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Alfred Leete, graphic artist

Alfred Leete

Alfred Ambrose Chew Leete was born in Thorpe Achurch in Northamptonshire on 28th August 1882. His parents, John and Harriet, were farmers. John Leete gave up farming, due to ill health, in 1893 and the family moved to Weston-super-Mare, where Harriet ran a series of boarding houses. Alfred attended Kingsholme School and the School of Science and Art (now Weston College). At the age of 12 he was apprenticed to a surveyor in Bristol. He loved drawing and was a self-taught artist. In 1897 the Daily Graphic paid him for a drawing and he went on to make regular contributions to the Bristol Magpie.

In 1899 Alfred Leete moved to London to work as an artist for a printer. He went freelance in 1905, when the magazine Punch published one of his drawings. Over the next few years he contributed cartoons and drawings to the comic Ally Sloper's Half Holiday, the Pall Mall Gazette, Strand Magazine, Tatler, Sketch, The Bystander, Punch and the London Opinion. He specialised in comic illustration, cartoons, posters and advertisements.

In November 1909 Alfred married Edith Jane Webb. Their first child, a daughter called Betty, was born in 1910 but died a few weeks later. Their son Alfred John was born in 1914.

Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August 1914. On 5th September 1914 Alfred's drawing of the Secretary of State for War, Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, pointing his finger, featured on the front cover of the London Opinion, with the words "Your Country Needs YOU" beneath the picture. The image was later used by the magazine as an unofficial recruitment poster with the words "Britons [Kitchener] "Wants YOU", Join Your Country's Army!". The magazine also had this image displayed on advertising hoardings in London in the autumn of 1914.

Poster Lord Kitchener
Alfred Leete’s iconic drawing of Lord Kitchener

In 1917 the American artist James Montgomery Flagg adapted Alfred's drawing by substituting Uncle Sam for Lord Kitchener and using the slogan "I Want YOU for U.S. Army". It also inspired similar posters, which were produced in Australia, Canada, South Africa, India, Italy, Austria, Germany and Russia. In the Second World War Kitchener's face was replaced by Churchill's on a recruitment poster for the Australian Imperial Force. Although Alfred Leete's drawing of Lord Kitchener was never used as an official recruitment poster, it has become one of the most iconic and enduring images of the First World War.

During the First World War Alfred produced several comic cartoons, which made fun of the Germans. In 1916 he joined the Artists' Rifles. He served with them on the Western Front in France and produced a series of drawings of his experiences there.

In the 1920s Alfred produced illustrations for successful advertising campaigns for companies such as Guinness, Bovril, London Underground, Younger's Ales and Rowntree's. He often visited Weston-super-Mare and produced advertisements for local businesses and cartoons about local issues. In 1925 he designed the cover for the Weston-super-Mare Official Guide, which was entitled "Atlantic Breezes".

Alfred Leete Atlantic Breezes
Atlantic Breezes 1

Alfred Leete was taken ill on a trip to Italy and he died of a brain haemorrhage at his home in Kensington, London on 17th June 1933. He was buried in Milton Road Cemetery in Weston-super-Mare.

Grave of Alfred Leete
Alfred Leete’s grave in Milton Rd, Weston


Knightstone Island

Knightstone Island

Knightstone Island is now permanently linked to the northern end of Weston-super-Mare's seafront but on a map dated 1806 it is shown as a separate island with a tidal causeway.

1806 Plan of Weston
Plan of Weston-super-Mare showing Knightstone Island in 1806

From The First Guide to Weston-super-Mare 1822, edited by Ernest Baker and reprinted in 1901.

Knightstone Island was acquired by the Pigott family in 1696 (they later became the Smyth-Pigotts) and they owned it until the early 19th century. It was purchased in around 1820 by Mr John Howe from Bristol. He constructed the first medicinal baths there, which were rented in 1822 by Benjamin Atwell. There were hot and cold saltwater baths, a lodging house, public refreshment rooms and a reading room. At that time the island was connected to the mainland by a natural pebble ridge, which was covered at high tide.

Reverend Thomas Pruen bought Knightstone Island in 1824. He commissioned the construction of a causeway to the island, which was above the high tide level, and a low pier, which was used by pleasure boats. He also built an open-air swimming pool on the shore, which was replenished by seawater at every high tide. This was extended into the current Marine Lake in 1929.

Dr Edward Long Fox, a physician from Brislington, bought Knightstone Island c1828. He and his son Dr F.K. Fox carried out further developments on the island, including raising the level of the causeway using Cornish granite, building a lodging house for patients and a new bath house.

The island changed hands several more times after 1850 and the buildings on it were rebuilt or re-modelled several times. The island was eventually acquired by the local council. They enlarged the island by building a new retaining wall on the north eastern side. They built a new swimming pool and a Pavilion, which both opened in May 1902. The Pavilion was designed by the architect J.S. Stewart and included refreshment rooms, a reading room, a billiard room and a theatre. It had electric lighting and a hot water heating system. Seawater was used in the swimming pool and a huge settling tank was constructed underneath the pool and pavilion.

In September 1903 hundreds of people were temporarily marooned on the island and Eddie Bryant, the Pavilion's electrical engineer, was drowned when the causeway was swept away in a storm during a performance at the theatre.

Band concerts, plays, operas and other shows were performed at the Knightstone Pavilion and films were shown but the stage was too small for large productions.

By the 1970s Knightstone Pavilion was struggling financially and it finally closed in 1991. There were plans to convert the site into a leisure complex but these never came to anything and the buildings on Knightstone Island gradually deteriorated.

In 2006-7 the whole island was redeveloped. The Bath House and front section of the ground floor of the Pavilion were converted into commercial premises. The rest of the Pavilion and the swimming pool were converted into homes and two new apartment blocks were built on the island.

The Queen visited to re-open the island’s perimeter walkway on 20th July 2007. The Coronation Promenade was first opened in 1953 to celebrate her coronation.

Further Reading:

Knightstone: The Story of Weston-super-Mare's ‘Island' Theatre: Jonathan Shorney. Redcliffe Press, 2015

Bath House entrance
Entrances to the Bath House on the left and Swimming Pool on the right
Pavilion Knightstone
Knightstone Pavilion
2017 Knightstone
Knightstone Island in 2017
Plaque for Coronation Promenade
Plaque commemorating the re-opening of the Coronation Promenade by the Queen in 2007

Marine Lake and Knightstone Island

Knightstone Island from across Marine Lake







Great Weston Conservation Area Appraisals (CAA) Consultation opportunities

1) Online eConsult

The draft Great Weston Conservation Area Appraisal work is now on eConsult — North Somerset Council’s public consultation platform. All five documents that make up the draft appraisal work can be accessed via eConsult.

Here is the link:

2) Public Consultation event — Public workshop Tuesday 25th September. 5.30pm-7.30pm. Weston Museum. Burlington St. WsM

Over and above the eConsult opportunity we are hosting a public workshop.

The public / stakeholders are invited to register to attend a workshop to discuss the draft reports.

The two hour workshop provides the opportunity to consider the draft Appraisals and to feed in your views.

To get further information about the workshop and to reserve a place please click on this link:


We are currently working with Consultants (Allies and Morrison) to develop draft Conservation Area Appraisals and Management Plans for Weston. With the intention to present to North Somerset Council Executive meeting on 4th December for adoption.

The proposal is to merge the current Conservation Areas in Weston into one Conservation Area that is subdivided into four separate character areas. This includes adding to the footprint by including the town centre and residential areas around Ellenborough Park and Clarence Park.

There are 5 reports to consider. The first is an introduction to the concept of the Great Weston Conservation Area. There are then four character appraisals for: Hillside area, Seafront area, Town Centre area and the Whitecross area. You are welcome to comment on all of the reports or some of them.

Tin Tabernacles

As the population of Britain grew during the 19th century, the Church of England, Roman Catholic Church and non-conformist denominations needed new affordable churches, which could be erected quickly. A series of religious revivals during the 19th and early 20th century also led to an increase in the number of people attending churches.

Folding a sheet of iron gives it stiffness and rigidity. In the 1820s Henry Palmer, an engineer from London, developed a new method of corrugating iron. Richard Walker realised that Palmer’s corrugated iron could be used for cladding buildings such as warehouses. Then in 1837 hot dip galvanising was invented by a French engineer called Stanislas Sorel. Galvanising is the process by which iron is coated with a thin layer of zinc, thus preventing it from corroding and greatly increasing its life span. Tin was never used for coating corrugated iron for buildings.

Large scale production of prefabricated corrugated iron buildings began in the 1850s. Churches, chapels and mission halls were designed and built in flat pack kit form and sold via catalogues. These churches were nicknamed tin tabernacles. A tabernacle is “a temporary dwelling; generally movable, constructed of branches, boards, or canvas; a hut, tent, booth” (Oxford English Dictionary). Most tin tabernacles were intended to provide short term accommodation for church congregations while they raised money to build a more permanent church. However many were never replaced by more durable structures.

Tin tabernacles were built on a brick or rubble and mortar foundation. They were timber framed and clad on the outside with galvanised corrugated iron. Corrugated iron sheets were rigid and light enough to span between roof beams unsupported. The sheets could be overlapped to form an interlocking and watertight roof.

The inside walls were usually lined with wooden tongue and groove boards. The flooring was either beaten earth, flagstones or suspended wooden floorboards. The buildings were insulated with felt placed between the inner and outer walls. The windows were sometimes rectangular but many churches had Gothic arch windows. Some had small steeples or bell towers on their roofs. Lighting was usually provided by paraffin lamps. In urban areas this was later replaced by gas lighting. Small coal or wood burning stoves were sometimes installed to heat the buildings.

Prefabricated corrugated iron buildings were made by several different British companies in cities such as London, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Norwich (Boulton and Paul). In addition to churches, they also made a variety of other types of buildings e.g. houses, village halls, synagogues, school rooms, temperance halls, hotels, bunkhouses, sports pavilions, hospital wards and warehouses. Many were exported to Canada, Australia, California and Africa, especially during their gold rush periods. The peak period for the production of corrugated iron buildings was probably the 1890s.

Most tin tabernacles were eventually demolished or are now derelict. A few have been converted to other secular uses but some are still in use as churches. The tin tabernacle former Baptist Chapel on the A38 at Barrow Common is in good condition but doesn't seem to be in use as a church. It was built at some point between 1913 and 1930. Elsewhere in Somerset tin tabernacle churches are still in use at Edithmead, Langley Marsh, Porlock Weir and Alhampton near Ditcheat.

Tin Tabernacle
Barrow Common Tin Tabernacle
Tin Tabernacle 2
Barrow Common Tin Tabernacle

Further Reading:

Ian Smith: Tin Tabernacles: Corrugated Iron Mission Halls, Churches & Chapels of Britain, published by Camrose Media in 2004


Public Water Supplies

Safe and clean drinking water is currently supplied to the whole of North Somerset, Bristol, South Gloucestershire and parts of Somerset, Bath & North East Somerset and Gloucestershire by Bristol Water.

Several prominent local citizens in Bristol formed a group in 1845, with the aim of supplying clean drinking water to Bristol. The city had suffered a cholera epidemic in 1832 and the disease was spread via contaminated water supplies. The Bristol Waterworks Company was established on 16th July 1846 by an Act of Parliament. The following year the first water flowed from Chewton Mendip via Barrow into Bristol. Bristol was hit by another cholera epidemic in 1849. The first of three reservoirs at Barrow was constructed in 1850. Later sand filters were added to treat the water.

In 1888 parliamentary permission was given for Blagdon Reservoir, which captures water draining off the Mendip Hills via the River Yeo. Work on the construction of the dam began in 1898 and the reservoir was filled to its top level for the first time in 1903. The associated pumping station was completed in 1905.

Blagdon Pumping Station
Pumping Station, Blagdon Reservoir
Spring Blagdon Lake
Blagdon Lake on a misty spring morning

In 1888 Bristol Waterworks Company was also given permission to take water from the springs at Langford and Rickford. In around 1895 they built a ornate gauge house in the style of a Swiss chalet at Rickford to regulate the flow of water into the village brook and into an underground pipe, which flows into Blagdon Lake.

Rickford Guage House
Gauge House at Rickford

Springs at Cheddar were first tapped in 1922 and Cheddar Reservoir was built there in the 1930s. Bristol Waterworks Company began chlorinating its water in 1935. However until the 1940s or later many villages still relied on wells and springs for their water supply and communal pumps were a common sight. Although no longer in use, some of these have been preserved.

The construction of Chew Valley Lake was delayed by the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. Work on it eventually began in 1950 and it was formally opened by the Queen in 1956.

Bristol Waterworks Company helped with the construction of the Clywedog Reservoir in Mid Wales in 1967. This reservoir regulates the flow of the River Severn. Over half the water supplied today by Bristol Water is extracted from the River Severn, via the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. Bristol Water's treatment works at Purton and Littleton in Gloucestershire purify the water extracted from the River Severn. Other sources of water currently used by Bristol Water in North Somerset include a well at Clevedon, a spring at Banwell and boreholes at Winscombe.

In 1991 Bristol Waterworks Company changed its name to Bristol Water plc.

Parish Pumps, Bleadon
Parish Pumps, Coronation Road, Bleadon

In Bleadon there are two cast iron parish pumps outside Well Cottage in Coronation Road. They were the main communal source of spring water for the villagers until mains water arrived in Bleadon in the 1940s. The higher pump was used to fill containers on carts while the lower one was used by pedestrians.

Christon Pump
Old pump and trough, Christon Road, Christon
Wrington pump and trough
Old pump and trough, High Street, Wrington

Rickford standpipe
Old pump or standpipe, Rickford

The Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association was set up in London in 1859 by Samuel Gurney (an MP and philanthropist) and Edward Thomas Wakefield (a barrister) to provide people with free drinking water. In 1867 the organisation changed its name to the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association to also support animal welfare.

Backwell cattle trough
Old cattle trough at the junction of West Town Road and Chelvey Road, Backwell

Public drinking fountains were also sometimes provided by wealthy philanthropists or in memory of someone who had died.

Clevedon cattle trough
Cattle trough with small drinking fountain on the left hand side, Marine Hill, Clevedon
Marine Hill drinking fountain
Drinking fountain, Marine Hill, Clevedon

This was erected in memory of Edward Long Davis, who died in 1899. There is a quotation from the Bible carved into the side above the drinking fountain, which says "Many waters cannot quench love" (Song of Solomon). Users of the drinking fountain were instructed to "Keep the pavement dry".


Clevedon drinking fountain
Doulton drinking fountain, Alexandra Road, Clevedon

This colourful tiled drinking fountain for people and their dogs was donated by Mr T. Sheldon in 1895. It was restored in 1992.


Sidcot Fountain
Disused fountain, Fountain Lane, Sidcot

This was the gift of George Thomas of Bristol in 1869

New Conservation Area adopted in Barrow Gurney

On 26th June 2018, North Somerset Council Executive Members voted unanimously to adopt a new conservation area which encompasses the historic estate village of Barrow Gurney.

Barrow Gurney's special character, a well- preserved example of an estate village, illustrates the historic, economic and social relationships that existed to support the "great house" at Barrow Court.

Barrow Gurney

The village has a high survival rate of pre-1838 buildings forming the village core. The village went through extensive remodelling in the early twentieth century, particularly in the ‘Arts and Crafts' style, and it has a stunning relationship with its surrounding landscape.

This is the first Conservation Area designated in North Somerset for 20 years, and it could not have been made possible without the overwhelming support from the people residing in Barrow Gurney, the Parish Council and especially Eric Gates (former Chair of Barrow Gurney Parish Council).



Heritage Open Days 2018

Heritage Open Days is England’s largest festival of history and culture, bringing together over 2,500 organisations, 5,000 events and 40,000 volunteers. Every year in September, places across the country throw open their doors to celebrate their heritage, community and history. It's your chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences – and it's all free. Heritage Open Days 2018 will be 6-9 & 13-16 September.

A number of North Somerset venues are participating in 2018, from the Curzon Cinema in Clevedon, and the Old Town Quarry in Weston-super-Mare, to churches and historic pubs. Download a copy of the North Somerset Guide here.

See the Heritage Open Days website for details and a map of events in the region this September.

Heritage Open Day logo
Heritage Open Days



Woodspring Priory

Woodspring Priory

Woodspring Priory was founded at an unidentified location in Somerset called Dodlinch c1210 by William de Courtenay. By 1226 it had moved to its present location at Middle Hope to the north of Sand Bay. William de Courtenay's grandfather, Reginald Fitz-Urse, was one of the knights who murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170.

The name Woodspring derives from a spring in the area called the Worspring or Worspryng and the priory was called Worspring until the 18th century.

Woodspring Priory was of the double order of St Augustine and St Victor, and it was dedicated to the Holy Trinity, St. Mary the Virgin and St Thomas the Martyr of Canterbury. William de Courtenay provided the Manors of Woodspring, Worle and Locking to generate an income for the priory but it was never a very wealthy or large establishment. There were probably never more than ten members of the community living there at any one time.

The priory buildings were arranged around a central square cloister. The priory church was located to the north of the cloister, with the sacristy, dormitory and chapter house on the east side. The agricultural buildings were located to the west of the religious ones and were separated from them. The original chapel was replaced in the late 15th or early 16th century by the present church, which was built in the Perpendicular style. At around the same time an infirmary and tithe barn were built.

In 1534 Prior Roger Tormynton or Tormenton and the seven members of his community signed a declaration acknowledging the supremacy of King Henry VIII instead of the Pope and in 1536 Woodspring Priory was dissolved. Soon afterwards the infirmary, most of the church (except for the chancel, which was demolished) and the prior's lodgings were converted into dwellings and to agricultural use.

The former priory changed hands several times before being acquired by the Pigott family (later the Smyth-Pigotts) in the late 17th century. It remained in their ownership for 200 years, although it was rented to a succession of tenants from the middle of the 19th century. In 1918 it was sold to Major Vernon Tickell Hill but he sold it to Richard Burrough a few years later.

In 1968 the priory and land at Middle Hope were purchased by the National Trust. In 1969 the priory was taken over by the Landmark Trust, which spent 20 years restoring the buildings. The surviving buildings include the nave, north aisle and crossing of the priory church; the infirmary; the tithe barn; a gatehouse and the 17th century farmhouse. The Landmark Trust now rents out the farmhouse as holiday accommodation.

Woodspring Priory
Woodspring Priory

The Priory
North side of the Infirmary

Woodspring Priory
North side of the Farmhouse

South side of the infirmary
South side of the infirmary



Weston Conservation Area consultation

‘Celebrating Weston’s past to help shape its future’



North Somerset Council is undertaking a major study looking at the historic assets of the town as part of the Heritage Action Zone programme. A key focus is on establishing a strong basis for future enhancement through the production of conservation area appraisals and management plans.

Residents and business owners are invited to have your say.
Please book to attend our workshop where we will introduce the conservation area appraisal process, explore together what makes Weston special and how this should inform future change in the town.

The consultation workshop is on Tuesday 17 July at Weston Museum, from 5-7pm. Please register here.