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Norman Font, St Augustine’s Church, Locking

The highly decorated rectangular carved stone font in St Augustine’s Church at Locking probably dates from the 12th century.  At each corner there is a human figure with both arms outstretched to meet the hands of the figures on the adjacent corners. The figures are alternately male and female.  Three of the four sides are also highly decorated with intertwined Celtic serpent designs.  The fourth side is plainer with two bands of chevrons, probably because in its original location this side faced a wall.

The font originally stood on one central pillar.  Four corner pillars were added in the 19th century for extra support.  The head-dresses of the four figures were cut off in the 19th century when the rim of the font was reduced in height to make it level.

St Augustine’s Church was probably founded by the monks of Woodspring Priory in the 13th century.  The oldest part of the present church is the tower, which dates from 1380, but this may have been built on the site of an earlier church.

Font 2 St Augustine's Church
Font showing chevrons and serpents
St Augustine's Church
Intertwined serpents on the font
font 1, St Augustine's Church
Serpents and human figures
Locking St Augustine's
St Augustine’s Church Locking

Historic England request

Historic England is asking the public to share their knowledge of England’s secret, unknown and forgotten memorials.  They want photographs and information about lesser-known memorials, and those that are well-loved by small groups or communities but unknown nationally.  It is also looking for rituals and activities attached to memorials.  The  stories and pictures contributed by the public will be recorded to form part of an exhibition in the autumn.  The best examples of community memorials may be listed.

If you know of any forgotten memorials in North Somerset, head to Historic England’s website and share your pictures! 

Don’t forget to put any photos on Know Your Place too!

Frederic Weatherly – Songwriter

Frederick Edward Weatherly, songwriter and barrister, was born at 7 Wood Hill (now 63 Woodhill Road) in Portishead on 4th October 1848.  He was educated at Hereford Cathedral School and Oxford University.  After graduating he remained at Oxford and worked as a teacher.  In December 1872 he married Anna Maria Hardwick in Worle and they had a son and two daughters.  They later separated and he lived with Maude Francfort for many years. 

At some point in his adult life Frederick dropped the k from the end of his name and became Frederic.  In 1887 he left teaching to qualify as a barrister in London. In 1893 he joined the western circuit and moved to Clifton, Bristol.  In 1900 he moved to Bath where he continued to work as a barrister. Frederic’s wife Anna died in 1920.  Maude Francfort died in 1923 and later the same year Frederic married a widow, Mrs Miriam Bryan.  He died in Bathwick on 7th September 1929 after a short illness and was buried at Bathwick Cemetery.

Frederic Weatherly published his first song lyrics, poems, two novels, many children’s books, and librettos for cantatas and oratorios while he was living in Oxford.  He went on to write the words to many of the most popular songs in the English-speaking world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  His songs were performed by the leading singers of the time.  He also translated several Italian and French operas into English.

Frederic Weatherly claimed to have published more than 1,500 songs in total. Dozens of them were extremely popular in his lifetime, and several of them, including Nancy Lee (1876), The Holy City (1892), Danny Boy (1912) set to the tune of ‘Londonderry Air’, and Roses of Picardy (1916) remained popular after his death.

Portishead, 63 Woodhill Road
63 Woodhill Road, Portishead
Plaque, 63 Woodhill Road
Commemorative plaque on the front of 63 Woodhill Road, Portishead
Portishead, Weatherly Drive
Weatherly Drive, Portishead

FREE Know Your Place Training workshops

Adding contributions to the Community Layer

North Somerset is part of “Know Your Place”, an online mapping and local history project. This is a free digital mapping project which allows users to explore the heritage of their local area through old maps, archive images and linked information. 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. 

You can access the map here:

Know Your Place logo
Know Your Place project logo

Visitors will be able to upload and share their own information about the area to help build a rich and diverse community map and discover how North Somerset has transformed over time. In order to help those who wish to add such information, North Somerset Council will be running FREE training workshops around the district in March and May 2018. The workshops in May will tie in with Local and Community History Month.

The aim of Local and Community History Month is to increase awareness of local history, promote history in general to the local community and encourage all members of the community to participate.

The workshops will be taking place as follows:

Wednesday 14th March – Clevedon Library – 10.30am to 12pm

Wednesday 16th May – Yatton Library – 10.30am to 12pm

Wednesday 16th May – Long Ashton Library – 1.30pm to 3pm

Tuesday 22nd May – Pill Library – 10.30am to 12pm

Wednesday 23rd May – Portishead Library – 1.30pm to 3pm

In order to guarantee a place on the free training workshop, you will need to book onto the relevant session via Eventbrite. Please search for ‘Adding contributions to the Community Layer’ in the events in your local area.

If you would like any more information, please email


Langford History Group events coming up


The Langford History Group have some new events coming up this season.  
  • Thu, Mar 8th: Domesday Book and the locality
  • Thu, Apr 12th: Commercial Archaeology Uncovered
  • Thu, May 10th: Gardens of the Wills Houses
  • Thu, Jun 14th: Wrington Walk

Membership of the Group is £10 annually, and allows free access to all the meetings and access to the records. Visitors are more than welcome to individual meetings for a nominal fee of £2 to cover speakers’ costs.   See the Langford History Group website for more details.

History with a difference!

Four fully illustrated Civic Society lectures delivered in the comfort of a Weston hostelry by John Crockford-Hawley.  On Mondays 5th, 12th, 29th and 26th March, John will be delivering talks on ‘The History of Weston’.  The topics will be:

  • 5th March: A Flock of First & A string of Seconds.  How Weston leads the world..
  • 12th March: Chuff Chuff to the Seaside. How the railway has played a significant role in Weston’s development.
  • 19th March: To the Manor Born. Grove House and the Smyth-Piggotts.
  • 26th March: Weston at War. Weston in WWI and WWII, with some amazing photographs.

All talks will be held at the Imperial, South Parade, BS23 1JN at 7.30pm.  Pre-booking essential.  Please see details on the Civic Society webpage.

Milestones and Mileposts

Milestones and mileposts are stones or short pillars set up at the roadside indicating the distance in miles from that point to a particular place or places.  The first milestones in England were erected by the Romans, who constructed good metalled roads to enable them to move soldiers and supplies quickly across the country.  They measured out distances to assist with timing and efficiency and marked every 1,000 double paces with a large cylindrical stone. 117 of these stones still survive in the UK, although most of them are no longer in their original locations. The Latin word for thousand is ‘mille’ and the Roman mile was 1618 yards long. In England the statute mile of 1,760 yards was defined by Act of Parliament in 1593 but various other miles continued in use in many parts of Britain until the 19th century. 

In 1697 an Act of Parliament enabled Justices of the Peace to order the erection of inscribed waymarkers known as guide stoops or guideposts at the intersection of paths in remote moorland areas.  These stone guide stoops, which often resembled farm gateposts, pointed the way to the nearest market town.

From the late 17th century to the 1840s Turnpike Trusts were set up by Acts of Parliament to improve the state of Britain’s roads, which often became impassable in the winter months. Local groups of wealthy people paid for improved roads to be built and then charged people tolls for using them. The turnpike milestones of the 18th and early 19th centuries used statute miles. At first these milestones were made of stone or were engraved in walls of buildings but the later ones were made of cast iron. After 1767 milestones were compulsory on all turnpike roads to inform travellers, to help coaches keep to schedules and for the calculation of charges for the changes of horses at coaching inns.

Most milestones and mileposts were removed or defaced at the beginning of the Second World War to confuse the Germans in the event of an invasion and not all were replaced afterwards.  Some have been demolished more recently during road widening schemes and others have been damaged by vehicles colliding with them or by hedge cutting equipment.  However several have survived in North Somerset.

Portishead Guidestone
1733 guidestone at the junction of Clapton Lane and Clevedon Road, Portishead
Nailsea Milepost
Bristol Turnpike Trust’s 1837 cast iron milepost in Clevedon Road, Nailsea
Tickenham Milepost
Somerset County Council’s 1911 milepost in Clevedon Road, Tickenham
Chelvey Batch Milestone and Milepost
Bristol Turnpike Trust’s 1823 cast iron milepost and an older milestone on the A370 at Chelvey Batch

Gems of Weston heritage walk

As part of the Heritage Action Zone initiative a new walk has been developed through Weston-super-Mare. The walk aims to highlight some of the wonderful buildings we have in the town and encourages you to ‘look up’ to enjoy the architectural gems in Weston.  Local artist John Hickley has taken some of the key features and developed a lovely map of the walk.  Follow the link to access the PDF of the walk  Gems of Weston Walk 2018

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

Villa Rosa and the Shrubbery Estate, Weston-super-Mare

From the 1850s a number of suburban housing estates of elegant villas were built around Weston-super-Mare for middle class people looking for peace and privacy away from the bustle of the seafront and the town centre, for example The Shrubbery, The Grove, Montpelier and Ellenborough Park. Their roads were private and they were sometimes protected by gatekeepers’ lodges.  The villas all had servants’ quarters and private gardens.  Some of the estates, including The Shrubbery, also had communal gardens for the sole use of the residents. However there were no shops or public houses. Goods were delivered to the houses from the shops in the town centre by donkey or horse.

Weston-super-Mare, Shrubbery Lodge
The Lodge, Shrubbery Road
Weston-super-Mare, Houses on Shrubbery Avenue
Houses on Shrubbery Avenue

Richard Parsley and William Cox became the owners of the land on which the Shrubbery Estate now stands in 1815 when the area was enclosed by Act of Parliament. Parsley and Cox subsequently quarrelled and in the 1830s Cox let or sold his half of the land to a formidable lady called Sophia Rooke, who built mansion on it, which she called Villa Rosa.  The house was Italian in style with a tower and it was built in pink limestone, hence its name.  It was surrounded by large grounds, which at one time contained a private zoo.

In the 1850s the villas of the Shrubbery Estate were built on part of the grounds of Villa Rosa.  An ornamental footbridge was constructed over the access road to the Shrubbery Estate to reconnect the remaining grounds with the house.  This bridge is still in existence today.  Most of the villas were built of local limestone quarried from the Town Quarry nearby.  Bath Stone was used around the doors and windows and for decorative ornamentation.

Shrubbery Ornamental Bridge Weston-super Mare
Ornamental Bridge over Shrubbery Road

The Shrubbery Estate and Villa Rosa had their own well and water tower, which was disguised as an octagonal mock castle with battlements, arrow slit windows and gargoyles.  This building has been converted into a house more recently.

Weston-super-Mare, Shrubbery Water Tower
Water Tower, now a dwelling

Villa Rosa was demolished in the early 1970s and replaced with two blocks of flats.

Grade II listing for Weston railway station

Weston-super-Mare’s railway station has been awarded Grade II listed status by Historic England. Designed by Francis Fox and completed in 1884, Weston’s station was granted the coveted status as part of the Heritage Action Zone (HAZ), a Historic England programme which focuses on supporting the on-going regeneration of the town’s centre and its areas of historic interest.

The station will join other listed town centre buildings such as the Odeon, the Magistrates Court, the Town Hall, Walliscote School, the Grand Pier, the Royal Hotel, Weston Museum and the HSBC building.

Deborah Williams from Historic England said: “We are delighted that the railway station in Weston-super-Mare station has been listed. This iconic building is a good example of a later phase of railway construction, and is interesting because of its role in the development of Weston as a seaside destination.

“Listing highlights what’s special about a building or place, and helps to make sure that any future changes to it take into consideration those special qualities. Listing doesn’t prevent change – in fact, listed buildings can be adapted and altered just like any other building, so that they can continue to be used and enjoyed for future generations.”

Cllr John Crockford-Hawley from North Somerset Council said: “Stations are so important because they are often the first architectural experience visitors have when approaching towns and cities. As a young boy I spent many a happy Saturday morning with friends polishing brass name plates on steam engines at Weston Station so have a rather prejudicial liking for the place and as an historian I’m delighted to see this fine piece of GWR architecture given national recognition.”

Mike Gallop, Director of Route Asset Management at Network Rail, said: “We are delighted Weston-super-Mare has been granted listed status. The new title reflects the iconic building’s impressive architecture and the historical interest in the station.”