Parish of Dundry, North Somerset
Parish of Dundry

A Taste of Dundry

 

A large amount of local historical information is stored in personal memory and on totally disorganised pieces of paper. Both mediums being subject to human frailty. This was then the reason for committing this potted version of our village history into print.

 

LOCATION / GEOPHYSICS

The settlement of the earth's crust which occurred early in Carboniferous period (350-270 million years ago) culminated in one of the greatest earth movements that the world has known. It was during this period that Dundry Hill was formed.

The hill lies on a roughly east/west axis from the A38 right across to the Iron Age fort at Maes Knoll. The escarpment rising to over 700 feet forms a green backcloth for the whole of south Bristol.

Dundry Freestone forms a cap over the length of the hill varying in thickness from four feet at the eastern end to a maximum of 27 feet at the western end.

It is largely the concentration of a number of ammonite species that distinguishes Dundry Freestone, described in geological terms as 'upper inferior oolite'. Interestingly, it is the basis of similar concentrations that has established the correlation of Dundry and the Cotswolds, rather than the Mendips.

On Dundry Hill there was deposited some 10 feet of lower inferior oolite preserved beneath the upper beds. The term 'inferior' does not imply unworthiness, but refers to the relative position in the strata of the rock formation.

 

CHANGES IN THE LANDSCAPE

For many years the Dundry Downs were a picnickers' dream with softly grass-covered humps and dumps. In all probability this was caused by centuries of spoil from the quarries. Modem farming methods have now flattened this but. . . that is progress.

Dundry emerged at the beginning of the last century as a fairly poorly served community. There was no piped water, electricity or mains drainage, and dirt roads meant mud in winter and dust in summer. However, it had a fine community spirit and a natural ability to enjoy itself.

Houses were mainly grouped in clusters or hamlets such as East Dundry. This hamlet has probably the best collection of farms and cottages and is described locally as 'an overcoat warmer' being tucked down so snugly in its valley.

Other hamlets include Coldharbour, Michinpool by the Chapel, called after the farm of that name, and Crabtree Close. The centre of the village with the church, school and pub and associated old cottages mingle with more up-to-date properties in this area including Ham Lane. Later additions such as Andruss Drive, Beech Croft, Quarry Close and The Mead came after the Second World War and Crabtree Close was added to. Other housing is on access roads such as Dundry Lane which are lined with individual houses and modern bungalows.

 

THE MYSTERY OF THE STEPS

The Steps
"Children on The Steps" 1912

Who undertook this major task of constructing 147 steps, giving a staircase from the lower field footpaths to the centre of the village is still a mystery. The hard pennant stone used must have been carried up the hill by horse and cart for a minimum of 3 miles. The steps would have helped labour to reach the centre of the village from the footpath below to the quarries or for a major project.

There are many old farm buildings such as Grove Farm with its turret stair and draw bar for protecting the front door. The date is 1653 but the deeds are held showing that the original building is much older than that.

Castle Farm is on a very strategic site with commanding views and its antiquity is obvious from its architectural style.

Hill House Farm has grown with its many additions but the stone-mullioned windows indicate very early building.

Elwell Farm, built by a London businessman at the end of the 19th century has interesting features such as a cistern for holding rainwater in the cellars.

The attractive outbuildings lent themselves to conversion to a racing stable. After a successful start this venture collapsed because of a persistent lung infection, which developed in the horses.

Most of the farms such as Upton, Watercress, Northill, Walnut and Spring are dated from the 17th and 18th centuries and all have a fascinating history.

Highridge Farm was destroyed by fire but there is a complete record of its structure, buildings and fields with even the crops listed.

Farming activity was mainly limited to small-scale milk production. Some farmers such as Walter Beaton and George Hill sold their milk locally in the Bedminster district up to the 1950s.

It is recorded that Dundry had very sweet grass meadows growing on the limestone hill. All the hay was cut and harvested by hand at the beginning of the last century and at that time Dundry had its own smithy, bakery and post office at the Carpenter's Arms and adjoining cottages. The cottage opposite was the carpenter's shop and Mr J Brock, the undertaker had premises in the Maidenhead Inn building. There were two boot and shoe makers. Much later Maud Oldfield had a shop in the centre of the village and paraffin and hardware were sold in the old Maidenhead Inn store.

 

ROADS

The most important road historically is Wells-Road which is the Roman road linking the Mendips down into Bristol. This road would have been used to bring lead from Charterhouse to the city and was also originally the Wells coaching route. The line of the road on Broadoak Hill was staggered presumably to enable horses and carts, and coaches to manage the steep incline.

There are unconfirmed reports of a skeleton being uncovered at Hilly Mead on Broad Oak at the beginning of the last century when land was being excavated for a tennis court.

The other main artery was the Great Western Road now known as the A38 Bridgwater Road. This road had to be realigned to accommodate the construction of the reservoirs in the 1850s and 1860s.

 

Acknowledgement:

This extract from the booklet “A Taste of Dundry” is reproduced by kind permission of the author, John Rilett MBE.

Complete copies of the booklet, and a hand finished reproduction of the 1842 Dundry Parish Plan, may be purchased directly from the author:

J B Rilett
42 Church Town
Backwell
BS48 3JF

Tel: 01275 880 935