National Gazetteer (1868) - Minehead

"MINEHEAD, a parish, seaport, post, and market town, in the hundred of Carhampton, county Somerset, 2¼ miles from Dunster, and 9 from Williton. It is situated on the cliffs of the Bristol Channel, and on the road from Williton to Lynton. The parish contains the hamlets of Bratton, Periton, Vineford, and Woodcombe. It is mentioned in Domesday Survey as Manheved, at which period it was held by William de Mohun. It is a decayed borough, having returned two members to parliament from Elizabeth's time till the passing of the Reform Act, 2nd William IV. cap. 45, when it was disfranchised. The town, which has at various periods suffered from fires, is divided into three parts-viz: Quay Town, Higher Town, and Lower Town, and is nominally governed by two portreeves, &c.

Quay Town consists of one long street running by the side of the harbour, which is considered the beat and safest in the Bristol Channel. It includes the custom-house and the lighthouse, which latter is of recent erection. The trade, formerly of great importance, is now inconsiderable, there being but a few coasting vessels journeying to and fro from Bristol. The harbour dues are exceedingly high. There is a free reading-room on the quay, which is a solid piece of masonry, with a parapet towards the sea, into which it extends about a quarter of a mile, affording a tolerable shelter for small vessels. The coastguard service here is superintended by an officer and seven men.

The Lower Town, comprising some respectable streets, contains all the principal shops and the Parade, on which stands the market-house, lately erected at the expense of J. F. Luttrell, Esq., and the exterior of which is adorned with a clock. The Higher, or Church Town, which has at different periods been subject to disastrous fires, one of which consumed ninety houses, is composed of mean irregular streets built on a sloping eminence called "Greenaleigh." The church and vicarage are situated in this part of the town.

There was formerly a woollen manufactory in this parish, and there are still tanners' and curriers', also a fellmongers', doing an extensive trade. On the shore submarine trees are found, and various kinds of shell-fish, including the "murex," so named from its affording a peculiar fluid having the property of communicating to linen a crimson tint, supposed to be similar to the "murex" which produced the Tyrian purple mentioned by Pliny. The living is a vicarage* in the diocese of Bath and Wells, value £200. The church, dedicated to St. Michael, is a spacious structure, with an embattled tower containing five bells and a chime clock. The interior of the church contains a monument to Judge Bretton, and a statue of Queen Anne, erected in 1719 by Jacob Banks, M.P. for this borough. The register dates from 1648, and shows hew fearfully the plague prevailed in the years 1550, 1645, and 1664. The parish charities produce about £73 per annum. An almshouse for 11 persons was built and endowed by Robert Quirks about 1648. There are schools for both sexes, supported by voluntary contributions; also a Sunday-school. There is a place of worship for the Baptists. Bratton Court is an ancient mansion, and was formerly the seat of Judge Bratton. H. F. Luttrell, Esq., is lord of the manor. Dr. Brocklesby, the physician and friend of Johnson and Burke, was a native of this town. Market day is Wednesday for meat, fish, and provisions. A fair is held on Whit-Wednesday for pedlery, &c."

"BRATTON MANOR, a hamlet in the parish of Minehead, hundred of Carhampton, in the county of Somerset, near Minehead,"

"PERITON, a hamlet in the parish of Minehead, county Somerset, 1 mile S.W. of Minehead."

"VINEFORD, a hamlet in the parish of Minehead, county Somerset."

"WOODCOMBE, a hamlet in the parish of Minehead, county Somerset, near Minehead."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]