Weston-super-Mare is a
seaside resort town and civil parish in North
Somerset, part of the ceremonial county of Somerset,
England. It is located on the Bristol Channel coast, south west of Bristol, spanning
the coast between the bounding high ground of Worlebury Hill and Bleadon
Hill. It includes the suburbs of
Oldmixon, West Wick and Worle.
population according to the 2001 census was 71,758. It is twinned with Hildesheim, Germany.
comes from the Anglo-Saxon
for the west tun
or settlement. The descriptive part of its name, "super-Mare", is
unusual because it is in medieval Latin
was first recorded by an unknown medieval church clerk, presumably
to distinguish it from other settlements named Weston in the area.
It is a popular myth that the description was a later Victorian
invention. It means literally "upon
sea". Often people will write the town's name as
"Weston-Super-Mare"; this however is incorrect, as "super" should
always be written in lower case.
oldest structure is Worlebury camp, on Worlebury Hill, dating from the Iron
The medieval church of St John has been rebuilt but
its preaching cross survives. The former rectory is a 17th century
structure with later additions. Though it remains adjacent to the
church it has not been a parsonage house since the end of the 19th
century. Today it is known as Glebe House and is divided into
flats. The Old Thatched Cottage restaurant on the seafront carries
the date 1774; it is the surviving portion of a summer cottage
built by the Revd. William Leeves of Wrington.
Early in the 19th century, Weston was a small windswept village of
about 30 houses, located behind a line of sand dunes fronting the
sea, which had been created as an early sea wall after the Bristol Channel floods of 1607
family of Brockley, who were the local Lords of the Manor, had a
summer residence at Grove House.
Weston owes its growth and
prosperity to the Victorian era
in seaside holidays. Construction of the first hotel in the village
started in 1808; it was called "Reeves" (now the Royal Hotel).
nearby Burnham-on-Sea, Weston benefited from proximity to Bristol, Bath and South
The first attempt at an artificial harbour
was made in the late 1820s at the islet of Knightstone and a
slipway built from Anchor Head towards Birnbeck Island.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
his family lived in Weston, at Swiss Villa (eastern corner of
Alexandra Parade and Swiss Road), whilst he was supervising the
construction of the Bristol
and Exeter Railway
in the area. With the opening of the railway in 1841,
thousands of visitors came to the town from Bristol, the Midlands and further afield, on works outings and Bank Holidays. Also, mining families
came across the Bristol
Channel from South Wales by paddle
steamer. To cater for them, Birnbeck Pier was completed in 1867, offering in its heyday
amusement arcades, tea rooms, funfair rides and a photographic studio.
However, it now
stands in a derelict state and has recently been added to English
Heritage's list of endangered buildings, but is still possible for
visitors to marvel at the structure from behind the barbed wire.
designed by Eugenius Birch with
ironwork by the Isia Foundry of Newport, Monmouthshire.
It is a grade II* listed building
Large areas of land were released for development from the 1850s
onwards. Large detached villas, for the middle classes, were built
on the southern slopes of Worlebury Hill. Semi-detached and
terraced housing were built on the low 'moorland', behind the sea
front in an area known as South Ward. Many of these houses have now
been turned into bedsits
by their owners.
Most of the houses built in the Victorian era are built from stone
and feature details made from local Bath
, influenced by local architect Hans
In 1885, the first transatlantic telegraph cable of the Commercial Cable Company
brought ashore and the company started a long association with the
town, ending in 1962.
, the inventor of
wireless telegraphy, successfully transmitted radio signals across
the Bristol Channel in the spring of 1897, from Penarth (near
Cardiff) to Brean Down (just south west of Weston, on the other
side of the River Axe).
railway, the Weston, Clevedon and
Portishead Railway, opened on 1 December 1897, connecting
Weston to Clevedon.
The terminus station was at Ashcombe Road.
railway was extended to Portishead on 7 August 1907 but was closed on 18 May
Local traders, unhappy that visitors were not coming as far as the
centre of the town, began the construction of a new pier closer to
the main streets. Opened in 1904, and known as the Grand
Pier, it was originally planned to be long.
Further development occurred after World War
, with the Winter Gardens and Pavilion in 1927, the open air pool
and an airfield
dating from the inter-war period. Art Deco
influences can be seen in much of the
town's architecture from this period.
World War II evacuees
were accommodated in the town, however the area was also home to
war industries, such as aircraft and pump manufacture, and an
Royal Air Force station at Locking.
The town was also on a return route from
bombers targeting Bristol and was itself bombed by the Luftwaffe
. The first bombs fell in June 1940, but
the worst blitzes
took place in January
1941 and in June 1942. Large areas of the town were destroyed,
particularly Orchard Street and the Boulevard. On 3 and 4 January
1941, 17,000 incendiary bombs
on the town. The Ministry of Defence set up a "Q-station"
decoy at Bleadon in an attempt to divert the bombers to an
In the later part of the war, US Army
troops were billeted in the area, which
quickly vanished in the run-up to D-Day
Residential areas outside the town centre include the Oldmixon,
Coronation, and Bournville housing
, which exhibit examples of mid to late 20th century
architecture. Newer housing has since been built towards the east
of the town in North Worle and Locking Castle, locations nearer to
the M5 motorway
Weston-super-Mare has expanded to include
the established villages of Milton, Worle, Uphill, Oldmixon,
West Wick and Wick St.
Lawrence, as well as new areas such as St.
Georges and Locking Castle.
General Hospital was opened on the edge of Uphill village,
replacing the Queen Alexandra Memorial Hospital on The Boulevard,
which was opened in 1928.
A structure known as Silica
was installed at Big Lamp
Corner during 2006.It is a piece of public art, an advertising
sign, a retail kiosk selling newspapers and hot food, as well as a
bus shelter. It has been criticised by local residents who liken it
to a carrot or a space ship, although it is meant to symbolise
man's harmony with the sea. This was part of North Somerset
Council's ongoing civic pride
initiative that has sought to revitalise Weston-super-Mare's public
spaces, which had suffered a period of decline. Other public space
improvements have been made throughout the town such as
improvements to the street scene in Grove Park Village.
On 28 July 2008, the pavilion at the end of the Grand Pier was
completely destroyed by a fire. Eleven fire engines and 80
fire-fighters were unable to contain the blaze which is believed to
have started in the north-east tower of the Pavilion. Work began in
2009 to rebuild and is planned for reopening prior to the summer
At the end of the 20th and start of the 21st centuries, the town
saw a growth in residential rehabilitation treatment centres for
people with drug and alcohol problems, with attendant crime and
social problems. These problems were highlighted by Weston's
MP, John Penrose during his maiden speech in the House of
Commons in 2005.
By 2009, it was home to around 11%
of drug rehabilitation
the UK and North Somerset council proposed an accreditation system
examining the quality of counselling, staff training, transparency
of referral arrangements, along with measures of the treatment's
effectiveness and site inspections.
Made an urban district
Weston-super-Mare became a municipal
in 1937. In 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972
, it was
merged into the Woodspring
of the County of Avon
and became a Charter Trustees
Weston-super-Mare regained its town council in 2000, becoming a
1974, Weston-super-Mare was in the County of Somerset.
When Avon was split up in 1996, it became
the administrative headquarters of North
, one of the successor authorities, which remains part
of the ceremonial county
for the Weston-super-Mare
is John Penrose
of the Conservative Party
, who won the seat
in the 2005
mainly flat landscape of Weston is dominated by Worlebury Hill which borders the entire northern edge of the town,
Hill which together with the River Axe, and Brean Down at Uphill form its
southern border. In the centre of the town is Ellenborough
Park a Site of Special Scientific
Interest due to the range of plant species found
Bay lies on the western edge of the town.
Low and high tides
upper part is sandy but, as the sea retreats a long way with the
tide exposing mud flats (hence the colloquial name of
Weston-super-Mud). The tidal range in this part of the Bristol
Channel is great, since the beach and mud flats are on a
Consequently it is only at the part of the
tide cycle where high tide is in the early morning and late
afternoon that the sea comes well up the beach. Attempting to reach
the sea at these times is inadvisable as the sand gives way to mud
which is very deep and has cost people their lives over the years.
Driving on the beach (which is permitted in certain areas) catches
people out as they drive too close to the sea and break through the
sand to the underlying mud and are then stuck.
rise and fall in the Severn Estuary and Bristol Channel can be as
great as , second only to Bay of Fundy in Eastern
Looking north from the sandy part of
the main beach as the tide recedes, July 2006
This tidal movement contributes to the
deposition of natural mud in bays such as Weston. There has been
concern about pollution levels from industrial areas in Wales and
at the eastern end of the Bristol Channel, however this tends to be
diluted by the Atlantic waters. There are measurable levels of
chemical pollutants and little is known about their effects. Of
particular concern are the levels of cadmium and to a lesser degree
residual pesticides and hydrocarbons.
the north of the town is Sand Point which marks the lower limit of the Severn Estuary and the start of the Bristol
Channel. It is also the site of the Middle Hope biological
and geological Site of Special Scientific
According to the United
Kingdom Census 2001
, the population of Weston-super-Mare is
71,758.This makes it the largest settlement in North Somerset,
which has a total population of 188,564. 20.7% of the town's
population are aged 65 or over, compared with the national average
of 16%.98.6% of the population are white, compared with 90.9%
nationally.In 1831 the town population was 1,310, and in 1801 just
138. In 2001, the town comprised 31,715 households, while in 1829
is comprised just 250.
A "toast rack" tram heading into town
at Madeira Cove
The gauge network at Weston-super-Mare opened on 12 May 1902.
route ran from Birnbeck
Pier along the sea front to the Sanatorium (now Royal
Sands); a branch line ran to the railway
station and on to the tram depot in Locking Road.
The fleet originally consisted of 12 double deck cars and 4
open-sided "toast rack
" cars. The system
was bought out by the competing bus company and closed on 18 April
1937, by which time the fleet comprised 8 double deck and 6 "toast
racks". An earlier proposal for the Weston and Clevedon
to run along the streets of the town to the sea front
had failed to materialise, leaving the line as an ordinary railway
with a terminus in Ashcombe Road.
Weston is close to junction 21 of the M5
, to which it is linked by a dual-carriageway relief
road built in the 1990s. This replaced Locking Road as the
route and avoided some of
the traffic congestion along that narrower urban road.
The Bristol and Exeter
arrived in Weston-super-Mare on 14 June 1841.
not the route that serves today's Weston-super-Mare railway
station, but rather a single-track branch line from , mid
way between the present day and Uphill junctions, which terminated
at a small station in Regent Street close to the High
A second larger station was constructed in 1866 to
replace this, when planning permission was gained to create a loop
station from the main line. After legal action was taken by
residents along the proposed route new route through issues of
planning blight, the station on the current site was constructed in
Today the station is situated close to the town centre and less
than ten minutes walk from the sea front. It has direct
services to London
Paddington operated by First
Great Western, and also trains to stations such as Bristol, and . CrossCountry
services run to Birmingham and the North.
Other stations are located at and . The former is served by the
local trains to Bristol and the latter also by trains to Cardiff
and Taunton, but during the peak periods London trains call at both
Most bus services are provided by First Somerset & Avon
call at stops in the Regent Street and Big Lamp Corner area;
services to Sand
Bay, Wells, Burnham-on-Sea and Bristol International Airport start from or run via the main railway
Some bus services serve the main High Street.
and Bakers Dolphin
operate long distance coach services, mostly from the coach
terminal in Locking Road Car Park which is close to the railway
RAF Weston-super-Mare opened in 1936 by No.24 Group, with a single
tarmac runway. It served as flying candidates selection and initial
training facility, and as a relief airport during World War II
, latterly as the Polish Air Force
Staff College from April
1944 to April 1946. After the war it served as a logistics supply
station, with helicopter makers Westland Helicopters
on site until
closure in 1987.
Today there is an operational heliport
site used occasionally by the RAF
Search and Rescue
service. The former Westland site, which closed
itself in 2002, houses The Helicopter Museum featuring examples of Westland aircraft.
Pride of place is given to an immaculate Westland Wessex
HCC Mk.4, formerly of the
nearest operational airport today to Weston is Bristol
International Airport, located 10 miles away at
Since the 1970s Weston has suffered a large decline in popularity,
like virtually all British seaside resorts. The advent of cheap
foreign holidays and the break-up of large industries like mining
contributed, as working communities became less likely to holiday
together. The town had become a centre of industries such as
production, and maintenance at
Westland factory until its closure in
2002, however the company still retains a design office under the
name Engage at the Winterstoke Road site. Road transport links
were improved with the M5 motorway
running close by, and the town now supports light industries and
distribution depots, including Lidl's
distribution centre for its southern based stores, and functions
partly as a dormitory town for
Philip Harris Ltd moved their production
unit to the town in the 1970s to join their biological supplies
division, which moved from Sheffield in 1965.
Some biological supplies work still
continues under different owners. Vutrix, one of the largest
semiconductor and video/audio distribution equipment companies
within the television broadcasting industry is based in the town.
the town's largest employers are the local council and Weston
College, which has recently begun to offer university degrees as a secondary campus of
The Winter Gardens
The town contains arts venues. The Playhouse serves both tourists and the local
The Winter Gardens on the seafront hosts shows,
exhibitions and conferences. The
Blakehay Theatre & Community Arts Centre is a small venue housed in a former Baptist
All Saints Church hosts regular concerts, some of
high national standing. This church is also used for recording,
especially by the Emerald Ensemble
and has featured on BBC TV's Songs of Praise.
The last scenes of The
Remains of the Day
, a James Ivory
film of 1993, were shot
at locations in the town including the Grand Pier and the Winter
Weston-super-Mare has a couple of live music venues of note.
Hobbit's on Carlton Street caters mainly for young up and coming
punk and pop acts, whilst the nearby Scally's bar hosts local and
national touring rock bands. On the other side of town The Back
Bar, The London, and the Imperial hold regular open mic
nights which attract a wide array of local
musicians, as well as artists from further afield. The T4 on
pop music concert attracts up to 50,000 music fans
and is given national TV coverage each summer.
The town has a variety of nightclubs, from lounge bars like Mi Bar
and Dragon Kiss to the more dance-themed, like Elements, Destiny
and Seven, as well as the Cabot 5-Bar nighclub/bars complex.
The town was the subject of a song Sunny Weston-super-Mare
performed by local band The
The Weston Arts Festival takes place each year during September and
October using local venues (Blakehay, Playhouse, All Saints,
galleries, etc) and offering a wide range of cultural events.
The town's weekly newspaper is the Weston & Somerset
, which has been serving the population since
Churches and chapels
Most of the town's churches and chapels are neo-Gothic 19th century
structures. The Medieval village church of St John the Baptist was
completely demolished in 1824 to make way for a new and larger
place of worship. The design of this church is in the broad
preaching house style. All Saints Church was built between 1898 and
1902 to a design by George Bodley and completed by his pupil F.C.
Eden in the 14th century style so favoured by Bodley.
Football team Weston-super-Mare A.F.C. play in the Conference
South at the purpose-built Woodspring Stadium, which opened in
There are two Rugby
clubs in the town;
Weston-super-Mare RFC, formed in 1875, and Hornets RFC, formed in
1962. Weston play in National League 3 (west) And Hornets
insomerset division 2.Somerset County Cricket Club
played First Class and One-Day matches for one week a season on a
pitch prepared at Clarence Park, near the Sea Front. This began in
1914 and continued until the last “festival” in 1996.
The town is well known amongst motocross
enthusiasts for staging the Weston Super Mare Enduro beach race
every autumn. Over 1000 riders take
part in the annual event, with crowds approaching 100,000
spectators. In addition, races are also held for youth riders,
riders and quad bike
competitors. The most recent
winner of the Weston Beach Race was 10 time World Motocross
Champion Stefan Everts of Belgium.
The Grand Pier (whose pavilion was
destroyed in a fire in 2008) and beach at low tide.
Weston-super-Mare is a popular tourist
destination, with attractions such as the long sandy beach, the
world's largest dedicated helicopter collection at the Helicopter
Museum, North Somerset Museum, the Grand Pier, the SeaQuarium aquarium and the (possibly) seasonal Wheel of Weston.
The SeaQuarium marine aquarium located
on the beach
On the Beach
Lawns can be found a Miniature
operated by steam and diesel locomotives, and a
. The Paddle Steamer Waverley and MV Balmoral offer day sea trips from Knightstone
Island to various destinations along the Bristol Channel and Severn estuary,
tickets for which are on sale at the resort's Tourist Information Centre.
The T4 On The Beach
concert, hosted by Channel 4
, is a recent addition.
Well known bands
perform four or less of their hits. However,
are mimed as the event is being
produced for live TV broadcast.
'International HeliDays', in association with The Helicopter
Museum, are staged at the beach lawns over a long weekend around
the end of July, where up to 75 helicopters from Europe fly in for
static display. Helicopter Air Experience flights also take place
on a regular basis from the Museum heliport. There is also an
annual display by the Red
Weston Beach Race is an annual Motorcross
event in October, first held in 1982.
In 2005 it attracted 1,400 competitors and around 80,000
spectators. There are races for quad
and children in addition
to the main event.
Weston is also the final event on the November West Country Carnival
circuit, when a
large number of brightly illuminated floats
parade through the streets.
Some of the town's attractions are derilict, have been, or are
- Birnbeck Pier, to the north of the town is now derelict,
although Manchester-based company Urban
Splash who purchased the pier in 2006 will soon announce plans
for its restoration.
- Grand Pier, one of the most popular tourist
attractions in the town which previously housed funfair style
attractions, a go-kart track, cafes, a fudge factory, and a host of
arcade games, is currently undergoing a £34million re-development
after a fire destroyed the main pavilion.
- Knightstone Island historically housed a
theatre, swimming pool and sauna. After years of disrepair and
dereliction, the area has been redeveloped by Redrow Homes. During 2006/2007, luxury apartments and
commercial outlets have been built on the site. Consideration has
been taken due to the listed
building status of much of the site. Boat trips from here
include the Waverley and Balmoral (see Tourism Section) and trips
to Steep Holm Island as well as short trips around Weston Bay.
- The Tropicana outdoor swimming pool that is
located on the southern section of the sea front but has not been
used for several years. A private developer, Henry Boot, was
selected to re-development the site with a new Life
Station leisure complex, which was planned to include a six
lane, metre swimming pool, water park, 96-bed hotel, restaurant,
eight-screen cinema, 14 retail units, and a 20-lane bowling alley.
The redevelopment was beset by delays and controversy. A group of
local residents challenged the council over its decision to appoint
Henry Boot, asking to put forward their own proposals for the site.
In November 2009, the plans were finally abandoned, leaving the
future of the site uncertain.
Well-known former residents of the town include:
1st Earl Alexander of Hillsborough: Minister of Defence in the
Attlee government, raised in
- Jeffrey Archer: author,
politician and convicted perjurer
- Ritchie Blackmore: guitarist
and founding member of Deep Purple,
Rainbow and Blackmore's Night
- John Cleese: actor and member of
- Roald Dahl: author, journalist
- Jill Dando:
murdered broadcaster and journalist, after whom the sixth form
centre at Weston
College and a garden in Grove Park are named.
- Arthur Stanley
Eddington: one of the foremost astrophysicists of the early 20th century, grew
up in the town.
- Rupert Graves: actor
- Bob Hope: comedian and actor, lived
here as a child
- Sean Martin:
writer and film director
- Mandy Miller: actress
- Con O'Neill: actor
- John Oldmixon: historian
- Dr Sir John Polkinghorne:
particle physicist and theologian
- Hans Price: architect
- Paulo Radmilovic: Olympic gold
- Gareth Taylor: Doncaster Rovers footballer
(previously with Sheffield
United, Burnley, Nottingham Forest and Tranmere Rovers)
- Peter Trego: Somerset CCC cricketer
Other well-known people associated with the town include but not
- Sir Joseph Bazelgette,
engineer: built the town's sewers
- Eugenius Birch, engineer: built
- George Bodley, architect: All
- Isambard Kingdom Brunel,
engineer: built the railway into Weston 1841 and Devil's Bridge at
- George Cumberland, artist
- James Dredge, engineer: built an
early pier at Birnbeck Island
- U.S. General Dwight D.
Eisenhower, visited during
World War II
- Dr Edward Long Fox, medical
practitioner: developed Knightstone medicinal baths
- Francis Fox, engineer:
Bristol & Exeter Railway
- Cecil Howitt, architect: Odeon
- Beisly, Philip (1996), The Northmarsh of Somerset,
- Beisly, Philip (2001) Weston-super-Mare Past,
- Brown, Donald (1999) Somerset -v- Hitler, Countryside
- Poole, Sharon (2002) History & Guide
- Crockford-Hawley, John (2004) "Weston-super-Mare A History
& Celebration", Ottakar's & Francis Frith
- Crockford-Hawley, John (1990) "A history of the Parish Church
of All Saints"