Weston-super-Mare facts for kids
A view over Weston-super-Mare
|Population||76,143 (2011 Census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Police||Avon and Somerset|
|EU Parliament||South West England|
Weston-super-Mare / / is a town in Somerset, England, on the Bristol Channel 18 miles (29 km) south west of Bristol between Worlebury Hill and Bleadon Hill. It includes the suburbs of Oldmixon, West Wick and Worle. Its population at the 2011 census was 76,143. Since 1983, Weston has been twinned with Hildesheim, Germany.
Although there is evidence in the local area of occupation since the Iron Age, it was still a small village until the 19th century when it became a seaside resort, and was connected with local towns and cities by a railway, and two piers were built. The growth continued until the second half of the 20th century, when tourism declined and some local industries closed. A regeneration programme is being undertaken with attractions including the Helicopter Museum, Weston-super-Mare Museum, Grand Pier and an aquarium. The Paddle Steamer Waverley and MV Balmoral offer day sea trips from Knightstone Island to various destinations along the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary. Cultural venues include The Playhouse, the Winter Gardens and Blakehay Theatre.
Owing to the large tidal range in the Bristol Channel, the low tide mark in Weston Bay is about 1 mile (1.6 km) from the seafront. Although the beach itself is sandy, low tide uncovers areas of thick mud, hence the colloquial name, Weston-super-Mud. These mudflats are very dangerous to walk in and are crossed by the mouth of the River Axe. Just to 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 Interest (SSSI). In the centre of the town is Ellenborough Park, another SSSI due to the range of plant species found there.
Prior to 1348 it was known as Weston-juxta-Mare ("beside the sea"). The name was changed by Ralph of Shrewsbury, who was the Bishop of Bath and Wells. Between the 14th and 17th centuries the "super Mare" part of the name disappeared and it was just known as Weston, although in 1610 it was recorded as Weston on the More; môr being the Welsh word for sea.
Weston's oldest structure is Worlebury Camp, on Worlebury Hill, dating from the Iron Age. Castle Batch was a castle that once stood overlooking the town. The present site has an earthwork mound of 160 feet (50 m) in diameter which is believed to be the remains of a motte.
The parish was part of the Winterstoke Hundred.
The medieval church of St John was demolished in 1824 and built anew on the same site, though a stump of the Medieval preaching cross survives by the exterior south wall. 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 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. The Pigott 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 boom in seaside holidays. Construction of the first hotel in the village started in 1808; it was called "Reeves" (now the Royal Hotel). Along with nearby Burnham-on-Sea, Weston benefited from proximity to Bristol, Bath and South Wales. 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 and his family lived in Weston, at Swiss Villa (towards the north end of Trevelyan road, see map 1901, Weston-super-Mare), while 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. Mining families also 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, amusement rides and a photographic studio. However, it is now in a derelict state and has been added to English Heritage's Buildings at Risk Register, but visitors can still admire its structure from behind barbed wire. It was designed by Eugenius Birch with ironwork by the ISCA 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 was built on the low "moorland" behind the sea front in an area known as South Ward. Many of these houses have now been converted into bedsits. Most of the houses built in the Victorian era are built from stone and feature details made from Bath Stone, influenced by local architect Hans Price.
In 1885, the first transatlantic telegraph cable of the Commercial Cable Company was brought ashore and the company started a long association with the town, ending in 1962.
Guglielmo Marconi, 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).
A second railway, the Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Light Railway, opened on 1 December 1897, connecting Weston to Clevedon. The terminus station was at Ashcombe Road. The railway was extended to Portishead on 7 August 1907 but was closed in 1940.
Much of the character of the buildings in the town derives from the use of local stone, much of it from the Town Quarry. Notable among the architects working in the 19th century was Hans Price (1835–1912). Many examples of his work are still to be seen: the Town Hall, the Mercury Office, the Constitutional Club (originally the Lodge of St Kew), villas and numerous other domestic dwellings. The Odeon Cinema by Thomas Cecil Howitt is notable for fully retaining many Art Deco features both internally and externally, and retaining its original theatre organ, a Compton from 1935. It is believed to be the only cinema organ in the West Country left working in its original location and is still in regular use. Other organs by Compton in Weston-super-Mare can be found at Victoria Methodist Church and All Saints' Church by George Bodley (modelled on that in Downside Abbey).
Local traders, unhappy that visitors were not coming as far as the centre of the town, built a new pier closer to the main streets. Opened in 1904, and known as the Grand Pier, it was designed to be 1.5 miles (2.4 km) long. Further development occurred after World War I, with the Winter Gardens Pavilion in 1927, the open air pool, with its arched concrete diving board, 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.
During 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 a Royal Air Force station at RAF Locking. The town was also on the return route of bombers targeting Bristol and was itself bombed by the Luftwaffe. The first bombs fell in June 1940, but the worst attacks were 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, incendiary bombs fell on the town. The Air Ministry set up a "Q-station" decoy at Bleadon in an attempt to divert the bombers to an unpopulated area. In the later part of the war, United States Army troops were billeted in the area, but they were relocated in the run-up to D-Day.
RAF Weston-super-Mare was opened in 1936 by No. 24 Group, with a single tarmac runway. It served as a 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 on site used occasionally by the RAF Search and Rescue service. The former Westland site, which closed 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 Queen's Flight.
Residential areas outside the town centre include the Oldmixon, Coronation, and Bournville housing estates, built in the mid to late 20th century. Newer housing has since been built towards the east of the town in North Worle and Locking Castle, 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.
In 1986, Weston 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. A competition was held to design a new pavilion, and the project awarded to the winning architect Angus Meek Architects of Bristol. Construction work began on the pier and new pavilion in 2009, and was scheduled to re-open in July 2010 following a £39 million re-building programme. After continuing problems and set-backs leading to the pier not opening until a formal opening ceremony on 23 October 2010, the overall costs have reached £51 million. During the same period a £34 million redevelopment of the promenade, including refurbishment of the Marine Lake and pedestrianisation of Pier Square. As part of the work, a scour protection apron and splash wall were added as part of flood prevention measures.
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 councillors, newspapers and the 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 places in 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.
The mainly flat landscape of Weston is dominated by Worlebury Hill, 109 metres (357 ft), which borders the entire northern edge of the town, and Bleadon Hill, 176 metres (577 ft) 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 there.
The beach of Weston Bay lies on the western edge of the town. The upper part is sandy but the sea retreats a long way at low tide exposing large areas of mud flats (hence the colloquial name of Weston-super-Mud). The tidal range in this part of the Bristol Channel is great, and since beach and mud flats are on a gentle slope, attempting to reach the sea at times of low tide is inadvisable as the sand gives way to mud which is very deep and has frequently resulted in loss of life over the years. Driving on the beach (which is permitted in certain areas) occasionally results the drivers of vehicles being caught unawares as they drive too close to the sea and break through the sand into the underlying mud and are then stuck.
The tidal rise and fall in the Severn Estuary and Bristol Channel can be as great as 14.5 m (48 ft), second only to Bay of Fundy in Eastern Canada. 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.
Just to 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 84.1-hectare (208-acre) biological and geological Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Along with the rest of South West England, Weston has a temperate climate which is generally wetter and milder than the rest of the country. The annual mean temperature is approximately 10 °C (50 °F). Seasonal temperature variation is less extreme than most of the United Kingdom because of the adjacent sea temperatures. The summer months of July and August are the warmest with mean daily maxima of approximately 21 °C (70 °F). In winter mean minimum temperatures of 1–2 °C (34–36 °F) are common. In the summer the Azores high pressure affects the south-west of England, however convective cloud sometimes forms inland, reducing the number of hours of sunshine. Annual sunshine rates are slightly less than the regional average of 1,600 hours. In December 1998 there were 20 days without sun recorded at Yeovilton. Most the rainfall in the south-west is caused by Atlantic depressions or by convection. Most of the rainfall in autumn and winter is caused by the Atlantic depressions, which is when they are most active. In summer, a large proportion of the rainfall is caused by sun heating the ground leading to convection and to showers and thunderstorms. Average rainfall is around 700 mm (28 in). About 8–15 days of snowfall is typical. November to March have the highest mean wind speeds, and June to August have the lightest winds. The predominant wind direction is from the south-west.
|Climate data for Weston-super-Mare, 5 m asl 1981–2010|
|Average high °C (°F)||8.3
|Average low °C (°F)||2.6
|Precipitation mm (inches)||88.4
|Source: Met Office|
According to the United Kingdom Census 2001, the population of Weston-super-Mare is 76,143. This makes it the largest settlement in North Somerset, which has a total population of 188,564. 20.1% of the town's population are aged 65 or over, compared with the national average of 16.5%. 96.5% of the population are white, compared with 86% nationally. In 1831 the town population was 1,310, and in 1801 just 138. In 2001, the town comprised 34,441 households, while in 1829 it comprised just 250. The vast majority (96.5%) of the population described themselves as white in the 2011 census. 58.2% are Christian, with 32.4% describing themselves as having no religion. No other religious groups achieved as much as 0.5%.
The 2.9-mile-long (4.7 km) 4 ft 81⁄2 in (1,435 mm) gauge Weston-super-Mare Tramways network opened on 12 May 1902. The main 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 Tramway 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 motorway, to which it is linked by a dual-carriageway relief road built in the 1990s. This replaced Locking Road as the designated A370 route and avoided some of the traffic congestion along that narrower urban road.
The Bristol and Exeter Railway arrived in Weston-super-Mare on 14 June 1841. This was not the route that serves today's Weston-super-Mare railway station, but rather a single-track branch line from Weston Junction, midway between the present day Worle and Uphill junctions, which terminated at a small station in Regent Street close to the High Street. 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 1881.
Today, the station, which is on a short loop off the Bristol to Exeter line, 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, Taunton and Cardiff Central. CrossCountry services run to Birmingham and the North. The station has two platforms. Other stations are located at Weston Milton and Worle. During the middle of the day they are served by the local trains between Taunton, Bristol and Cardiff, but during the peak periods London trains call at both stations. Weston Milton station is on the single track loop and therefore has only one platform, while Worle is on the main line and has two side platforms. The Weston loop diverges just to the southwest of Worle station, and the junction is therefore known as Worle Junction.
Most bus services are provided by First Somerset & Avon or Crosville Motor Services. All services call at stops in the Regent Street and Big Lamp Corner area, including some stops in the adjacent High Street. Some town services and those to Sand Bay, Wells, Burnham-on-Sea and Bristol Airport start from or run via the main railway station. The service to Sand Bay is sometimes operated by an open top bus. National Express and Bakers Dolphin operate long distance coach services, mostly from the coach terminal in Locking Road Car Park which is close to the railway station.
The nearest operational airport to Weston is Bristol Airport, located 15 miles (24 km) away at Lulsgate.
The town contains several arts venues. The Playhouse serves both tourists and the local population. 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 church. 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 programme Songs of Praise.
The Odeon Cinema was opened in 1935 and is a building in the modernist style designed by Thomas Cecil Howitt. It houses the only Compton theatre pipe organ in an Odeon cinema outside London and is one of only two working theatre organs left in the country still performing in their original location in commercially operating cinemas. This Compton organ was installed in 1935 and is the only one left in the West Country, the next nearest being the Odeon Leicester Square, London. All other models have been either restored and moved elsewhere, or destroyed. Occasional organ concerts continue to be held at the venue. The building has Grade II Listed status.
Weston-super-Mare has a small number of live music venues of note. "Scally's" hosts more established touring rock bands, while 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 the Beach concert had been hosted annually since 2006, up until 2012, by Channel 4 youth programme T4. Well known bands and singers perform four or fewer of their hits. However, the vocals are mimed as the event is being produced for live TV broadcast. Each summer the beach is also used as the venue for the Weston-super-Mare Sand Sculpture Festival.
The town was the subject of a song "Sunny Weston-super-Mare" performed by local band The Wurzels. 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 Gardens.
The Weston Arts Festival takes place each year during September and October using local venues including the Blakehay Theatre, Playhouse, All Saints, and galleries and offering a wide range of cultural events.
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.
The town's weekly newspaper is The Weston & Somerset Mercury, which has been serving the population since 1843. It is now owned by publishing company Archant. There are also two online publications The Weston Echo, and Weston super Mare People.
Weston Super Television is an on-line community television channel set up in 2011. Its volunteers make and present studio programmes, including interviews with local councillers, musicians and community leaders, as well as filming local events in and around the town.
The 2011 TV comedy drama series The Cafe was co-written by Michelle Terry who was born in the town and the series was filmed in Weston-super-Mare.
In August 2015 the artist Banksy opened the temporary art installation 'Dismaland' at the Tropicana, Weston-super-Mare venue.
The Grand Pier is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the town. It previously housed funfair style attractions, a go-kart track, cafes, a fudge factory, and a host of arcade games, and underwent a £34 million re-development after a fire in 2008 destroyed the main pavilion. After a harsh winter which delayed progress, the new pier pavilion reopened on 23 October 2010.
Weston's first pier, Birnbeck Pier, standing on a small island to the north of the bay is currently closed to the public. The current owners, Manchester-based company Urban Splash purchased the pier in 2006. A competition was held as a means to encourage redevelopment of the site for commercial use. To date, no firm plans are in place, and the future of Birnbeck Pier is uncertain. The pier houses Weston-super-Mare Lifeboat Station.
Knightstone Island housed a theatre, swimming pool and sauna, after having been purchased by the physician Edward Long Fox in 1830 to create a therapeutic spa with range of hot, cold and chemical baths. 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 and trips to Steep Holm and Flat Holm islands as well as short trips around Weston Bay.
The Tropicana outdoor swimming pool that is located on the southern section of the sea front has not been occupied since 2000. A private developer, Henry Boot, was selected to redevelop the site with a new Life Station leisure complex, which was planned to include a six lane, 25-metre (27 yd) 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. In 2010 the council invited submissions from developers for a new, less ambitious, scheme to redevelop the site with a swimming pool at its heart. A decision on a new scheme is expected towards the end of 2010. The local authority announced on 23 August 2011 that it was giving developers six months to propose plans for a smaller development otherwise they will arrange to demolish the Tropicana. In February 2013, North Somerset Council granted planning permission to a consortium of local businesses who intend to build a new swimming pool complex on the site.
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.
All Saints Church was built between 1898 and 1902 to a design by George Frederick Bodley and completed by his pupil F.C. Eden in the 14th century style so favoured by Bodley. It is a Grade II* listed building. Holy Trinity Church is also a Grade II* listed building.
There is a Greek Orthodox Church of St Andrew the Apostle in Grove Road, Milton.
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