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.
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
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.
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
|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
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 …
|Detail re this plaque - in italics within the post:|
it is believed to be Saint Carantoc from South Wales
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.
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!
|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-ButcherPositive Letters Inspirational Stories