Tales of Old Weston

From the Bristol Mercury, 15th May 1820

REMAINS OF A GIANT! Lately, as some workmen were employed in excavating Knightstone Rock, at Weston-super- Mare, (an island lately purchased by Mr. Howe, of this city, for the construction of Hot and Cold Baths) the skeleton of a man of enormous stature was discovered, a few feet below the surface, and near it an antique earthen vessel, containing bones of smaller size. The arm and the skull of the larger skeleton were unfortunately broken to pieces by the carelessness of the workmen, but many of the bones are preserved in the hands of the curious.

Conjecture is very busy as to the antiquity of these remains, and the character of the gigantic personage whose frame they once held together: some suppose they belong to one of those giants who, according to fabulous history, peopled this country many ages before the invasion of Caesar; but as there is an old Encampment hard by, which from its construction is probably of British origin, there is little doubt but they are the remains of an aborigine soldier of distinction.

Persons conversant with anatomy infer, from the size of the bones, that he must have been nearly nine feet high! The encampment above alluded to was more probably that of Ostorius, the Roman General, As this place is like to become of some importance to our fellow-citizens, from its affording by its vicinity a convenient retirement, either for health or relaxation, we promise our readers some further attention to it.

Jenny Kingsbury


Thank You Cavers

If men had not risked their lives diving into caves in the Mendips. we may never have had
an Archaeological and Natural History Society. Their fathers and grandfathers had gone underground for silver and lead ,they were fired by Darwin's 'Origin of Species'. They were richly rewarded with finds of ancient bones, which they needed to display somewhere.

So they created Axbridge Museum and Axbridge Archaeological Society, that town still wearing the importance of being a Saxon Burgh from 890, when Weston was two hovels on the sand dunes, famous only for smuggling.

The Weston branch grew from 1892, meeting in Brown's Cafe, tea at 4.30pm, price 9 pence, lecture at 8pm.

Now we have nearly 100 members and attendance is at least 70. We display a Library for borrowing, and we have extensive archives, which I hope to write for you in future Newsletters.

Barbara Seaton


From The Morning Post, 27th September 1851


The anniversary meeting of this society was held last week at Weston-super-Mare. The national school-rooms were placed at the disposal of the committee for the purposes of various meetings.

A portion of the building was also laid out as a museum, containing many very interesting objects sent by J. H. Smyth Pigot Esq., Bruges Fry Esq., W Stradling Esq., Captain page, Mrs Housman, Bath, Messrs. Hare, Phillips & co. There were some very old documents from the corporation chest at Axbridge, the oldest bearing date eight centuries back. Mr. B. Fry, of that-place, exhibited some very fine ornithological specimens, and among them one of the Alpine swift, shot by, S. L. Fry. Esq., a very rare bird in this country, this and two others being the only three known to have been shot in England. W. Stradling, Esq. of Ilminster, contributed two beautiful specimens of needlework of the date of Charles I, representing the judgement of Solomon, the dresses being ornamented with paste diamonds and real pearls.

Jenny Kingsbury


1810-2010: 200 Years of Tourism in Weston-super-Mare

Well what that actually means is that the Royal Hotel was first opened in 1810. This is an account by Mrs. Mary Howell, who died in 1888 as told to Mr. Ernest E Baker in 1883 and published in "The Village of Weston-super-Mare -Historical Notes".

"l remember well when the foundations of the Hotel were laid, there was a general half-holiday, all Weston was there, a troop of Yeomanry fired volleys over the foundations.

When the Hotel was but barely finished the first dinner was given to this troop of Yeomanry; they exercised on the sands first and dined afterwards. As the dining room was rather small and very full, the dinner was carried from the kitchen, taken out through a window, which had been taken out for the occasion.

After the Hotel was completed the public made a way to it over a stone stile by the present Co-operative Stores, and across the Hotel field to avoid going down the dirty street, but this path was afterwards stopped up, as there never was any proper and legal right of way over it."

Another account in the same book is by Samuel Norvill. "Yes Sir, my name is Norvill-Samuel Norvill-and I was born in Weston in the year 1800. I knew the place when there was no hotel, no public-house, and no shop from one end of it to the other; it seems but yesterday to me. I recollect distinctly the day when the foundation stone of the first hotel now Rogers-was laid in the year 1807. A company of the West Mendip Militia, headed by Captain Parsley, fired volleys north, south, east and west over it after the ceremony. How is it that I remember this event so well, as I was only seven years old? Were there great rejoicings, and was there a dinner? Of course I remember it; everybody went to see the stone laid, but there wasn't any dinner, people weren't so fond of dining together in those days. Captain Parsley's son had the honour of laying the stone. Charles Taylor of Milton, was given the job to build the house, and after he had completed it, he was the first man who sold beer in the place. We always had to fetch beer from Worle, our nearest town before. Needham kept the hotel after Charles Taylor; then a man of the name of Sawtell had it."

Also mentioned in Mr. Baker's book is this story of Mrs. Sawtell who kept the Hotel. When a Mr. Reeves bought it, he had great difficulty in obtaining possession. Mrs. Sawtell wouldn't budge. But Mr. Reeves was too sharp for her, for one day he and two or three men obtained an entrance and then promptly carried Mrs. Sawtell out kicking and screaming, and safely deposited her on the green in front. He afterwards vastly improved the house, and made alterations suitable to the requirements of the increasing town. This is now known as the Royal Hotel, and I am sure many of you have been inside.

So this year is the 200th year of Tourism in Weston-super-Mare and the North Somerset Council will be holding various celebrations during the year to mark this occasion.

Jenny Kingsbury


A Tour of Weston Village in 1883 by Mrs. Howell

<b>Old Weston cottage</b>
Old Weston cottage

Let us take a walk together around Weston in 1804, looking in at every house, and chatting about the people as we pass along. We will start from the middle of the village green where now the big lamp stands, which shines upon the York Hotel and Gibb's shop, and facing eastward we walk down Meadow-lane, when we shall first arrive at the cottage in which Sally Coombs, the widow, lived. Her children George and Sophia, lived with her until they were married. The first Sunday School in the place was opened in her house, and was one of the scholars. In her house, too, the Church Methodist held their meetings for prayer" Passing Sally Coombs' we come to the old Farm House, which Farmer King occupied, and which he made famous in a small way.

Then turning around (for we cannot go any further without trespassing in Farmer King's pen and orchard, for which most likely he would come out and abuse us, as he was a crotchety old man), we face Farmer Cook's premises, which were exactly opposite King's. But we are getting on too fast. I must tell you about Farmer King. Just before he came to Weston he was left a widower with two children, Matthew and Hannah, he must needs marry again and that time he married a widow named Hurst, who had four children, John, George, Sarah and Elizabeth, but not content with that lot, they afterwards had three more, George Silvester and Joseph.

Taken from "The Village of Weston-super-Mare-Historical Notes".

Jenny Kingsbury


Weston-super-Mare Street Names

Landemann Circus - Called after one of the most remarkable, clever and far seeing of men-Mr. Robert Landemann Jones the Agent of the Smyth-Pigott Estate for many years, and one of the Fathers of Weston when it was growing out of its infancy.

Ellenborough Park - Being built from 1855. Lord Ellenborough who is said to have been one of the most able and certainly the most erratic, of all the Governors General of India was very much in the limelight at that period.

Raglan Circus - Built during the Crimean War' Lord Raglan was made Commander of the Army on the declaration of war and most unfortunately died of cholera, in the Crimea' the following year, 1855.

Alma Street - the builders of this street had fresh in their minds the Battle of Alma in the Crimean War, fought in September, '1854. when the allied English and French defeated the Russians, who flung away their arms and fled.

Claremont - in the year 1816 Claremont House was built it was pulled down in 1866 to make way for Claremont Crescent. Most probably it received its name out of compliment to the beloved Princess Charlotte, who had just been married and had taken up her residence at Claremont, Surrey.


From the Western Daily Press, 25th September, 1903


Considerable interest has lately been aroused by the opening of a barrow at Locking Head Farm, two miles from the ancient British camp of Worle, near Weston-super-Mare.

The barrow lies on the top of a small but steep hill, which bears evident traces of having been fortified. Operations were commenced by sinking a hole in the centre, and at a depth of two feet the workmen came to a square excavation, surrounded by walls built of oolite, having a single face of dry masonry filled with rubble stone. The dimensions are seven feet deep and nine foot square, one corner, in which there is a flight of steps, being rounded.

The floor is very smoothly cut to the soil. Within this chamber, intermingled with the earth which filled it, were found the fragments of the blade of an iron sword, a burnt bone, evident marks of cremation, and pieces of coarse pottery, also a curious bone, which was submitted to Professor Boyd Dawkins, who pronounced it to be a bone of the Bos Longifrons (the long faced ox) a huge animal now long extinct.

Professor Dawkins attributes this mode of burial to a period following the Roman occupation.