I’m hoping with two friends to publish another, a second anthology of stories, poems and other writing, mainly about Somerset. We’re gathering together our bits and pieces,and I’m trying to polish a piece about our village of Uphill. At the moment it is rather flat and needs a lot of polishing, but here is the first part, a rough and ready first draft:
Uphill, a small Somerset village a mile south of Weston-super-Mare, is so-named, not because it is up-hill (although there is a hill on the south side of the village) but because a local chieftain –or maybe just a man, called Oppa lived here. Oppa was probably a Saxon, and his settlement was on a local creek. The local word for a creek is a still pill, hence his settlement and the landing site and wharf was Oppa’s Pill and this became Uphill.
The village is situated at the mouth of the River Axe which runs from the depths of Somerset; it flows from Wookey Hole, through Cheddar Gorge along by the Mendip Hills to the sea at Uphill. People have lived in this area from earliest times, evidenced on the low hills overlooking the Axe, the pill and the sea between what is now England and Wales.
The Romans settled in this area, the most notable and well-preserved remains are in Bath, about thirty miles from Uphill. As well as settlements, farms and villas, the hills were mined on an almost industrial scale; the Mendip Hills, yielded metals including silver, cadmium, lead and zinc, some of these mined for hundreds of years before the Romans arrived. It’s very possible that once smelted, the metal ‘pigs’ were transported to the Axe and brought by boat to Uphill. Here they would have been uploaded onto larger sea-going vessels to be taken up the coast to the River Severn, where Bristol now is, or down the coast to the southwest, or across St George’s Channel to Wales where the Roman fort of Carleon was.
Is it possible to find the remains of Oppa’s Pill, or at least an Anglo-Saxon settlement? Is there evidence that the Romans did use the Pill before Oppa gave his name to it? Maybe there is also evidence of other traders including Irish seamen and merchants. There is a local legend that St Patrick was born in Banwell, further along the Mendip chain and was tending flocks above Uphill when he was snatched by pirates from Ireland. Evidence of Irish traders might add weight to this interesting story! Another legend relating to an earlier visit, was that of Middle Eastern merchant, Joseph of Arimathea, who not only visited Glastonbury in the ‘30’s (the 0030 AD, 30’s) bringing the Holy Grail, but had stepped ashore with his great-nephew, young Jesus. William Blake postulated that Joseph and Jesus did, wondering about feet in ancient times walking on our pastures green – were those pastures the ones which now have cattle on them, the pastures on Uphill hill?