The History of Clevedon

1: Natural features

I am indebted to Mr A.H. Elton for some of the particulars of the geological and other features of the district:-
"At Clevedon a double range of hills, rising to some 300ft above the level of the sea, commences, extending northwards to Portishead and eastward to the defile of the Avon at Clifton. The latter range consists of mountain limestone, occasionally overlaid by beds of magnesian limestone of excellent quality, and much valued for building purposes. To the north of this range the limestone dips beneath the coal measures in consequence of a geological fault, and the super incumbent soil becomes deeper and of a more sandy nature, whilst masses of Pennant stone occasionally emerge on the surface. Coal has formerly been drawn from this side of the hill but the difficulty of preventing the influx of water into the works seems to have been the cause of their discontinuance. On the range of hills towards Portishead, about a quarter of a mile from Clevedon near the interesting ruins of Walton old church, there is an excellent spring of water, which loses itself in the sea.
The air of Clevedon is mild and salubrious. The myrtle and other tender shrubs flourish in sheltered spots. The surrounding countryside is very fertile and well wooded. the prevalent winds are from the west and southwest, and coming over the Atlantic tend to render the climate of the place more fresh and invigorating than would otherwise be the case."

Dr. Frowd states:-
"I consider this part of the country a decidedly healthy one. The air, except in November, is dry the air is generally speaking, mild; it is cold in March and May. The winds most prevalent are from the southwest."

The Land Yeo
A small stream called the Land Yeo runs through the lower portion of the village into the Bristol Channel. The principal spring, which supplies or used to supply it, rises about 7 miles distant, at Barrow Rocks. Owing to the water of that spring having been purchased by the Bristol Water Company some three years ago, it was stated that the stream is diminished in volume being sometimes nearly dry.

The Levels Land drainage
Upwards of 2,000 acres of which the parish consists is marsh or moor land. The whole of the village lies low, at or slightly above the level of the surrounding flat. The Commissioners of Sewers for the north division of east Somerset have jurisdiction over the whole of the marsh land.

With reference to the powers and proceedings of the Commissioners, Mr John Cook, Farmer states: -
"With regard to the accumulation of filth they have power, if they fall into the rhyne to order their removal. But they have no power over the ditches unless the jury makes application to have any particular ditches placed in commission, when they might order such ditches to be cleansed."

The Land Yeo which runs through the lower part of the town is a main outfall for the neighbouring level, and is regularly cleansed four or five times a year under the direction of the commissioners. There are also in the lower part of the town many ditches communicating with the Land Yeo, and which receive drainage from their banks. I believe there are three or four ditches on this side of the Land Yeo, which do not communicate with it.

The Cleansing of the Land Yeo consists in the cutting and pulling out of the weeds and rushes, and then cleaning out the mud from the bottom of the stream. It is not the practice to throw out the mud more than once a year, but the weeds and rushes are removed every time of cleansing. The work is performed by the parties occupying the lands on each side of the river, at their own expense. I have never known any of the other ditches alluded to cleansed by order of the Commissioners of Sewers. This is only done when the parties to whom the lands belong feel inclined to throw out the mud, and which they use as manure. Any ditch may be placed in commission by order of the Commissioners.

The level of the water in the rhyne ought to be regulated by the Commissioners, but, with the exception of the flood hatch at the mouth of the two outfalls, which there are in the parish, there are no means of controlling the water. The object of these hatches is rather to shut out the sea than to regulate the water in the rhyne. I know parts of the parish where hatches formerly existed, which are now without them. The great desideratum would be to have water in the summer, and this a proper number of hatches would effect. In parts remote from the river there is in the dry weather a want of water for the cattle. Juries report to the Commissioners when anything requires to be done.

Mr John Riddle [John Kiddle] states:-
"The whole of the village lies low, but I have no doubt that the Land Yeo has a good fall, so I don't think there could be any difficulty in draining this parish. I have never seen the main street of the village flooded. Every year more or less of the moor is flooded. I have seen within the last 9 years perhaps 50 acres under water. In winter the water in the ditches generally along the village will be 18 inches to 2feet, and even 3 feet below the surface level, and more still below the level of the street. The water of the ditches on Nailsea Moor will be near the surface at such times. This part is generally flooded after heavy rains. I have seen it under water. The floods are caused in my opinion by the want of sufficient outlets to the sea. Many complaints have been made to the Commissioners of the Sewers on the subject: some having too much water and others not enough."

It was observed that the ditches on Nailsea Moor have no communication whatever to the Land Yeo, but communicate with the Middle Yeo & the Blind Yeo. And it appears probable, as was stated in the course of the examination, that the floods when they occur are frequently attributable to the circumstance of rain falling at the time of high water, more especially at spring tides, when the outlets are closed. Mr Riddle explained that the flood he had spoken of in the course of his evidence in chief was caused by a very high tide washing away part of the sea wall, and running up the level to Nailsea. It was a flood of salt water, which, however, forced back the land water in the interior of the flat.

On the other hand, Mr Richard Glanville, a farmer, stated with regard to the inundation in question, (which occurred in February 1834) that it was caused by the tide overflowing the whole of the seawall, and not by its breaking down any part of it. He added:-
"It occurred during a dead calm, otherwise the whole of the flat would have been laid under water. The sea, I should say, rose as much as 4 inches above the wall"

The Tide
The rise of tide varies from 22 to 36 feet. Very high spring tides, it appears, would reach four or five feet above the level of the flat. There is a mill at Tickenham, about three miles up the river, which it appears, affects the continuous flow of water. Complaints had been made of the damming up of this water by this mill injuring the land behind it.

Mr A.H.Elton said that he considered the drainage of this part of the county to be very much mismanaged, and that the land suffered in consequence he added:-
"About two years ago, Mr Gordon, the owner of a large tract of country in the level, brought forward a plan for the improvement of the drainage of the whole land. He proposed to widen and deepen the Middle Yeo, and in this manner to rid the level of the water, and to enable the proprietors to drain their own lands. The cost of these works from Nailsea to the outfall was estimated at about 4,000 pounds, and it was supposed that about 1,300 acres would be benefited by them, and acquire an additional value yearly of nearly one pound per acre. However the plan fell to the ground for want of support, and I brought it forward as an instance that there is a general feeling abroad that some improvement is required. I do not myself altogether approve of the plan. Mr Gordon, at a meeting of the Court of Sewers in October last, again brought the subject under notice of the commissioners. I sent Sir Charles Elton's agent to urge upon them the expediency of their directing their attention to the subject. The Commissioners then indicated they would give due consideration to any plan for improving the drainage of the level, but they declined to take the initiative in any plan themselves. The powers of the Commissioners are extensive, and in taking the course they did I do not think they acted up to the spirit of their duties, which I consider are to improve to the utmost the drainage of the flat."

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