When Uphill had a seafaring look
PUBLISHED: 12:04 11 December 2006 | UPDATED: 10:20 24 May 2010
Uphill has lost its seafaring look. It still has The Ship" and Dolphin" inns, but its wharf is unused, and Bristol Channel coasting vessels no longer come up the Axe to
Uphill has lost its seafaring look. It still has "The Ship" and "Dolphin" inns, but its wharf is unused, and Bristol Channel coasting vessels no longer come up the Axe to unload their coal, salt, and other cargoes, and take on board the products of industries which used to provide a lot of employment in the Uphill locality.There was a time when Uphill was a pretty village of thatched cottages. They were largely the homes of fishermen, the skippers of sloops, labourers who worked at the quarries and lime kilns, and of preventive men, whose presence was certainly needed in days when much smuggling was carried on in the district.Some time ago Mr. Barry Pruen, of Banwell, in looking through old family records, came across a manuscript list of Uphill's residents in 1851. The seafaring character of Uphill in those days may be gathered from the fact that the residents included three captains of coal sloops, three preventive officers, four seamen, and a customs officer.Years ago interesting memories of former day Uphill were recalled by some of its oldest residents in interviews published in the church magazine, The Uphill Standard.An anonymous contributor said that starting from the beach the first house was then Slimeridge Farm, occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Harse. Then there was the Brickyard, where tiles and bricks were made. The proprietor was Mr Temple Gould. There were little houses around the brickyard, and they all had only one floor.Next to the Brickyard was the old Workshop and Salt House."The salt used to come in by boat, and you could buy a bar of salt weighing 28 lbs for sixpence," stated this old inhabitant. "Then there was the coalyard, later known as Wharf Farm. The coal was brought in by boat and I have seen half a dozen ships in the Pill at a time. A good part of Weston used to be supplied with coal from Uphill. Mr. James Could was the coalyard proprietor, and the best coal cost from 9d. to 10d. a hundredweight."The 'Arabella' was the main boat familiar to the village, with Captain Cann aboard. You would see, every morning, about breakfast time, half a dozen loads of coal, one after the other, going to town. They used to load in with coal, and load back with ashes which were tipped in a large heap where the bus terminus is now. The ashes were afterwards screened, and sold back to the builders in town as mortar for building purposes."Then there was the quarry going ahead with two limekilns burning - one white and one brown. The brown lime was burnt from pebbles which were also brought by boat. Several men were employed in the quarry. Next were the rifle butts at the back of the hill, where the Rifles and Engineers used to do their practice shooting for 'cup' shooting and 'class' firing efficiency. There also used to be a lot of timber shipped away from the wharf, brought there by timber merchants."(The Wharf referred to by the old resident was later included in half an acre of land enclosed by an Uphill Enclosure Act of 1818 and designated as "a public wharf for land, loading and unloading coals and other goods brought in or carried out of the Port of Uphill." It then became known as the Parish Wharf. Eventually, trade expanded so much that hard standings were constructed along both sides of the Pill, and Uphill Port was made an associate member of the Port of Bristol. In addition to commercial cargo, the port was also used to unload military cargoes of powder and shot for the artillery at the fort on Brean Down.)This old resident also recalled that Uphill once had its Working Men's Club, started by a former Rector, the Rev. Stephen Bennett. The men paid threepence a week and the boys a penny. It was equipped with many games, a bagatelle board, and books, while the gentry used to send their newspapers daily when they had read them.In its seafaring years it also seems that the village under the hill had its drunkenness problem. A "White Ribbon" army was formed, and a fife and drum band started."They used to have a march out once a month," said an old Uphillian, "and their marching tune was always the same, 'Hold the fort for I am coming.' And they did that very well."Another former Uphill resident summed up memories of the village as follows: "what did the menfolk do in those days" well, there was agriculture all about, two limekilns, the quarry beneath the old church, quite a little trade in coal coming across from Wales, with a coal office in the yard; in fact the old weighbridge is still out at Millard's Farm, I believe."Then there were the brickyards all out along the wharfway - a tidy size trade in hand-made bricks and tiles, until this year machinery killed it."But what I mind most was the fishing - talk about sprats, why I tell 'ee there 'ave never been sprats and shrimps same as what used to come to Uphill."They used to catch 'em off Brean Down; a penny a pound me dear! My father could only help on Sundays, but he used to go the yard behind 'The Ship' (there was other places as well), and help barrel 'em up; then off in a cart to the station and so to Billingsgate and other places."He used to bring us home a bucket of fish for his efforts - whiting, sprats and shrimps, and how we watched mother boil they shrimps: hardly wait to see 'em turn red."The seafaring character of old Uphill is reflected in the burials at the old churchyard. In the churchyard on the hill were buried many sailors whose bodies were washed up on the beach in times when sailing ships, lacking the navigational aids of modern times, were often wrecked in Bristol Channel gales.There are also the graves of Uphill's own seafaring men, including those of "John Biss, of this parish, mariner, who died Dec. 24th. 1801, aged 32 years." There followed the inscription:"The boisterous winds, and Neptune's wavesHave toss'd us to and fro.In spite of both by God's decree,We harbour here below,Where at an anchor we do rideWith many of our fleet,Yet once again shall we set sail,Our Admiral, Christ, to meet."That Uphill was being used as a port in Elizabethan days is clear from the fact that there is a record that "The Greyhound," a French ship, of Bayonne, was badly damaged and obliged to yield when attacked by a man o' war owned by Sir Walter Raleigh and put in at Uphill. In the Calendar of State Papers dated 1592 there is a record that the burgesses of Bayonne petitioned the Queen for the recovery of their ship and merchandise lying at Uphill.