks to the Know Your Place West of England project, supported by the National Lottery. 

From the coastal communities of Portishead, Clevedon and Weston, further inland to Blagdon and Leigh Woods, you can now discover how North Somerset has been transformed over time. Five historic map layers of North Somerset are now online, allowing you to explore some of the most famous natural and man-made landmarks, from Uphill to Wrington Vale, and Royal Portbury Docks to the famous Grand Pier at Weston. Alongside historic maps you can freely explore data from the Historic Environment Record for North Somerset.

Know Your Place logo
Know Your Place project logo.

You will also be able to upload and share your own information about the area straight onto Know Your Place helping to build a rich and diverse community map of local heritage for everyone – from schoolchildren to family historians and planners to enthusiasts of community heritage.

More than 50 project volunteers are working hard to prepare further historic maps, which will be added onto Know Your Place North Somerset over the coming months. South West Heritage Trust in Taunton supplied many of the original maps. In addition, collections from museums are featured in a touring exhibition that will visit North Somerset libraries in the coming months.

Cat Lodge, Archaeologist at North Somerset Council, said: “We are grateful for the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund in facilitating such an exciting project which will enable residents of North Somerset to better interact with and explore the history and heritage of their local areas. Through the use of digital mapping, users are able to see how their communities have developed over time and add to the historical knowledge of those places.

“Know Your Place is a valuable resource which will not only aid community historical and archaeological groups and schools in local research, but also contribute to adding new information to North Somerset Council’s Historic Environment Record and raise the profile of heritage in the district.”

Nerys Watts, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said: “Know Your Place West of England is a fantastic resource, bringing together the history of this area so people can discover the ever-changing make-up of the places where they live and work. If you have bought a National Lottery ticket recently, you have helped to support these types of projects that are preserving the precious heritage of our communities for future generations. Thank you.” 

Heritage Lottery Fund
Heritage Lottery Fund logo

Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the Know Your Place West of England project was awarded £379,800 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), with generous match-funding and in-kind support from local authorities and heritage groups in the region, including £5,000 match-funding from lead partner South Gloucestershire Council.

You can start exploring North Somerset’s maps and heritage information at the project’s website

Vote for your favourite blue plaque

The Weston Mercury are inviting readers to vote for their favourite blue plaque in Weston-super-Mare.  The town’s heritage is being celebrated with 13 blue plaques dedicated to prominent people from the town’s past. The first – for Olympian Paulo Radmilovic – has already been installed by Weston Town Council. But now you have a chance to vote which plaques you would like to see go up next, subject to the agreement of the building’s owner. Simply read the biographies of these 12 people, then vote for your favourites in the poll on the website.

New heritage walk in Clevedon

Marlens have compiled a new walk covering the Clevedon seafront heritage trail.    

The trail begins at the pier’s toll house in Marine Parade and leads walkers to the other side of the seafront, along Poet’s Walk before ending at St Andrew’s Church in Old Church Road. The route also passes a number of interesting and historical landmarks and buildings along the way including the bandstand, Marine Lake and Clevedon Hall.

Talks for 2017

The Weston-Super-Mare Archaeological and Natural History Society (WAHNS) plan to host some new talks this spring for members and non-members. Recommended to check with the group before attending.

Tuesday 11th April 2017: “The Archaeology of Cross Rail, Western Section”
Vix Hughes, Project Officer, Oxford Archaeology.

Tuesday 9th May 2017: “Rock End and the lost cottages of Cheddar”
Susan Shaw, Somerset Vernacular Buildings Research Group.

Meetings will be held at Victoria Methodist Church Hall, Station Road,  Weston-Super-Mare, BS23 1XU
Doors open at 7.00pm for a 7.30pm start.  Parking behind church after 7pm.
Refreshments are free and will be served during the meetings.
Members £1, visitors £2.50.



 At the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 there were about 370 mills in Somerset but these were all water powered or driven by animals. The earliest reference to a windmill in Somerset was at Seavington near Ilminster in around 1212.  References to windmills became more common from the 13th century onwards.  Many of the early windmills were erected on land which belonged to Glastonbury Abbey e.g. the Polden Hills, which had good soil for growing corn. 

The earliest windmills were post mills.  These continued to be used until the 19th century.  Post mills consist of a timber body containing the machinery and carrying the sails, which pivots around a single massive vertical timber post, so that the sails can be turned to face the wind. The post is held in position by 4 diagonal quarter bars, which are in turn fixed to 2 timbers known as cross trees at ground level.   Post mills were often set upon specially constructed artificial mounds or sometimes made use of existing round barrows (ancient burial mounds).

In the 16th century the power of the abbeys and manors began to decline and many windmills were abandoned.  By the early 18th century tower mills were replacing post mills in Somerset.  They were more stable than post mills and also had more storage and working space in them.  In a tower mill only the cap and sails had to be turned to face the wind.  In many cases the tower mills were built on sites that had previously been occupied by post mills.  No post mills have survived anywhere in Somerset and no windmills remain intact in North Somerset.

Many of Somerset’s windmills ceased to be used by the mid-19th century. After the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, cheap grain imports from the Americas flooded the market and prices dropped.  Imported grain was milled close to the ports where it arrived in the country. The decline in Somerset’s windmills was accelerated by a move away from arable to pasture and a series of bad harvests in the 1870s. 

The truncated remains of seven windmills still exist in North Somerset: at Portishead, Uphill, Worlebury Hill, Locking, Felton, Brockley Wood and Hutton.  There is also a replica windmill tower at Kenn.

Windmill at Uphill Hill

Uphill Hill

The windmill on Uphill Hill was probably built in the 1780s.  It was derelict by 1829.  The tower was rebuilt with a castellated top and internal spiral staircase in 1934 so it could be used as an observation tower.  It is still in use for this purpose.

Windmill, Portishead

Windmill, Portishead

Portishead Windmill

Portishead Windmill was built by John Nesbitt in 1832.  However it had stopped working by 1846 because it was unable to compete with a steam driven mill in the town.  Around 1848 the machinery was removed and the mill tower was converted into additional living accommodation for the tenants of Mill Cottage.  When a golf course was laid out around it in 1908 the tower was incorporated into the clubhouse.  It is currently an integral part of the Windmill Inn public house.

Observatory on Worlebury Hill

The Observatory on Worlebury Hill

A windmill was first recorded at the east end of Worlebury Hill in 1760.  In 1870 an advertisement was placed for the sale or rent of the windmill and its associated bakery business.  However it was converted into an observatory not long after and a parapet was added.

Replica Windmill at Kenn

Replica windmill at Kenn

 A three storey windmill with a thatched cap was built at Kenn in 1821.  By around 1883 wind power was being supplemented by a steam engine.  The windmill had stopped working by 1900.  It was used as a Home Guard lookout during the Second World War.  The ruined tower survived until 2003 when it was demolished during the building of Kenn Business Park.  A replica mill tower was built on Windmill Road.

It is not known when Brockley Wood Windmill was built but it was in ruins by 1829.  Part of the tower is still standing deep in the heart of Brockley Woods.

Vale Mill at Locking

Vale Mill, Locking

Vale Mill on Moor Lane at Locking was built in around 1813. The windmill stopped working between 1906 and 1910.  It stood empty but intact until it was gutted by fire in 1962.  It remained derelict until the late 1960s when it was incorporated into a new house.

Hutton Windmill was probably built in the early 19th century.  It had stopped working by 1864 and was derelict by the 1920s.  It was rebuilt and used a Royal Observer Corps Post during the Second World War.  It is now located in the garden of a private house on Windmill Hill.

Broadfield Windmill Felton

Broadfield Mill, Felton

Broadfield Mill on Felton Common was located on the top of a hill, 190 metres above sea level.  It is not known when it was built but it ceased to work late in the 1880s and was converted into a house soon afterwards.

Further reading:

Windmills of Somerset and the Men who Worked Them: Alfred J. Coulthard and Martin Watts. The Research Publishing Co., 1978.

 Somerset Windmills: Martin Watts. Agraphicus, 1975


Poets’ Walk, Clevedon

The town of Clevedon has connections to two of England’s best known poets.

Poets' Walk signpost
Poets’ Walk signpost

Poets’ Walk is a popular footpath which runs along the coast and around Wain’s Hill and Church Hill at the southern end of Clevedon.  The walk is said to have inspired poets such as Alfred Tennyson, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Makepeace Thackeray, who visited the town.  The formal path which exists today was constructed in 1929. Poets’ Walk was designated as a Local Nature Reserve in 1993.

Poets' Walk looking north towards Town
Poets’ Walk looking north towards Town
Poets' Walk, Clevedon 1
Poets’ Walk
Poets' Walk, Clevedon 2
Poets’ Walk


Sugar Lookout Point, Clevedon
Sugar Lookout


The Sugar Lookout is a feature on Poets’ Walk. It was built by Ferdinand Beeston in around 1835.  It is said to have been used in the mid-19th century by a family of sugar importers called Finzel to look out for ships sailing up the Bristol Channel, which were carrying sugar from the West Indies.  It later fell into ruin but has recently been restored.


Coleridge Cottage,Old Church Road, Clevedon
Cottage on Old Church Road where the Coleridges stayed

Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his wife Sarah spent the first few months of their married life in a cottage on Old Church Road in Clevedon in 1795.










In the mid-18th century the author William Makepeace Thackeray was a frequent visitor of the Elton Family, who lived at Clevedon Court.  He is best known as a novelist but he did also write some poetry.

Alfred Tennyson had a close friend at Cambridge University called Arthur Hallam.  Arthur’s mother was a member of the Elton family of Clevedon Court.  Arthur, who was a poet and essayist, was engaged to marry Tennyson’s sister Emily but he died suddenly in Vienna in 1833 at the age of 22.  His body was brought back to England and he was buried in the family vault at St Andrew’s Church in Clevedon.  In 1850 Tennyson wrote a poem called In Memorium in tribute to his friend.  In the same year he made his first visit to Clevedon.  The house on Old Church Road in Clevedon, where he is said to have stayed, is called Tennyson House.   A nearby road is called Tennyson Avenue.

St Andrew's Church, Clevedon
St Andrew’s Church, Clevedon
Tennyson House in Clevedon
Tennyson House, Old Church Road, Clevedon
Tennyson Avenue street sign, Clevedon
Tennyson Avenue