The Clevedon and District Archaeological Society

The Clevedon and District Archaeological Society was founded in the 1920s, unfortunately the original records were lost when the secretary of the time moved on taking all the files. The Society was reconstituted in 1949.

The aim of the Society is to promote local amateur archaeological interest and learning. It provides a Winter Programme of evening talks, a Spring Archaeology Course (subject to demand), a five-day Summer Study Tour, arranges various day trips to places of interest and disseminates information received from other local and regional archaeological groups.

The Society is affiliated to the Council of British Archaeology (CBA), South West Region, Avon Local History Association (AHLA), Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society (SAHNS) and the British Association of Local History (BALH). The CLEAT (Clevedon & Environs Archaeology Team) engage in field archaeological projects in the local area.

The society’s logo is the terminal of “the Clevedon Torc”, uncovered at Walton Castle, in Clevedon, in the 19th century. The Iron Age gold neck-ring was given to the British Museum by former curator Augustus Wollaston Franks and is currently on loan to Weston-Super-Mare Museum for three years. It is displayed in the Living Landscape gallery at Weston Museum and can be viewed from 10am-5.00pm every Tuesday to Sunday.

The Summer 2019 Programme which ran from the 27th April to the 13th August and is only available to members has just finished.

One of the Society’s very successful visits this year was an evening visit in June to the tiny settlement of Chelvey to see the church and hear about the nearby Manor House.

Chelvey Church is dedicated to St Bridget, who in addition to being the patron saint of poets,  blacksmiths, healers and a general all round kind person, is the patron of dairy farmers.  The dedication  fits in well with Chelvey, the name being Anglo Saxon for calf farm, the calves benefiting from the lush grass in the fields around the village.  In the early 11th century, the Lord of the Manor was a Dane called Thorkel possibly from Dublin where there was a Viking settlement so he would have been familiar with the Celtic saint Brigid (or Bride). The Dane was later replaced by  Anglo Saxon lords and they in turn were replaced by Normans by 1086. The Norman lord probably replaced a wooden church with a  stone building, which is part of the building we see today. The village is mentioned in the Doomsday Book and  is recorded as having a population of about 50 people, very similar to the number today. It has always been an isolated settlement although there are now plans afoot to build houses between Chelvey and Nailsea.

The guide, Norma pointed out the many interesting features of the church –  the Mediaeval poppy head pews which are 600 years old, the  pew of the Tyntes family now housing the organ after it had been skilfully widened, the Norman font dating from 1150 altered to an octagon in the 13th century, the large porch where marriage vows were made (as mentioned by the Wife of Bath), the blocked door behind the Victorian pulpit which lead up to the Rood loft.  Apart from the base, this has disappeared, destroyed in the Reformation. There are fragments of mediaeval glass in the windows and a fragment of a 13th century wall painting. The Tyntes family built the Manor House next door and the Tynte’s chapel in the 16th century.  The family had a field at Wraxall, hence the name of  Tyntesfield.  The fine 15th century tower was the subject of a recent fund raising effort as it needed extensive work on it. The money was raised by the tiny congregation. The reredos has a 16th century surround and a Victorian centre piece.

Another very interesting visit took place in May to Crowcombe for a guided tour of the Church of the Holy Ghost and nearby Church House, followed by a fascinating talk outlining the history of the latter Grade 2 listed building (one of only two such surviving properties of the fifty-one originally built in Somerset).  “Church House, Crowcombe – a history” (ISBN 978-1-5272-0501-7) provides comprehensive facts and images.

The Church of the Holy Ghost is thought to be the only church in England with this dedication. It is known for its outstanding collection of early 16th-century bench ends, beautifully carved with a variety of fabulous beasts, foliage, mermaids, and three likenesses of a pagan Green Man.

The most intriguing bench end shows a pair of naked men fighting with a two-headed dragon. The carving is thought to represent the story of the Gurt Worm, a fearsome dragon that terrorised the region until it was defeated and cut in half. The two halves then formed the Quantock Hills.

Aside from the fabulously carved bench ends the church boasts a pair of 18th-century screens, and the Carew aisle, a private chapel built by the Carew family and still privately owned by the lords of the manor. In the churchyard stands a medieval preaching cross and the tip of the medieval spire that came crashing down in 1725 when it was hit by lightning.

Opposite the churchyard is Church House, built in 1515 after a donation by the Carews of Crowcombe Court as a venue for church ales. The ground floor was used to brew ale and bake bread, while the upper floor was used for feasting and dancing. The fashion for church ales died out when Puritanism gained popularity in the 17th century, and the building was used as a charity school and to house the poor.  The opening of Williton Workhouse in 1836 and of Crowcombe First School in 1870 (replacing the charity school in Church House) made the premises redundant.

Following a long period of disuse and dereliction the 1907 appeal for public funds to repair the building proved successful, the ground and upper floors – the latter, where our talk took place – being restored to use. Further grants and public fund-raising in 2007 enabled major building refurbishment  facilitating the venue’s use for celebrations such as weddings and special events.

The 2019/20 Winter Programme of evening meetings will commence on Thursday 26th September 2019 with a lecture by Professor Ronald Hutton who is Professor of History at Bristol University and a widely respected broadcaster. the lecture is entitled Britain’s Pagan Heritage.

Talks for the rest of the Winter period are as follows:

Thursday, October 31st, 19.30 – Kurt Adams (Finds Liaison Officer): Hoards of Gloucestershire & Somerset.

Thursday, November 28th – James Bond (Landscape Archaeologist): Deserted Medieval Villages of Somerset.

Thursday, January 30th – Nick Corcos (Landscape Archaeologist): The Cat and the Cemetery.

Thursday, February 27th – Cat Lodge (Senior Archaeologist, North Somerset Council): Worlebury Camp.

Thursday, March 26th – Annual General Meeting followed by Jane Maw Cornish: Journeys through ancient Greece.

The 2020 Spring Archaeology Course may be held on consecutive Thursdays during April and May. An alternative format being considered is a Day School.  Further details will be given later in the year.

Details of the 2020 summer programme will be provided at the Annual General Meeting  on 26th March 2020

The Society is hoping that a Summer Tour, can be organised during August 2020.

All  meetings and talks are held in the Walters Lounge, St Andrews Church Centre, Old Church Road and the Society welcomes new members and visitors. The current annual subscription is £15 and the visitors fee, for a maximum of two visits, is either £3 (Adult) or 50p (Junior).

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