A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SOCIETY
Nailsea Local History Society was established in 1975 to promote an interest in the history of Nailsea.
The year previous, Mr. John Reeves a History teacher, had been studying documents deposited in Nailsea Library. Miss Judith Atkinson, then Librarian, suggested that a study group be formed to assist in this work. The first meeting of the NLHS was on 22nd January 1975 when the group gathered to study the Deeds of Settlement. Miss Atkinson acted as Chairperson / Secretary, and several evening visits were made that year.
In those days no other such society existed in the
area between Long Ashton and Clevedon with their respective
Conservation and Archaeological Societies. Because of this void the
needs of the adjacent villages of Wraxall, Tickenham and Backwell had
to be met, and shortly the name was amended to the Nailsea &
District Local History Society. Monthly meetings continued to be held
in Nailsea Library where the village records were archived.
One of the earliest projects was the creation by Mr. David Cains of a comprehensive photographic collection amounting over a period of some years to some 2 / 3,000 black & white prints. Two copies were made, one for the Library Service, the other for the Society to be used in publications and exhibitions.
There was an almost immediate demand for Society speakers. This was to include talks to schools, village walk-abouts and guided tours of industrial sites. Annual exhibitions, excavation open days and the occasional symposium began to appear in the programme.
Original research, or a fresh interpretation of existing work, was encouraged with the annual award of the Greenhill Shield - in memory of the Society's first President, long time local historian Basil J. Greenhill.
Early publications appeared as occasional Heritage Papers in an A4 duplicated format without covers. These were followed for some years by books again in an A4 format, duplicated, but now with a printed yellow cover and a spine binder.
JOHN WHITING'S COTTAGE
An early success was in 1985 with the preservation of
a large cottage at King's Hill, understood to be the earliest Quaker
Meeting House in North Somerset. Originally scheduled for demolition
for road widening, two builders were charged with causing historical
damage during the course of renovating the building. Society members
with the aid of photographs gave evidence in the Crown Court on behalf
of the defendants which led to their acquittal. With financial
assistance from the Town Council, a plaque was affixed to the
In 1983 the Society successfully campaigned for that part of the Nailsea Glassworks threatened by a proposed road to be properly investigated, with a view to preserving a representative area.
Archaeological excavation was phased over the next three years in close consultation with the Society. Over 2,000 people visited the site during a series of open weekends. As a result of a Local Inquiry, the Nailsea Town Centre Plan was amended by Avon County Council to acknowledge the world wide importance of the Glassworks and its likely tourist potential. "Any scheme for the re-development of this site shall incorporate some form of memorial to the Glassworks acceptable to the County and District Councils".
Several re-development schemes have come and gone. In
2004 the site, including that beneath the TESCO store which was built
on the older part of the Glassworks, was scheduled by English Heritage
as an ancient momument. Shortly, various options for the site are to be
considered by North Somerset Council, Mr. Jeremy Hobbs (joint owners)
and a local working group on which the Society is represented.
In 1984 the Society obtained permission from
developers to investigate the site of a coal mine in the Golden Valley
area. Members, assisted by the Bristol Industrial Archaeological
Society carried out a rescue dig in the winter of that year. The site
attracted national publicity and was later scheduled by English
Heritage as the most complete example of a late 18th / early 19th
century coal mine in Britain. Following two Public Inquiries the site
was purchased for a nominal sum by the Avon Industrial Buildings Trust
and professionally re-excavated. In 1996 the site was transferred via
Avon County Council to North Somerset Council. A local steering
committee currently employs a Project Officer to secure a substantial
grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Together with matching funding
from other sources it is hoped to develop the site as a public amenity.
Thirty years on the Society has a reputation for both the quality and quantity of its printed publications; for its programme of monthly speakers; and for its active work in preserving and promoting the Town's industrial heritage.
A long standing ambition is to create a Heritage
Trail linking sites of industrial national importance, together with
historic buildings in the area of the High Street. Nailsea is thought
to have considerable tourist potential.