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Public Water Supplies

Safe and clean drinking water is currently supplied to the whole of North Somerset, Bristol, South Gloucestershire and parts of Somerset, Bath & North East Somerset and Gloucestershire by Bristol Water.

Several prominent local citizens in Bristol formed a group in 1845, with the aim of supplying clean drinking water to Bristol.  The city had suffered a cholera epidemic in 1832 and the disease was spread via contaminated water supplies.  The Bristol Waterworks Company was established on 16th July 1846 by an Act of Parliament.  The following year the first water flowed from Chewton Mendip via Barrow into Bristol.  Bristol was hit by another cholera epidemic in 1849.  The first of three reservoirs at Barrow was constructed in 1850.  Later sand filters were added to treat the water.

In 1888 parliamentary permission was given for Blagdon Reservoir, which captures water draining off the Mendip Hills via the River Yeo.  Work on the construction of the dam began in 1898 and the reservoir was filled to its top level for the first time in 1903.  The associated pumping station was completed in 1905.

Blagdon Pumping Station
Pumping Station, Blagdon Reservoir
Spring Blagdon Lake
Blagdon Lake on a misty spring morning


In 1888 Bristol Waterworks Company was also given permission to take water from the springs at Langford and Rickford.  In around 1895 they built a ornate gauge house in the style of a Swiss chalet at Rickford to regulate the flow of water into the village brook and into an underground pipe, which flows into Blagdon Lake.

Rickford Guage House
Gauge House at Rickford

Springs at Cheddar were first tapped in 1922 and Cheddar Reservoir was built there in the 1930s.  Bristol Waterworks Company began chlorinating its water in 1935.  However until the 1940s or later many villages still relied on wells and springs for their water supply and communal pumps were a common sight.  Although no longer in use, some of these have been preserved.

The construction of Chew Valley Lake was delayed by the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.  Work on it eventually began in 1950 and it was formally opened by the Queen in 1956. 

Bristol Waterworks Company helped with the construction of the Clywedog Reservoir in Mid Wales in 1967.  This reservoir regulates the flow of the River Severn.  Over half the water supplied today by Bristol Water is extracted from the River Severn, via the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. Bristol Water’s treatment works at Purton and Littleton in Gloucestershire purify the water extracted from the River Severn.  Other sources of water currently used by Bristol Water in North Somerset include a well at Clevedon, a spring at Banwell and boreholes at Winscombe.

In 1991 Bristol Waterworks Company changed its name to Bristol Water plc.

Parish Pumps, Bleadon
Parish Pumps, Coronation Road, Bleadon

In Bleadon there are two cast iron parish pumps outside Well Cottage in Coronation Road.  They were the main communal source of spring water for the villagers until mains water arrived in Bleadon in the 1940s.  The higher pump was used to fill containers on carts while the lower one was used by pedestrians. 

Christon Pump
Old pump and trough, Christon Road, Christon
Wrington pump and trough
Old pump and trough, High Street, Wrington


Rickford standpipe
Old pump or standpipe, Rickford

The Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association was set up in London in 1859 by Samuel Gurney (an MP and philanthropist) and Edward Thomas Wakefield (a barrister) to provide people with free drinking water. In 1867 the organisation changed its name to the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association to also support animal welfare.

Backwell cattle trough
Old cattle trough at the junction of West Town Road and Chelvey Road, Backwell
Clevedon cattle trough
Cattle trough with small drinking fountain on the left hand side, Marine Hill, Clevedon
Marine Hill drinking fountain
Drinking fountain, Marine Hill, Clevedon


Public drinking fountains were also sometimes provided by wealthy philanthropists or in memory of someone who had died.  This was erected in memory of Edward Long Davis, who died in 1899. There is a quotation from the Bible carved into the side above the drinking fountain, which says “Many waters cannot quench love” (Song of Solomon).  Users of the drinking fountain were instructed to “Keep the pavement dry”.





Clevedon drinking fountain
Doulton drinking fountain, Alexandra Road, Clevedon


This colourful tiled drinking fountain for people and their dogs was donated by Mr T. Sheldon in 1895.  It was restored in 1992.


Sidcot Fountain
Disused fountain, Fountain Lane, Sidcot

This was the gift of George Thomas of Bristol in 1869

New Conservation Area adopted in Barrow Gurney

On 26th June 2018, North Somerset Council Executive Members voted unanimously to adopt a new conservation area which encompasses the historic estate village of Barrow Gurney.

Barrow Gurney’s special character, a well- preserved example of an estate village, illustrates the historic, economic and social relationships that existed to support the “great house” at Barrow Court. 

Barrow Gurney

The village has a high survival rate of pre-1838 buildings forming the village core. The village went through extensive remodelling in the early twentieth century, particularly in the ‘Arts and Crafts’ style, and it has a stunning relationship with its surrounding landscape.

This is the first Conservation Area designated in North Somerset for 20 years, and it could not have been made possible without the overwhelming support from the people residing in Barrow Gurney, the Parish Council and especially Eric Gates (former Chair of Barrow Gurney Parish Council).






Heritage Open Days 2018

Heritage Open Days is England’s largest festival of history and culture, bringing together over 2,500 organisations, 5,000 events and 40,000 volunteers. Every year in September, places across the country throw open their doors to celebrate their heritage, community and history. It’s your chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences – and it’s all free.  Heritage Open Days 2018 will be 6-9 & 13-16 September.

A number of North Somerset venues are participating in 2018, from the Curzon Cinema in Clevedon, and the Old Town Quarry in Weston-super-Mare, to churches and historic pubs.  Download a copy of the North Somerset Guide here. 

See the Heritage Open Days website for details and a map of events in the region this September.

Heritage Open Day logo
Heritage Open Days







Woodspring Priory

Woodspring Priory

Woodspring Priory was founded at an unidentified location in Somerset called Dodlinch c1210 by William de Courtenay.  By 1226 it had moved to its present location at Middle Hope to the north of Sand Bay.   William de Courtenay’s grandfather, Reginald Fitz-Urse, was one of the knights who murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. 

The name Woodspring derives from a spring in the area called the Worspring or Worspryng and the priory was called Worspring until the 18th century.

Woodspring Priory was of the double order of St Augustine and St Victor, and it was dedicated to the Holy Trinity, St. Mary the Virgin and St Thomas the Martyr of Canterbury.  William de Courtenay provided the Manors of Woodspring, Worle and Locking to generate an income for the priory but it was never a very wealthy or large establishment.  There were probably never more than ten members of the community living there at any one time. 

The priory buildings were arranged around a central square cloister.  The priory church was located to the north of the cloister, with the sacristy, dormitory and chapter house on the east side.  The agricultural buildings were located to the west of the religious ones and were separated from them.  The original chapel was replaced in the late 15th or early 16th century by the present church, which was built in the Perpendicular style. At around the same time an infirmary and tithe barn were built.

In 1534 Prior Roger Tormynton or Tormenton and the seven members of his community signed a declaration acknowledging the supremacy of King Henry VIII instead of the Pope and in 1536 Woodspring Priory was dissolved.  Soon afterwards the infirmary, most of the church (except for the chancel, which was demolished) and the prior’s lodgings were converted into dwellings and to agricultural use.

The former priory changed hands several times before being acquired by the Pigott family (later the Smyth-Pigotts) in the late 17th century.  It remained in their ownership for 200 years, although it was rented to a succession of tenants from the middle of the 19th century. In 1918 it was sold to Major Vernon Tickell Hill but he sold it to Richard Burrough a few years later.

In 1968 the priory and land at Middle Hope were purchased by the National Trust. In 1969 the priory was taken over by the Landmark Trust, which spent 20 years restoring the buildings.  The surviving buildings include the nave, north aisle and crossing of the priory church; the infirmary; the tithe barn; a gatehouse and the 17th century farmhouse.  The Landmark Trust now rents out the farmhouse as holiday accommodation.

Woodspring Priory
Woodspring Priory


The Priory
North side of the Infirmary


Woodspring Priory
North side of the Farmhouse


South side of the infirmary
South side of the infirmary




Weston Conservation Area consultation

‘Celebrating Weston’s past to help shape its future’



North Somerset Council is undertaking a major study looking at the historic assets of the town as part of the Heritage Action Zone programme. A key focus is on establishing a strong basis for future enhancement through the production of conservation area appraisals and management plans.

Residents and business owners are invited to have your say.
Please book to attend our workshop where we will introduce the conservation area appraisal process, explore together what makes Weston special and how this should inform future change in the town.  

The consultation workshop is on Tuesday 17 July at Weston Museum, from 5-7pm.  Please register here.




Battery Point Lighthouse, Portishead

Battery Point Lighthouse was built in 1931 by Chance Brothers of Smethwick on a rocky promontory on the north west edge of Portishead.  The deep water channel known as King Road passes very close to the coast at this point.  The lighthouse, which is also known as Portishead Point Lighthouse, is nine metres tall and consists of a black metal pyramid on a square concrete base.  The lighthouse is maintained by Bristol Port Company.  In 1999 they announced that they wanted to demolish the lighthouse and replace it with a modern navigational aid.  After a campaign by local residents, they agreed to build a replica of the original lighthouse.

close up Battery Point Lighthouse
Battery Point Lighthouse close up
Lighthouse Battery Point
Battery Point Lighthouse
Lighthouse Battery Point
A container ship passing Battery Point

A two tonne bronze fog signal bell was installed at Battery Point Lighthouse in 1939.  It was removed c1998.  It was found in a warehouse owned by Bristol Port Company in Avonmouth in 2010.  After a campaign by local residents, it was acquired by Portishead Town Council in 2012.  It was restored and re-sited on Wyndham Way in 2013.

Wyndham Way Battery Point Bell
Battery Point Bell on Wyndham Way

There is a Merchant Navy Memorial close to Battery Point Lighthouse with a brass plaque attached to it.  The words on the plaque are as follows: “This stone is situated here at Battery Point, the closest place on the coast of the United Kingdom which large ships pass.  It is dedicated to seafarers of the West Country who, since the Middle Ages, on voyages of discovery and in times of peace and war, have passed this point, some never to return. “Oh hear us when we cry to thee, for those in peril on the sea.”  Erected by the Merchant Navy Association North Somerset Branch, 2005”.

Battery Point Merchant Navy Memorial
Merchant Navy Memorial at Battery Point

Sealed Knot re-enactment of The Siege of Bristol

To mark the 375th anniversary of the Siege of Bristol, the Sealed Knot are re-enacting the event at Ashton Court Showground over the end of May Bank Holiday Weekend.  Why not bring a Picnic, interact with members on the Living History Camp and then settle down to watch an spectacular and explosive display of Cannon, Musket, Pike and Cavalry as the Sealed Knot re-enacts the Siege on the Battlefield.

Free event, but you are advised that there is no specific event car parking.  More details of the event timetable are on the Sealed Knot website.

Nailsea Glassworks

John Robert Lucas was born in 1754. After his father Robert Lucas died in 1774, he took over his beer and cider works in Bristol and his shares in a glass making business in Limekiln Lane, Bristol.  In 1781 John Robert married Anna Adams and they had a son and two daughters.   In 1787 he leased a glassworks at Stanton Wick.

John Robert Lucas established a glass works at Nailsea in 1788.  He chose Nailsea as the site for his new glassworks because of the abundance of coal produced by the mines around the town and local supplies of sand and limestone.  He may also have been influenced by plans for the Grand Western Canal, which would have linked the English and Bristol Channels with a branch to Nailsea.  However only the section from Tiverton to Taunton was ever built.  

Lucas’s company was called Nailsea Crown Glass and Glass Bottle Manufacturers.  Initially one cone shaped kiln and a furnace were built at NailseaA second glass furnace was built there in 1790.  In 1793 John Robert Lucas went into partnership with William Chance, Edward Homer and William Coathupe.  In 1788 William Chance had married John Robert’s sister Sarah and Edward Homer had married John Robert’s sister Mary.

In addition to window glass and bottles, the Nailsea Glassworks also produced domestic ware and novelty items such as flasks, rolling pins, pipes, jugs and walking sticks, which were sometimes decorated with flecks, loops or bands of white or coloured enamel.  Most of these items were produced by workers at the end of their shifts using leftover pieces of glass.

In 1811 William and Sarah Chance’s son, Robert Lucas Chance, took over the management of the Nailsea works and married his cousin Louisa, the daughter of Mary and Edward Homer.  In 1812 he persuaded John Hartley, the leading crown glass expert in the country, to come and work at Nailsea.

The partnership of Lucas, Chance, Homer and Coathupe lasted until 1821 when William Chance sold all of his shares and Edward Homer sold part of his to William Coathupe.  Edward Homer’s son James Edward Homer was taken into the partnership at this time and the company traded as Lucas, Coathupe and Homer

John Robert Lucas died in 1828 and was buried at Backwell. Most of his estate passed to his grandsons John Rodbard Bean and Henry Lucas Bean.

The New House Cone was built at Nailsea c1828.  Experienced sheet glass blowers were recruited from France and Belgium from the 1830s, due a shortage of skilled British glass blowers. By 1835 Nailsea was the fourth largest glassworks in Britain.  Bottle making ceased at Nailsea in the 1830s in favour of plate, crown and sheet window glass.

In 1835 a partnership called Lucas, Coathupes, Homer and Cliffe was formed to run the business. In 1844 the company became Coathupes & Co with Charles and Oliver Coathupe, John and Henry Bean and James Edward Homer as shareholders. In the 1840s a new cone known as the Lilly or Lily Cone was built.

In 1848 Charles Coathupe retired and Oliver Coathupe became manager at the Nailsea works.  Over the next 25 years there were various changes in the partnership and shareholdings.  In 1861 the Nailsea works were closed for a while and the following year they were leased to Samuel Bowen, a glass merchant from West Bromwich, and John Powis of London.  They traded as Nailsea Glass Company and made patented ventilating glass, cut glass and coloured glass for stained glass windows.  Samuel Bowen became bankrupt in 1869 and he and Powis surrendered their lease.  In 1870 the Nailsea works were sold to Chance Bros of Smethwick, together with a coal mine on the same site.

Glass production ceased at Nailsea in 1873, due to competition from cheap Belgian imports and the decline in production from the Nailsea Coalfield, and the works were closed in 1874.  The New House Cone was demolished in 1905.  Some of the rubble from it was supposedly used to build the extension to the runway at Filton in the late 1940s.

Extensive archaeological excavations began on the glassworks site in 1983 and continued for several years.  In 2002 a supermarket was built on part of the site.  The only surviving building is the one which housed the French kilns, and gas-fired furnaces.  This was later converted into the Royal Oak Garage.

A collection of Nailsea Glass items can be seen at the National Trust’s Clevedon Court.  However much of what is today described as Nailsea Glass was not made at Nailsea but was made in the same style elsewhere in England e.g. Stourbridge.

High St, Nailsea, Glassblower Sculpture
The Glassblower Sculpture, High St, Nailsea



This was sculpted by Vanessa Marston and unveiled in 2008

Nailsea Glassworks Cauldron
Glassworks Cauldron, High St, Nailsea

This would have been filled with cold water into which surplus molten glass would have been ladled.  Once the glass had cooled and solidified it was broken up and used to speed up the melt of the next batch of sand, limestone and soda.

Nailsea Former Glassworks Building
Former Glassworks Building, later the Royal Oak Garage, High St, Nailsea
Nailsea Glassworks
Drawing showing the layout of Nailsea Glassworks c1873
Tile 1 Nailsea Glassworks
Nailsea Glassworks Tile 1
tile 2 Nailsea Glassworks
Nailsea Glassworks tile 2



Two glazed ceramic tile panels illustrating the glassworks and its various manufacturing processes. The panels were designed and produced by Ned Heywood of the Workshop Gallery in Chepstow.  They incorporate fragments of glass excavated from the site.  They are on display on the outside wall of Tesco’s Supermarket.

Success for the Crumbs City Trail app for Weston

An app, which has been launched to help Weston residents and visitors find historic landmarks in and around the seaside town, has exceeded targets and is the second most downloaded walk, and more popular than the Buckingham Palace trail.

The Crumbs City Trail mobile app, which has been launched under the Heritage Action Zone, takes the user on a walking route scattered with clues and trivia questions all based around the history of Weston.  

Cara MacMahon, Heritage Action Zone Officer, said: “We are delighted with the positive response from local residents and visitors. Weston is a treasure trove of hidden historic gems and we welcome anything that highlights the beautiful architecture we have here.

The ‘Great Weston’ Trail is on The Crumbs City Trails App. To find out more about Crumbs City Trails go to

Crumbs City Trails app is a free download. You will be asked to register and sign in to download the app.  Available from Apple store and Google Play.