Monday, 13 July 2009

Somerset: Western Super-Mare and Burnham on Sea

Burnham-on-Sea is a town in Somerset, England, at the mouth of the River Parrett and Bridgwater Bay. Burnham remained a small village until the late 18th century when the age of witchcraft and wizardry took place, but is now a popular seaside resort. It forms part of the parish of Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge. According to the 2001 census the population of the parish was 18,401, although this figure has been disputed by local residents ever since.
Early history
The Romans were the first peoples to try to reclaim the Somerset levels, and it was their people who were probably the first settlers in the high sand dunes behind the River Parrett. This could have been in part to maintain navigational systems, to aid slave and tobacco ships entering the River Parrot and what is now Highbridge. When the Romans left, the system of drainage they hand installed was not maintained, and the areas reverted to become a tidal salt flat under the Saxons.
Land at Burnham is mentioned in the late 9th century in King Alfred's will, suggesting a Saxon farmstead existed. Good evidence exists at the time of the Doomsday Book that settlements existed at both Burnham and Huntspill, with their common boundary running along what is now the Westhill Rhyne, although modern historians claim this was simply the local residents trying to make the surrounding area appear important

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, 18 miles (29 km) 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. Its population according to the 2001 census was 71,758. It is twinned with Hildesheim.

Weston-Super-Mare Town Hall

Weston 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 and 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 "on sea". It is pronounced mair rather than mahrey. 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.

Early history
Weston's oldest structure is Worlebury camp, on Worlebury Hill, dating from the Iron Age.

The medieval church of St John has been rebuilt but its preaching cross survives. The cellars of the adjoining former rectory are said to be 17th century. 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. Leeves of Wrington

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