Red cliff

I’m continuing my National Novel Writing Month challenge of trying to write 50,000 in November… I thought I wasn’t going to make it, now I’m nearly there! I’ve been looking at the river which enters the sea in our little village, the River Axe, and found there was once a quite important little sea port way inland on the way to Cheddar. The Axe was tidal up to Rackely, now it just bubbles its little way along past the highest peak in the Mendips…


From earliest times of organised transportation, there was a wharf of what must have been then an important if small river port of Rackley, Reckley or even Ripley ; it was situated below Crook Peak, which is only real peak of the Mendips; this limestone outcrop’s ancient  name derives from old English cruc, meaning peak, yet another tautological topographical name, Peak’s Peak.

The name Rackley apparently derives from the fact that the clay banks round here are red marl, a type of red clay most used for making pots; in fact the bank by the village was called ‘the Red Marl’, which can be seen nearby. This bank maybe the Red Cliff  which apparently (although it might just be writers guesswork and false deduction) gave its name to the village and that Radeclive comes from ‘red cliff’; maybe, another maybe the little place was Portus de Radeclive, a name which appears in documents more than seven centuries old. Portus may on the other hand just be ad description and not part of the name at all.

From here the Romans shipped leaden ingots from the mines and smelting works of Charterhouse and Priddy down to another wharf at Uphill. Uphill’s name comes from saxon times, what it might have been before then is unknown. The cargoes would have been shipped down the coast, across to the Roman ports in south Wales, or maybe even to Europe.  Later cloth and corn were also exports, particularly to Portugal.

There is nothing to see now of the old Rackley wharf, which dated back to about 1200, any original buildings have been subsumed into the farm and its outbuildings. This maybe what is now Rackley House all that remains of the port


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