Civic Society 50th Anniversary Project: Poets' Walk Steps.
At its April meeting Clevedon Civic Society Executive approved expenditure on a project to commemorate its 50th Anniversary.
The money will come from funds accumulated by the Civic Society over a long period, mainly generated by its members writing, publishing and selling books of local interest.
It is therefore most important for us to mark this anniversary with a project of some cultural significance to the town, and which will above all have longevity.
After considerable discussion The Society decided that upgrading the appearance of the flight of steps leading to Poets' Walk at the southern end of Marine Lake and marking the significance of Poets Walk to the Town would satisfy the selection criteria very well.
With the agreement and cooperation of North Somerset Council we will remake 10 of the stone steps, with granite and textured concrete. Each of the new steps will have a line of poetry from “IN MEMORIAM AHH” by Alfred Lord Tennyson, carved into the vertical granite face.
This Poem commemorates the return of Arthur Hallam for burial at St Andrews Church after he died in Vienna in September 1833 at the age of 22. Arthur Hallam was the grandson of Sir Abraham Vth Baronet of Clevedon Court and a friend of Tennyson. In the following years the public responded to the themes of talent and friendship tragically cut short, and the poem became nationally well known. By the time the railway reached Clevedon, people were flocking to visit the memorial to Arthur Hallam in St. Andrews Church.
We hope that this will resonate with present day residents and visitors, some of whom may wish to find out more about the history of the town, and others who will be moved by the experience of reading these evocative lines in the landscape of the Severn Estuary which inspired them.
We also hope that the overall appearance of the steps can be improved by reinstating the bank and planting on the right hand side to prevent further undermining of the foundations, and that the number of sign posts etc at the base of the steps can be reduced
With the increasing emphasis on the use of our green spaces, this project is timely, especially so as it forms part of the coast path which we hope will soon connect Clevedon and Weston super Mare.
Concept and Realisation
John Tranter, Conservation and Planning Group chair, first brought the proposal to the Society Executive, and once the proposal was agreed, was asked to spearhead the project. He said:
"The concept came from seeing a new viewing area on the shores of Lake Windermere in 2009.
"Lines of poetry appropriate to the place were inscribed on the steps and we found it inspirational.
"It occurred to me that poetry written about the location also applied to Poets Walk in Clevedon, so when the Civic Society were looking for a 50th Anniversary project in 2019 this seemed ideal."
When the Civic Society adopted this as the project to mark the anniversary;
- The stanza from "In Memoriam" which relates most closely to its location was agreed,
- A suitable stone supplier was sought, and identified with the assistance of the builder AG Neads.
This was a granite quarry in Portugal which was also able to do the engraving, all at a price we could afford.
- The quotation was based upon drawings I did for every step to make the engraving as clear as possible for the masons who were working in a foreign language - in the event they got it perfectly right.
- Having placed the order, two unforeseen events occurred - Brexit and Covid - as a result timescales became very uncertain, and several times I thought the project could not proceed.
However the stone was eventually delivered to Clevedon in early July 2022 and at that time the project became a certainty.
- Once the builders could give a start date the actual work on site took just over a week and a very good job they made of it.
- At the inception of the project I contacted the Parks and Open Spaces department at North Somerset council for approval, which was readily given.
- The Council also contributed to improving the setting of the steps by, removing extraneous signage , relocating the dog bin away from the bottom of the steps, repairs to the stone retaining wall at the right hand side and infilling this side with topsoil.
All of this means that the steps at the start of Poets Walk look as good now as they did when they were built 100 years ago.
On Wednesday 14 September, our project to renovate the Poets' Walk steps came to a conclusion with a grand re-opening ceremony, Hosted by our Chairman, Mike Graham, and performed by our President, Julia Elton.
To make this a celebration event, invitations were issued to members of the Civic Society, Town and District Council and other Civic Societies in the area. Also in attendance were members of the workforce that performed the work in restoring he steps and installation of the engraved stones.
An additional display board for the Discover Clevedon trail has been produced by Clevedon BID in association with our historian Jane Lilly, which explains the association of the famous 19th Century poets with Clevedon.
After the ceremony, the party retired to The Salthouse, where cake and Prosecco were available for consumption.
A further report of this event is available on the North Somerset Times website.
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