Tuesday, 9 February 2016

West Country Tour … a brief call in at Minehead … part 18 …





Minehead’s situation as a port is slightly different from the others along the coast of north Devon or Cornwall – in that it sits in a wide bay … yet over the centuries has nestled up close to its western land neighbour – Exmoor – hiding from the storms in the Bristol Channel.

 
Looking east across Minehead
from Exmoor


There aren’t the harsh boat-wrecking rock-combs of Hartland turbidites, or the tiny coves making a hiding place for early fishermen, or marauders … the quay and thus harbour were tucked right into the protection of rising land …



… which gave Minehead an advantage for a while – and by Good Queen Bess’ reign (1558 – 1603) was ‘ennobled’ as a Royal port, similar in standing to Bristol.


Plaque depiction of boats sheltering from
a major storm in the 1700s
In spite of constant problems with the harbour walls and silting – requiring the harbour ‘to often be moved’ - trade developed rapidly during the 16th and 17th centuries … with some forty vessels plying their way between Minehead and Ireland, South Wales, Bristol and Bridgwater (further up the coast).


And once the trade routes with Virginia and the West Indies opened up … the cargoes included wool (an important export), linen, yarn, coal, salt, hides and livestock, as well as wines from France and Spain.


Daniel Defoe
By the 18th century … Minehead, as with other small harbours, could not compete with the expansion in size of ships, cargoes, and developing world markets.


Just before the Age of the Romantics came in … and ‘tourism’ commenced – an early traveller was Daniel Defoe (of Robinson Crusoe fame) in 1722 he stayed at the Plume of Feathers Inn a much loved beautiful old coaching inn … 


Plume of Feathers hotel at
the turn of the century


… then a couple of years later returned to Watchet up the coast a little, and was impressed by the fossils he found.  The Plume of Feathers was demolished in 1965 – to the disgust of the town.  




As a side note: It’s interesting in the 1960s there was little control as to destruction – we’ve lost quite a lot of archaeology here in Eastbourne due to the 1960s ‘demolishers’!


From the harbour side - Exmoor rising behind, with
The Ship Aground  hugging the harbour ... before the lane
along Exmoor waned, with the Coastal Path continuing on
The creatives … poets came to be inspired, authors to be entrapped by the scenery with its hidden bowers, artists to draw and paint landscapes only heard of, scientists to explore and learn … medical doctors were soon advocating sea-bathing as a remedy for ailments … tourism really settled in …




Quay cottages at the turn of the 1900s


... gradually the image changed, here as elsewhere … and with the growth of transport links, visitors increased during the 19th century, as did their desire for new places to visit and things to do … 



Early morning sun lighting up
The Old Ship Aground
Tourism as we know it today had started in the late 1800s … and would have called Emily to check the area out in the first years of the 1900s.  Jenny thinks she stayed in the cottages near the harbour, where our hotel was situated … 



The Old Ship Aground – now an inn – originally The Pier Hotel of Edwardian times (1901 – 1911) … has given the refurbished building in the historic quarter of The Quay a new lease of life.





Rabbit faggots, with bubble and squeak with bacon,
fresh savoy cabbage and a cider jus - my choice


The hotel/pub/inn has taken advantage of today's market - they have a farm nearby and locally source other produce ... so offer good pub grub, often with entertainment, local beers, ciders etc.  It is frequented by locals and is perfectly positioned at the start of the South Coast Path





Jenny's desert choice - treacle tart with custard


At the harbour are some plaques – but unfortunately I didn’t take photos of them all, as I’d assumed (wrongly!) I’d be able to find out once I got home … 





Since the Millennium, the Minehead community have been creating ways of telling the town’s story to visitors and locals alike … there are various walks with audio accompaniment …


… six hidden histories and secret stories about the town – tales that are designed to be read out loud to families and groups and … then these historical plaques covering the 7 eras of maritime history: I regret not taking photos of them all …


Detail re this plaque - in italics within the post:
it is believed to be Saint Carantoc from South Wales
The First Millennium and the Currach – it was a light and durable sea going vessel much favoured by the Celts.  A construction of hide and wicker made repair simple no matter where it was landed and vessels of up to 60 feet with a beam of 15 feet were capable of ocean voyages.


This plaque depicts a wandering saint landing here in such a vessel searching for an unspoilt, secluded location in which to devote his life to solitude, prayer and learning.  His final destination is where St Michael’s Church now stands.  It is believed to be St Carantoc from South Wales.


Minehead after World War Two - showing the harbour and
the Lifeboat Station - under the lea of the hill.  The Ship
Aground is on the corner of the harbour - about where the
black splodge is!  St Michael's Church is marked with the
Ordinance Survey church symbol (between Higher Town
and the shoreline).

Then there’s:

 the quaint chapel in a cellar

an 'obby ’orse  

and the ghost … a whistling ghost … 

then the start or finish of the South West Coastal Path – 

these await you in the next post!
… all this set on a bay, perfect for a family seaside holiday, with its long flat sandy beach, great for picnics, games, paddling, or swimming, while the sand of the Strand is wonderful for sandcastle building …


One of the few Butlin's Holiday Camps
left in Britain

… life has developed since Emily’s day (1860 – 1926) [that post really is coming!] … but our ability and ease of reference now to moving around, to learning about the area has only been facilitated since the turn of the 20th Century.


Now we have the opportunity to vicariously travel as we wish … to be tempted to areas unknown, to be beguiled by photos of those places … and then to be left up in the air!:  tomorrow I will wrap up Minehead with those remaining tales before we head off to the Vale of Taunton on our last leg.


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

43 comments:

Anabel Marsh said...

Oh those 1960s demolishes! They got everywhere. Funnily enough, I recently came across a short film made in the 60s about the brave new world Glasgow was going to be in 1980 - and counted all the 60s/70s stuff it showed that has already been demolished in turn. Whole areas of it.

Joanne said...

sad about the demolition, but alas so true in far too many places. Love the name "Ship Aground Inn", and so many of the other creative names of places. They just asked to be visited. I'm glad for your food pics, and all of the adventure. So much to absorb - it must be tough to keep moving on.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

It's sad to think about things being demolished in a country like yours which has such a history. I didn't realize that was a thing in the 1960s to demolish the old architecture, but that doesn't surprise me. That was a decade marked by the desire to be "modern" and new and get rid of old traditions in every way, shape and form. The word "mod" was a hallmark of the 1960s, especially in England.

A Heron's View said...

'Minehead on the Mud' I have often heard it called.
The WW2 military camp was converted to a Butlin's Holiday camp and then I believe became a hostel for refugees.
An odd place is Minehead, one of the London boroughs bought a a few acres in the 60's and built homes to rehouse their O.A.P's.
Then there is the steam railway that goes to Bishop's Lydeard near Taunton or am I jumping the gun ?
The real jewel for me though is the pretty little village of Dunster which is a four miles walk away.

H.R. Sinclair, Southpaw said...

I echo the sentiment on demolition. -----Wow, the rabbit faggots look so good!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Anabel - the owners of the site could just demolish - there was no planning permission ... it's only now they've realised how much 'archaeology' was just smashed to dust. We've lost that history .. as you will have done in Glasgow - so sad and I bet - there'd have been whole areas of it ...

@ Joanne - destruction is so sad and yes it still happens. Thankfully here there is a degree of protection here. The names are wonderful aren't they - and as you say they ask to be visited. So pleased you're enjoying the food pics and those of the journey. I hate to say it - I've been home for three months now! But I enjoy writing up the journey-line ...

@ Karen - thankfully there are protection measures in place now - though 'accidents' still happen.

The destruction in the 1960s was the desire to get on with things - without much thought ... but then we know so much more now. But you're right about the "mod" phase ...

@ Mel - yes you jumped the gun and reminded me of things I wasn't going to put in ... eg the railway and Dunster.

But you've really added to the conversation - re the WW2 military camp, which is now Butlins. How interesting to learn about the London OAPs being moved down here ...

The little village of Dunster - has lots of history .. hopefully people will take note from your comment here ... next time I'm down I'll definitely make a point of visiting.

But I do thank you for the extra comments and thoughts ...

The silting caused a lot of problems over the centuries - the harbour was regularly moved ... so I can believe the slogan: "Minehead on the Mud"

@ Holly - I know demolition in this country was desperate. Am very glad you like the look of my rabbit faggots ... I did too they tasted delicious ...

Cheers to you all - and interesting to see you all commented on the demolition aspects ... Hilary

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Historic walks are so cool. That's smart that you can listen and go at your own pace.
Just how does one move a harbor?

Elephant's Child said...

Another fascinating post.
The demolishers seemed to operate world-wide. Here at least at lot of what they constructed has now gone. In a fraction of the time that the things they destroyed lasted. Mind you it only had a fraction of the beauty and charm as well.

Rhodesia said...

So sad the Plume of Feathers was demolished. It is criminal the amount of history that has been destroyed. Another interesting post, well done Hilary. Have a good week Diane

Murees Dupé said...

Very beautiful. It's a shame about the archaeology going lost because of demolishers. So much history to enjoy. I like knowing the stories behind the plaques. Very cool. Wishing you well.

Denise Covey said...

Yes, such a shame! Those demolition '60s! Australia had a whole sweep of gorgeous old buildings going under the wrecking ball, but now old buildings (so few left) are revered and carefully restored. Thanks for the beautiful post. I'd like to visit!

(How could anyone lack blogging material? I just followed you from another post...)

Denise :-)

Vallypee said...

I still find it hard to comprehend the demolition...awful. Another fascinating post, Hilary. I have so enjoyed these travels with you, and I must say pub grub looks excellent these days! Lovely photos and pieces of history. I remember people talking about Butlins there...I've never been to one.

Fil said...

It looks like a beautiful wee town - I especially love those plaques Hilar. There used to be 8 hotels in our village and now there are none - between 60s demolitions and then the Troubles... no forethought at all was there.

Out on the prairie said...

That rabbit looks wonderful. I have quite a few running around the farm.

Jo said...

We are watching a series called Walking Through History with Sir Tony? walking around the UK. Last week he was talking about Monmouth and his rebellion. One of the people mentioned was Daniel Foe, later known as Defoe of course. I cannot remember whether he joined the rebellion or not. Treacle Tart, used to love that, haven't had it since I was a kid. I had forgotten about Butlins. I am surprised they are still going anywhere.

Janie Junebug said...

I missed something: Emily? I looked again and didn't see Emily who. I can only think of Emily Bronte since Emily Dickinson hardly ever left her house in Massachusetts.

Love,
Janie

rosaria williams said...

Most fascinating. So much history to absorb with each visit, each step.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Alex - it's great that so much is being done that families and people can tap into - to learn about the area. I like the idea of the family group readings they do as an alternative ..

I guess - the harbour was swept away in a storm, or silted up, or the boats were getting bigger ... so the ships can't dock/land ... and thus something needed to be done about it - a new one built. It takes some thinking about ... bearing in mind the tidal changes etc ...

@ EC - thank you. It was the lack of thought .. that there was no value in the building they were demolishing ... or for what was buried before that building was ever built - which could be something in the 1700s, then again the next layer back ... 1400 or 1500s and so on. All lost in that destruction ...

@ Diane - yes an old coaching inn with a wonderful name and through its name giving us a timeline of the very late 1600s/early 1700s. So pulling it down in the 1960s would have destroyed the nearly three hundred years of the pub, and the earlier buildings.

@ Murees - thanks re the plaques .. I wish I'd taken the other photos of the plaques - they were so clever. The loss of archaeology has only recently been valued ...

@ Denise - I saw the same in South Africa - few of the older buildings left ... but at least some preservation occurred. Here it is what is underneath those layers of historical years ...archaeology is so sophisticated now-a-days.

I can't understand how people don't have things to blog about - everyday life throws up so many possibilities ... glad you agree with me - though I cannot for the life of me remember whose blog!

@ Val - the worst was the lack of consideration; now projects are held up, due to the planning process ... so they can evaluate what's underneath and dig ever deeper if necessary ... and give us even more history. As in London, and in other parts of the country - East Anglia, here in Eastbourne etc

Butlins - there are now three sites left ... Minehead, Bognor Regis (south coast) and Skegness on the north east coast. I've never been to one either ... sometimes they look fun - but screaming kids .. .I think not!

@ Fil - surprisingly it wasn't that tiny .. because of the wide bay without a cliff margin - the town has been built along and inland - it's certainly not big .. but it's a town, rather than a village or a hamlet. It's amazing how many villages have lost their pubs - the mainstay of life for 100 years or so. Your very recent 'Troubles' history won't have helped - I can see that.

@ Steve - the rabbit faggots were delicious .. and I was delighted to see them on the menu. There's lots here too - do you catch yours and put them in the pot?

@ Jo - Walking through History with Tony Robinson can have some wonderful elucidating moments .. fascinating to see Daniel Defoe mentioned. Yes he was Foe earlier ...

Tony Robinson has done some amazing tv and acting work .. the BBC Time Team and Walking Through History (Channel 4) series were enjoyable and informative.

Treacle tart is really good isn't it ... there are three Butlins left now and they're doing pretty well as they include events over and above their core intent of a holiday venue.

@ Janie - Emily is Emily Hobhouse - who' we are following' in her footsteps ... she's appeared all through the tour - but I'll be posting specifically about her soon.

@ Rosaria - there's always so much I could write about ... and this time I need to do another post - but that's English history and stories found all around us.

Cheers to you all .. good to see you and thanks so much for the interested comments - Hilary

Crystal Collier said...

Such fascinating history. I can always count on you to feed me some of the best little-known facts.

Patsy said...

We are lucky that we can now easily learn about and see far away or hard to reach places without moving away from our computer screens - it's not the same as being there though, is it?

M Pax said...

OK, I want to visit there. Very badly. This was before you mentioned the whistling ghost.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Exmoor looks like a charming place. I'm sorry I missed it on my trip. I did know about Daniel Defoe. Did a paper on him in school. The one thing I never forgot was Crusoe was published on my birthday 234 years before I was born. That is amazing.

beste barki said...

All very interesting Hilary. Great history.

klahanie said...

Hi Hilary,

Apologies for what may well seem my notable absence. Been rather busy in that other world beyond my computer screen.

We have indeed followed similar paths along the West Country. Reading your articulate, comprehensive posts, makes me realise just how much I actually missed.

Now what did I overlook in the Vale of Taunton and the Quantock Fringes...

Cheers and keep warm, Hilary.

Gary

Christine Rains said...

What a wonderful tour. And I do love it when you include Jenny's dessert! :) Thank you for sharing.

J Lenni Dorner said...

Fascinating stuff, as always. The food looks tasty!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Crystal - thanks and I'm glad you enjoy the extra snippets ...

@ Patsy - aren't we lucky to be able to add to our knowledge having seen the places on our way through ... gives me extra impetus to go back

@ Mary - well I don't think Minehead is going away ... so when you're ready to visit!

@ Joylene - Exmoor is lovely .. but your trip will have been so memorable being with the family as you saw places they wanted to take you to. It's funny about those memories about things that happened on our birthdays years before we were born. Crusoe is an amazing book ..

@ Beste - glad you enjoyed it ..

@ Gary - good to see you .. I know things are going on - and often think of you. When we're travelling or holidaying .. there's only so much we can do - but as this journey has brought some of those memories back for you - that's good to know.

Ah the Vale of Taunton and the Quantocks .. we will both have to wait and see!

@ Christine - it was a lovely time and I saw areas I'd never seen. I'm happy you enjoyed seeing Jenny's desert!

@ JL - good to see you ..

Cheers and thanks for all your comments - Hilary

Jamie Dorner said...

That's some cool history. I love visiting Boston. All of New England, really. Places with history, thinking of all that happened in the same spot I'm standing now, you know?

Deborah Weber said...

Another fabulous tour Hilary. I take endless delight in your romps and you are single-handedly increasing my historical knowledge in an exponential fashion.

TexWisGirl said...

love the plaque, the harbor views and the FOOD! :)

A Cuban In London said...

Beautiful post. That grub looks very nice. I love pub lunches, especially in the countryside. I'm a big-portion fan. :-)

Greetings from London.

Sara C. Snider said...

Shame about the demolishing in the '60s. The area looks absolutely lovely though, with lots of interesting history. And treacle tart! I've never had such a thing--it makes me wonder what it tastes like. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Jamie - good to meet you .. and I'm glad you enjoy checking out the history of Boston and New England - it's beautiful up there.

@ Deborah - that's amazing to read - thank you so much .. I also confirm I'm increasing my knowledge of the area in an exponential fashion too!!

@ Theresa - the plaques are incredible ... and I must find out more about them sometime. The little quay of the harbour tucked into the west end of the bay was very quaint. The food - well enough said!

@ ACIL - this portion was big - but it was delicious. I agree - pub lunches are always tasty, fun and entertaining.

@ Sara - sadly it happened and those ancient shards and small fragments of history were lost forever. Minehead deserves a longer stay ...

Treacle tart - I wrote about it ... in my cookery A-Zs in 2013 ... and how Orwell wrote about food, including treacle tart. So I hope you can give it a try ...

Thanks for your visits - Minehead entices I can see ... cheers Hilary

Gattina said...

You have seen a lot and I learned a lot to ! the firs tourist in 1722 ! I don't know what happened in the 60th all over Europe old historical buildings were destroyed in Brussels too, and the whole Belgian coastline ! I thought England had escaped to this massacre but apparently not !

DMS said...

Sorry that finding the plaques when you got home wasn't as easy as you thought it would be. Such an interesting history. Your meal looks so tasty. I now have another place added to my "Hope to Travel to" list. :)
~Jess

Thais Pampado said...

So much interesting history! Made me want to visit.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Why were they so intent on demolishing things in the 60s?

Trisha F said...

I hate stories of amazing old buildings being demolished :( Not sure about in the UK, but in Australia, whenever they did that sort of thing, they then replaced them with horrendously ugly 1970s / 80s houses that are still a blight on our landscape today ;)

Empty Nest Insider said...

I'm also sorry about the demolition. Everything from the plaques to the gourmet dishes were uniquely exquisite. Hilary, you always take us on the most interesting journeys!

Julie

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Gattina - that's good .. I think others like Defoe travelled, but it wasn't commonplace for another 50 - 75 years or so. In th elate 1700s - early 1800s the Grand Tour was 'a thing' to do ...

Re the demolition ... I believe it's called 'development' ...

@ Jess - I know I really couldn't believe I could not find images of the plaques with their details ... for me I spent quite a lot of time, but gave up. The food there was good and definitely deserves another visit. The situation, tucked into the edge of Exmoor, was a great one too ...

@ Thais - thanks for visiting .. I couldn't understand the language on your blog! - so apologies for the short 'hello'.

@ Shannon - It was the time for new buildings - there'd been recovery after the War, and now people were beginning to look at their towns and villages to see what could be replaced with the new - i.e. concrete: which has proved not such a brilliant material. The new would be 'modern' using new materials ...

... also the major 'demolition/destruction' was done without any thought - as there was no planning permission required ...things have changed now. I'm sure it's still a pain for developers ... but sometimes we need to preserve buildings ... and we need time to explore the land below the buildings - where older finds will be found. The land has 'grown' many feet since Roman times ... so much is buried several feet or more down.

@ Trisha - I know destruction for destruction's sake is not a good thing. There is still controversy now - and mistakes or wilful mistakes are made ... also the different groups have separate agendas ...

THe 1960s, 70s and 80s buildings aren't appealing are they ... I can imagine they'd blight your landscape too.

@ Julie - some demolition needs to be done - and can be done, once the matter has been considered ... ie planning permission has been given, or a time-lag has been given for some archaeology.

Thanks re the plaques and the healthy pub food ... but it all adds interest to the tour ...

Thanks so much to you all for coming by - we have a gloomy weekend coming up apparently .. it's damp and very grey!! Cheers and have happy weekends - Hilary

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Somehow, with all of the historical places still in abundance in your country, I falsely assumed you'd escaped the dreaded demolitions that happened here in the so-called name of progress. It's such a travesty when beautiful old structures with timeless architecture and dripping with historical significance are destroyed to be replaced with some bland piece of modern whatever.

That meal was interesting. Bubble and squeak, I've heard of, but rabbit faggot? I'll have to check that out. We love rabbit.

Cheers!

Jeffrey Scott said...

I always love to see Jenny's choice in desserts. :p
Yummy!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Susan - sadly in the unscrupulous times of particularly the 50s, 60s, 70s - no respect was given to buildings and what might lie below - granted our knowledge and ability to learn more about archaeology has developed exponentially ... so now the scientists have more time and restrictive orders are put on. But even then ... the artefacts could have been taken out and removed and stored ... Thankfully we have quite a lot of archaeology still being found ... and thus recorded and investigated.

Bubble and Squeak is delicious ... but the rabbit faggot I had to try and it was very good indeed ... I too love rabbit ...

@ Jeffrey - Jenny's choice of dessert was Knickerbockerglory whenever we had a meal! Yummy - yes ...

Thanks so much to you both ... cheers Hilary