Clevedon

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Clevedon_Village_-_Somerset_-_circa_1907_-_Project_Gutenberg_eBook_12287.jpg
Clevedon Village - circa 1907

Clevedon is a town in Somerset, England. The name derives from the Saxon, 'Cleve' meaning Cleave or Cleft and 'don' meaning hill, the town being situated amongst a group of small hills alongside the Bristol Channel. The town has a population of 23,000 according to the UK government census of 2001.

History

Clevedon was mentioned in the Domesday book (1086) as being a holding of a tenant in chief by the name of Mathew of Mortaigne, and was listed at that time as having eight villagers, and ten smallholders.

St. Andrew's church, on a hill in the west of the town, was built in the thirteenth century AD, although there are thought to be Saxon foundations under the present building. It is the burial place of Arthur Hallam, subject of the poem In Memoriam by his friend Alfred Tennyson. Other literary figures associated with the town are Samuel Taylor Coleridge (who spent some months living in a cottage in the town after his marriage to Sarah Fricker), William Makepeace Thackeray (a frequent guest of the Elton family at Clevedon Court), and George Gissing (The Odd Women is set in the town).

Clevedon Court lies at the other end of the town, close to the road to Bristol. It is one of only a few remaining fourteenth century manorial halls in England, having been built by Sir John de Clevedon circa 1320. Since the early eighteenth century the house has been owned by the Elton family, who were responsible for much building work on the house and many improvements in the town, and although the house itself is now owned by the National Trust, the associated estates are still owned by the Elton family. Sir Edmund Elton (1846-1920) was a well-regarded potter who produced unusually-shaped ware in a variety of richly-coloured glazes, including a gold glaze of his own invention. A clock tower in the centre of the town is decorated with "Elton ware". Sir Arthur Elton was a pioneer of documentary film-making, working mainly prior to the second world war in association with John Grierson.

During the Victorian era Clevedon became a popular seaside town, and a pier was opened in 1869, one of the earliest examples of a Victorian pier still in existence in England. The seafront stretches for approximately half a mile from the pier to Salthouse Field, and includes ornamental gardens, a Victorian bandstand, a marine lake (occasionally used for boating), a bowling green, tennis courts and other amusements. Salthouse Field has a light railway running round the perimeter and is still used for donkey rides during the summer. The shore at Clevedon is a mixture of pebbled beaches and low rocky cliffs. "Poet's Walk" is a footpath around Wains Hill and Church Hill, to the southwest of the seafront, and the upper part of the town contains many other footpaths through parks and wooded areas which were laid out in the nineteenth century. The Victorian craze for bathing in the sea was catered for in the late 19th century by saltwater baths adjacent to the pier (since demolished, though the foundations can still be seen), and bathing machines on the main beach.

At the dawn of the twentieth century Clevedon was still a popular resort and the "Curzon" cinema was built, which is thought to be the oldest purpose-built, continuously operated cinema or movie theatre in the world. The cinema opened a few days after the RMS Titanic sank and its premier matinee was held in order to raise funds for survivors of the disaster.

The rocky beach and the sedate nature of the amusements on offer meant that Clevedon lost almost all of its residential holiday trade by the middle of the twentieth century, though it is still a popular resort for day-trippers.

The modern town

Clevedon is now part of the North Somerset unitary authority, having formerly been part of Somerset, and between 1974 and 1996 the county of Avon.

Clevedon has a certain amount of light industry, mainly in industrial estates near the M5 motorway junction, and it is also a dormitory town for Bristol. The Clerical Medical pensions and investments group has its headquarters in the town.

Clevedon Community School is a large secondary comprehensive school serving the whole town and the surrounding rural areas, and there are several primary schools in the town.


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