Weston Village: A Look Back

Stewart Burgess

Chairman, The Weston Local History Society

10 November 2005

The first inhabitants of Weston were the Celts, of whom a little archaeological evidence remains, who called a collection of houses a ‘toun’ so its name probably arose from that collection, being west of Bath The Celts were conquered by the Belgae, of whom little trace remains, and even when the Romans arrived they left nothing except their metalled section of Julian and Weston roads, along which stone from Landsdown may have travelled to build Bath.

After the Romans left in around 440, life presumably continued until disturbed by the Battle of Dyrham in 577 against the Saxons and subsequent battles against the Danes, none of which affected Weston much. In 953 St Alphege was born in Weston; he became Abbot of Bath and Archbishop of Canterbury and was killed by the Danes.

At the Norman Conquest, all land became William’s property and Weston was given to Arnulf de Hesding who was apparently a good landlord but was killed at Antioch whilst on a Crusade. The land was then transferred to Bath Abbey. A church, All Hallows, was built on the site of All Saints. At this time the inhabitants lived in wattle-and-daub houses with a plot of land around it and some also had strips on the common land on Lansdown. The land was cultivated on a biennial rotation – fallow one year, planted the next – with fences and the Hayward, who had a horn to summon help if he needed it, to prevent cattle getting at the crops.

The nursery rhyme tells the story of a Hayward – ‘Little’ is a corruption of ‘Lither’ meaning ‘lazy’:

Little Boy Blue

Come blow your horn,

The sheep’s in the meadow,

The cow’s in the corn.

Where is the boy

Who looks after the sheep?

He’s under a haycock

Fast asleep.

But the boy ought really to be looking after the cow, not the sheep (but you make a rhyme for ‘cow’).

The Black Death in 1348-50 is presumably the cause of two vicars dying in those years.

The dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 by Henry VIII resulted in tenants having to pay their rents in money rather than produce. A 300-acre farm was charged £74 p.a. (equivalent to about £20,000 now). The family would have made all their own clothes including the leather from animal skins for shoes and coats and all gone gleaning at harvest time to pick up grain left on the ground. There was little schooling except for a few children taught by the vicar. By the 17th century farms had become common by combining the strips into fields and taking longer leases; Dean Hill and Heather Farm still remain from this time. The Civil War of 1642-49 had little effect on Weston except that Sir Richard Grenville was carried to the vicarage to die from the Battle of Lansdown.

In the 18th century it is likely that many of the men came to work in Bath. A school was built. In the 19th century, All Saints Church, renamed from All Hallows, was re-built; the nave in 1830 and the chancel and transepts in 1890. The village expanded considerably with houses and two breweries in Trafalgar Road; high quality housing on an estate between Weston Park and Weston Lane and in Combe Park, with a fire station at the end of Manor Road. Weston became known as ‘The Laundry of Bath’ because of its good water supply and a special constable had to be employed to keep order at weekends.

In the 20th century Weston was still really a rural village in spite of the commuting to Bath. During the First World War a hospital for soldiers was built in huts at Combe Park, which subsequently became the place to which the Royal United Hospital moved from Beau Street. After WW2 Weston was amalgamated with Bath, many houses were built, for example, on Penn Farm and the High Street was re-developed. These processes are continuing today.

Donald Lovell