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PEOPLE, PLACES & HISTORY

St Anne’s House, off Gore Road, Burnham.  Home of Lord Cave, Lord Chancellor of all England.  Both he and his wife, Lady Cave-a real-life love story –  were buried by the sea at Berrow.

 

Hillam House, The Grove, Burnham.  Home to the writer of the great Aldwych farces (eg Cuckoo in the Nest) – Ben Travers.  The spine road running through the Rosewood Estate is named after him, and all the closes after 20th century English writers and great stage figures.  (How then did Sheridan slip in?)

 

Tregunter.  Large house by the church, now occupied by lawyers, built by John Gunter (former cook to George III).  No doubt a Jamie Oliver of his day!

 

Huish House, Old Burnham Road, Highbridge.  A substantial house built in the 1600’s, on a site where Roman pottery was found.

 

Richard Locke, born at Pillsmouth Farm, now the site of Burnham, Holiday Village, “of yeoman stock”, a philosopher  a reformer and a descendant of John Locke.  He founded the Burnham Society in 1772, which had 500 members anxious to hear distinguished speakers from Oxford, London and Bath.  He died in 1806.  Should have a road named after him.

 

Admiral Sir Mark Pizey  lived in St Anne’s Close.  In the early dark days of World War II, he gave this country one of its first naval clashes of which we could cheer.  He was a friend of Mountbatten, and founded the Indian fighting forces after separation.  He is buried in West Huntspill churchyard.

 

HMS Burnham was one of the 50 first world-war destroyers leased to Britain by the USA in the dark days of 1940 for vital convoy escort.  It crossed the Atlantic no less than 68 times.  Adopted by the town, the ex-crew came every Easter to their “home town” from 1981 to 2002, and a plaque placed on the sea front in 2004 recalls the bond “between ship and town”.

 

Haile Sellase – The Emperor of Ethiopia found his first refuge in the Golf Guesthouse in Berrow Road when he was defeated and exiled by Mussolini in 1936. The diminutive and bearded figure was often seen walking into town before the princesses, crocodile fashion behind him. He later found more permanent refuge in the city of Bath

 

General Edward John Higgins, Leader of the Salvation Army from 1929.  Born in Church Street, Highbridge in 1864, General Higggins was the first non-Booth family man to lead the ”Army”.  He died in 1947.  General Higgins House in Market Street, Highbridge, is named after him. His mother is buried in St Andrews churchyard

 

Stuart K. Hine: wrote one of the world’s most popular hymns, (after being stranded in a thunderstorm in the Carpathean mountains), “How great thou art, how great thou art.” He died in Berrow in 1989, aged 90. He was a member of Shaftesbury Hall Strict Bretheren, situated in Technical Street, Burnham on Sea

 

(Major) Frank Foley, the English war hero who saved the lives of 10,000 Jews from Hitler’s gas chambers, born in 1884 at Walrow Terrace in Highbridge.  His parents later lived in Eton Road, Burnham, and are buried in the Westfield Road cemetery. There is a statue to Major Foley on Highbridge Town Green, and the newly completed road linking Burnham and Highbridge is named the Frank Foley Parkway.

 

Guglielmo Marconi, The Italian inventor transmitted his first radio signals from Brean Down Point to the Welsh Coast in 1899.

 

Sir John Pople – Who’s father was a well known gent’s outfitter and born in the Grove, had a distinguished career in Physics and Chemistry.  Following his knighthood he received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2003.  He died in 2004, his portrait is now in The Princess, and a plaque on the shop in the High Street.

 

George Reed, entrepreneur and benefactor, who built the Manor House, the Queen’s Hotel, Kinver Terrace (1843), the now defunct Puzzle Garden Maze, and Julia and Catherine Terraces on the Esplanade (named after Reed’s two daughters).

 

Ellen’s Cottages, on the Berrow Road: Almshouses (originally only for widows), built by a Mr John Saunders in 1868, named after his wife.

 

La Retraite (originally Rose Cottage), corner of Jaycroft Road/Oxford Street. Burnham, its age marked by its site below street level.  Now home to retired nuns of La Retraite Order (formerly of the Burnham Convent.

 

Brunswick Terrace.  Terrace of four “Gothick” style.  All have now sadly lost their canopies.  One has quite unsuitable windows.  Where were the “listing” conditions?

 

Regent Street, Burnham.  Note the date tablet (T.K.1841) and also the Oriel windows.  The ones over the Job Centre were only saved from demolition “in the nick of time”.

 

The Baptist Chapel, College Street, Burnham.  An 1843 building of “solid dignity”.

 

The Lamb Inn, Church Street, Highbridge dates back to 1830.

 

John Burnett’s Bonded Store.  Substantial building with connections to Highbridge as a port.  The nearby Island House (so named because rivers flowed either side of the house) was the home of John Burnett, wine merchant.

 

Joseph of Aramethia, there is a legend that the phenician trader landed at Burnham on Sea, close by Paradise Farm (marked as Paradise for several centuries) with the boy Jesus before travelling across the moors to Glastonbury, where his staff grew into the holy rose thorn which flowers at Christmas. To mark the spot the original tablet was restored and a sapling planted to commemorate the millennium.

 

Dunstan House, Love Lane, Burnham.  Once the home of Burnham’s oldest family, the Boards.  A 16th century memorial plaque to a Board is on the wall below St Andrew’s tower, and another plaque to Betty Board can be found in the Chancel.  The Board family owned brickyards (the clay coming from the Apex Lake), and gave their name to a principal drainage channel, the Board rhyne.  The last member of the family died only recently.

 

The Colony:  An interesting (listed) terrace of sea-front early 19th century design, also the octagonal “lodge” at the entrance on Berrow road.

 

Field Marshal B L Montgomery:  Whilst holidaying in Burnham in 1937, his wife died in our hospital of a mysterious insect bite, and is buried in the Westfield Road cemetery.

 

The Railway Hotel, Market Street, Highbridge was established in the 19th century.  Lawrence of Arabia met the landlord whilst serving in the first World War and was a frequent visitor in the 1930’s.  Alpha House (flats and offices owned by Sedgemoor District Council) now stands on the site.

 

Stuckey’s Bank, built in Highbridge in 1877 is a handsome building of red brick and now houses the National Westminster Bank.

 

Sir Christopher Wren designed and Grindling Gibbons executed the handsome veined-marble altarpiece in St Andriene Church.  Originally destined for the royal chapel in Whitehall, and removed to Westminster Abbey it finally came to Burnham at the expense of the Bishop of Rochester in 1810, and not “rediscovered” by a shocked art-world ‘til 1995.

 

Burnham-on-Sea was once a Spa-Town when health-giving mineral-water wells were sunk up to 75 feet deep and the building, known now as Steart House, on the Esplanade had bath and pump rooms for patients, in the early 1800’s.  However a “bug” got into the water and the Spa era was over by the Mid-Victorian era.

 

Burnham-on-Sea – “GATEWAY TO THE CONTINENT”  That was how important its sea-jetty nearly 1/5th of a mile long (and built by George Reed in 1855) was in the mid-Victorian era, as paddle-steamers brought Welsh travellers across the Bristol Channel, to travel by train from the pier-head to Evercreech, thence to Poole and across the English to Le Harve in France.  The link closed 1885.

 

Caerphilly Cheese really came from Highbridge.  Truth!  Processed in the West of England Creamery opened in 1902, because of its low fat content, it was cheap and in low-paid workers in Wales, such as miners, it found a ready market, hence its name.

 

Britain’s Shortest Pier that’s its claim to fame.  It was the first British marine building to be built in ferro-concrete (a French invention) in 1911.  That’s another centenary coming up soon!

 

The First Lord of the Admiralty of the time the Rt Hon. A.V. Alexander, ceremoniously rowed across Burnham’s new marine lake (by the jetty) to open it in 1931: Shades of Gilbert and Sullivan!  Unfortunately the lake and swimming pool fell into dis-use during the war and finally demolished in 1987.

 

Our Own Custom House on the Esplanade (now a Fish Bar) was erected in 1821, principally to check goods arriving from overseas and bound for the Port of Bridgwater (and even Langport).

 

Jeremy King, whose parents lived on the Berrow Road, established the “fashionable” restaurant “The Ivy” in Leicester Square, London and more recently the world famous “The Wolsey” in Piccadilly.

 

The Radio Station at Burnham Without now Mulholland housing estate, was once in touch with every ship in the world, and when the Falklands War was in progress the Argentines did not know contact was still being made to England via our local radio station; visited by HRH the Queen in 1954(?).

 

Stephen Daldry CBE, West End producer and film director of Billy Elliot and the Reader, which earned Kate Winslett a 2009 Oscar, was a pupil at King Alfred School.  His mother Cherry was a Town Councillor.

 

Not ONE, not TWO, but THREE lighthouses; the boast of Burnham on Sea!  Two are easy to spot.  One with nine stout legs on the sands, No 2 on the Berrow Road 82ft high, but the third?  It is incorporated into Beverley Nursing Home on the Esplanade – a stunted and crenellated tower.

 

Anne Diamond; Television personality and magazine writer, cut her journalistic skills at our local paper and lived on the Esplanade opposite the Pavilion.

 

The Royal Clarence Hotel (circa 1820), purpose built to accommodate visitors frequenting the nearby Spa at Steart House.  Probably named after the Prince who became William IV (1830 – 37) and who had recently visited nearby Bridgwater.  Mr Pruen, a former owner of the hotel had a Rolls-Royce in which he used to collect his clients from the railway station in the 1930’s and the vehicle (Fiery Fred) is still in a museum at Bristol.

 

ROYAL VISITORS

 

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited the Radio Station (in the parish of Burnham Without) in 1953.

 

HRH The Princess Royal visited and attended a charity fete in  the Manor Gardens in 1988.

 

HRH Princess Alexandra opened the refurbished Princess in 1995.

 

HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, visited the BARB, on the Esplanade in April 2009.

 

TOP POLITICAL “BRASS”

 

Former leader of the Liberal Party, Paddy (now Lord) Ashdown of Yeovil, married local girl, Jane Courtney in St Andrew’s Church, Burnham in 1961.

 

Former Labour Deputy Prime Minister (Lord) George Brown opened a European Information Centre in 1981 at the premises in Berrow Road now owned by a veterinary practice.

 

David Cameron addressed a large gathering of Conservatives in the Princess in 2005 in his challenge to become leader of his party.

 

M.P. Nick Clegg leader of the Lib-Dem Party visited the BARB in 2009.

 

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