Anyone visiting our little Somerset village of Uphill would think it such a quiet place, a residential place, with only one shop, one tea-room, two pubs, two churches, two schools, and two hospitals… oh and a physiotherapist’s! However in its past it would have been much noisier and much busier. I came across an archived article about the village, and discovered a lot of interesting details.
Uphill has lost its seafaring look. It still has “The Ship” and “Dolphin” inns, but its wharf is unused, and Bristol Channel coasting vessels no longer come up the Axe to unload their coal, salt, and other cargoes, and take on board the products of industries which used to provide a lot of employment in the Uphill locality.
Like many other towns and villages which have only a shadow of their past visible, Uphill, although a pretty and varied village, only now has one thatched cottage whereas in the past all the cottages had thatch, and only a few big houses had tiled roofs. There are many young families and families with people going out to work every day, but the majority of the population are elderly, people who have grown old here and people who have retired here. Uphill used to be a busy, noisy place of fishermen unloading their cargo, labourers who worked at the quarries blasting away the limestone – some for building some for the and lime kilns which must have sent smoke across the village. There were many farm workers and agricultural labourers, and men who worked in the brickyard – more smoke from the brick kilns. In the old days, there were the rifle butts on the back of Uphill’s hill, there was a Working Men’s club and a fife and drum band
As a port, although small, it also had a team of ‘preventive men’, whose duty it was to prevent smuggling… and no doubt there were plenty of smugglers living in the village. There was so much traffic coming from the Bristol Chanel and up the Axe that there were buildings and staging on both sides of what’s known locally as ‘the pill’ – a pill is a Somerset word for a wharf or landing stage, and Uphill’s name is from Oppa’s Pill. Oppa/Offa/Othar was a local chieftain in past times – no-one knows anything about him except for his name!
Uphill was being used as a port in Elizabethan days and there is a record that “The Greyhound,” a French ship, of Bayonne, was badly damaged and obliged to yield when attacked by a man o’ war owned by Sir Walter Raleigh and put in at Uphill. In the Calendar of State Papers dated 1592 there is a record that the burgesses of Bayonne petitioned the Queen for the recovery of their ship and merchandise lying at Uphill.
Here is a link to the article so you can read much more about our little place:
looking across the River Axe to Brean Down