Written 30 years ago in 1981 this book was the first of the many history books to be published by the Society over the years and is still available for sale.
In the foreword the then president of the Society, the late Lady Margaret Elton, wrote, ‘How did Clevedon grow from a small, obscure village, with perhaps less than a hundred families engaged in farming, fishing and fowling, its hills bare of anything but sheep, its treacherous moors undrained, into one of the most handsome Victorian sea-side towns, all in a century.’
Although the book only runs to 61 pages it is packed with many nuggets of information. It starts with an essay about the history of the town up until 1800 written by a young lady called Jane Lilly, and a chapter by H. A Cook detailing the subsequent development of the town follows.
A history of the Elton family and their home at Clevedon Court forms a further chapter, this time written by J. S Jephcott.
Lady Elton herself follows this with a very detailed account of the design, construction and opening of the pier on Easter Monday, 1869. Elton House, standing high above Highdale Road, was built in 1844 for a previous Lady Elton and is the subject of another article; this is followed by chapters on the town’s religious life, its local government, its education and its shops.
The book ends with a detailed description of the Limekilns of Clevedon complete with illustrations by its author, Gwyneth M. Yeates.
Each chapter in the book is prefaced by a delightful line drawing by Michael Horsfield who also designed the cover. Attached to the back page is a pull-out map of the town circa 1900 drawn by Jane Lilly herself.
In her introduction Lady Elton suggests that in this book the Local History Society went some way in exploring some of the answers to her question – how did Clevedon turn from an obscure village to a handsome seaside town? She wrote that she ‘… hopes that these essays will give a deeper meaning to our lives in Clevedon, and stimulate others to seek out the story of our town, for there are many gaps to be filled.’
Geoff Hale (this review was first published in the Spring 2011 edition of ‘The Clevedonian’)