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Minehead is a coastal town and civil parish in the north-west of the the Englishmarker county of Somersetmarker. It lies north-west of Tauntonmarker, very close to the county of Devonmarker and the area of Exmoor National Parkmarker. Minehead has a population of approximately 10,000 making it the largest town in the West Somerset area. The parish includes Alcombe, with a population of 3361, which has now been absorbed into the town. In addition to the parish church of St. Michael, Alcombe is home to what used to be the Parish Church in Grove Place which is now a Spiritualist Church.

Since 1991, Minehead has been twinned with Saint-Berthevinmarker, a small town close to the regional centre of Lavalmarker in the Mayennemarker département of Francemarker. It is also the home of a Butlins Holiday Park which increases Minehead's seasonal tourist population by several thousand.


The original name of the town was 'mynedd' which means hill in Welsh. Minehead is mentioned as a manor belonging to William de Moyon in the Domesday Book in 1086.

Minehead has a long history as a port with the current harbour incorporating a pier dating from 1616. Trade was primarily with Walesmarker for cattle, sheep, wool, butter, fish and coal. These are commemorated in the town arms which include a woolpack and sailing ship.

Major rebuilding took place in the town following a fire in 1791.

Early areas of development of the town include Higher Town with its cottages some of which are still thatched and the Quay area. There was a marked increase in building in the early years of the 20th century resulting in the wide main shopping avenue of the town and adjacent roads with Edwardian style architecture. In Victorian times tourism grew as an important industry, this and the ambience of its environment could be one of the reasons why Minehead has enjoyed the growth in local economy that it has to this day.


The civil parish of Minehead is governed by a town council, which was created in 1983. In 2002, the parish was estimated to have a population of 10330. Administratively, Minehead has been part of the West Somerset local government district since 1974, having previously been Minehead Urban District. The district is in turn part of the the Somerset shire county, and administrative tasks are shared between county, district and town councils.

It falls within the Bridgwater county constituency represented in the House of Commonsmarker of the Parliament of the United Kingdommarker. It elects one Member of Parliament by the first past the post system of election. Following its review of parliamentary representation in Somerset, the Boundary Commission for England has finalised the proposals which expands the existing Bridgwater seat into a new Bridgwater and West Somerset division. The current MP is Ian Liddell-Grainger, a member of the Conservatives.

It is within the South West England which elects 7 MEPs using the d'Hondt method of party-list proportional representation.


One of the wild ponies on north hill.

The town is overlooked by North Hill, and is close to Exmoor National Parkmarker. The cliff exposures around the shoreline are dramatic and fossils are exposed.

In 1990 much of Minehead's beach was washed away in a severe storm which also caused serious flooding in the town. A £12.6 million sea defence scheme by the Environment Agency was designed to reduce the risk of this erosion and flooding happening again in the future. The Environment Agency built 1.7 km (1.1 miles) of new sea wall and rock or concrete stepped revetment between 1997 and 1998 and imported 320,000 tons of additional sand in 1999 to build a new beach. This beach sits between four rock groynes and has been built at a much higher level than the previous beach so that it breaks the waves before they reach the new sea wall. Any waves that do reach the new wall are turned back by its curved shape. The town's new sea defences were officially opened in 2001 by Sir John Harman.


The town's major tourist attraction is Butlins holiday camp. Other attractions include: the terminus of the West Somerset Railway; the town's main ornamental park, off Blenheim Road (Blenheim Gardens); and the Minehead & West Somerset Golf Club, Somersetmarker's oldest golf club, established in 1882. There are a variety of sailing and wind surfing options, in addition to the usual beach activities. In addition, there are many other attractions and amusement arcades and a variety of well-known high street stores; such as W H Smith and Alliance Boots together with independent local shops. There is also Tescomarker supermarket situated on the outskirts of Minehead as well as a Links course situated in proximity to the sea.

The town is the starting point of the South West Coast Path National Trail, the nation's longest long-distance countryside walking trail. The Trail starts at Minehead and runs round the South West Coast to Poolemarker in Dorsetmarker


A map of Minehead from 1937
The town's location—sea to the north and Exmoor to the south—means that transport links are limited.

There was a small port at Minehead by 1380, but it was not until 1420 that money given by Lady Margaret Luttrell enabled improvements to be made and a jetty built. Vessels in the 15th century included the Trinite which traded between Irelandmarker and Bristolmarker, and others carrying salt and other cargo from La Rochellemarker in Francemarker. Other products included local wool and cloth which were traded for coal from south Walesmarker. The harbour silted up and fell into disrepair so that in 1604 James I withdrew the towns charter. Control reverted to the Luttrells and a new harbour was built, at a cost of £5,000, further out to sea than the original, and this harbour is the one which can be seen today. Privateers based at Minehead were involved in the war with Spainmarker and France during 1625-1630 and again during the War of the Spanish Succession from 1702–1713. The first cranes were installed after further improvements to the port in 1714. Trade continued with Ireland but Minehead vessels started to trade further afield in Virginiamarker and the West Indiesmarker, but these dwindled by the 19th century and in 1894 control passed to a newly created Urban District Council. In the 20th century most trade transferred to larger ports, but pleasure steamers did call at the port. The pier was demolished during World War II as it obstructed the view from the gun battery on the quay head. The lifeboat house was established in 1901.

Minehead is located on the A39 road. The Minehead Railway was opened on 16 July 1874, linking the town to Tauntonmarker and beyond. It was closed on 4 January 1971 but has since been reopened as the West Somerset Railway. Minehead railway stationmarker is close to the beach. There are no National Rail services operated at Minehead, apart from in the summer when First Great Western use their Class 43 High Speed InterCity Trains from Bristol Temple Meadsmarker in the summer. If this doesn't occur, the railway will run to Tauntonmarker, where mainline connections can be travelled from here.


In Minehead, there are two first schools, one middle school and a upper school, West Somerset Community Collegemarker. In 2006 there was debate within Somerset about changing the county's 3-tier school system to a 2-tier system to match the majority of education authorities in the UK.

Religious sites

The parish church of St. Michael dates from the 15th century and has been designated by English Heritage as a grade II* listed building. The tower used to display a beacon light for ships approaching the harbour.

St. Andrew's Church was built of red sandstone in 1877-1880, by George Edmund Street.

The Catholic Church in Minehead is Sacred Heart, built in 1896. The parish, which includes a mass centre in the neighbouring village of Watchetmarker, covers an area of .

Near the quay a cellar dating from 1628 was given by its owner Robert Quirke for prayers to be offered for those at sea, and dedicated a ship and its cargo to God's service after being in a violent storm at sea.

Butlins Minehead is notable for being the only remaining Butlins to have a small chapel on site. In addition, Spring Harvest, the largest christian festival in the UKmarker uses the entire site over the Easter period every year.

Local economy

Since Victorian times, tourism has been a part of Minehead's economy. Minehead is the location of one of the three remaining Butlins camps in the UK. At the height of the season in late July and early August, Minehead's population significantly increases with an influx of tourists.


The town hosts the annual Minehead and Exmoor Festival, a week-long classical music festival which has been running since 1963. Richard Dickins has held the post of artistic director for the festival since 1982.

The wooded bluffs above Minehead feature as the Hermit's abode "in that wood which slopes down to the sea", in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The poet lived nearby, at Nether Stoweymarker (between Bridgwatermarker and Minehead). His statue can be seen at the nearby harbour at Watchetmarker. He and Wordsworth (who lived nearby at Alfoxton Housemarker) would often roam the hills and coast on long night walks; leading to local gossip that they were 'spies' for the French. The Government sent an agent to investigate, but found they were, indeed, "mere poets".

May Day Hobby Horse

Minehead Hobby Horse.
One popular ancient local tradition involves the Hobby Horse, or Obby Oss, which takes to the streets on the eve of the first of May each year, with accompanying musicians and rival horses, for four days. In fact there are two rival hobby horses, the Sailor's Horse and the Town Horse. They appear on May Eve (called "Show Night"), on May Day morning (when they salute the sunrise at a crossroads on the outskirts of town), 2 May and 3 May (when a ceremony called "The Bootie" takes place in the evening called "Bootie Night" at part of town called Cher). Each horse is made of a boat-shaped wooden frame, pointed and built up at each end, which is carried on the dancer's shoulders. As at Padstowmarker, his face is hidden by a mask attached to a tall, pointed hat. The top surface of the horse is covered with ribbons and strips of fabric. A long fabric skirt, painted with rows of multicoloured roundels, hangs down to the ground all round. A long tail is attached to the back of the frame. Each horse is accompanied by a small group of musicians and attendants. The Town Horse is accompanied by "Gullivers", dressed similarly to the horse but without the large frame; as at Padstow, smaller, children's horses have sometimes been constructed. The horses' visits are (or were) believed to bring good luck. In the past there was also a similar hobby horse based at the nearby village of Dunstermarker, which would sometimes visit Minehead. The first of May has been a festival day in Minehead since 1465.

Sport and recreation

In September 2007, Minehead hosted the TWIF European Outdoor Tug of war Championships at Minehead football ground.Minehead has also hosted the Britain's Strongest Man contest on several occasions, most recently in 2008.

Minehead F.C.marker were founded in 1889 and are the main local side.

At Alcombe, within the West Somerset Community Collegemarker there is the Minehead Cricket Club, who have four men's teams and one women's team. In addition, there are training nights throughout the summer on Monday and Thursdays for Under 15s.

In November 2008, WWE did a show at the Butlins Resort.

Notable residents


External links

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