History

Blackdown is thought to be of Saxon origin, Blac or Bloec Dun meaning bleak, down or fort. Through the years the name Blackdown has changed in spelling from Blakedone, Blakedon, Blagedon to its present form Blagdon. On the hills above Blagdon lie Priddy and Charterhouse both occupied by the Romans, at Priddy Mines they have a penal settlement while Charterhouse was the army camp with amphitheatre. A Roman road connected Charterhouse with Blagdon where there was a Roman villa near the present Church. The Roman interest at Charterhouse was Lead and several pigs of lead carrying the inscriptions of Antonite, Cladius, Hadrian and Vespasian have been found here and at Blagdon.

In the reign of William the Conqueror, Blagdon was part of Manor which belonged to Serlo de Buschi, Humphry Chamberlain was his tenant in chief. Queen Matilda lived near Keynshan for a while and this Humphry was her "Chamberlain". When the Queen of England had, Brictric the Saxon Thegn imprisoned in Winchester his lands in Somerset were sequested and handed to Humphry Chamberlain.

Henry I's reign and Robert Fitzmartin of Compton Martin holds Blagdon as part of his manor which remained in the Fitzmartin family until the reign of Edward II. William Martin died in 1324 without issue and the manor passed to his two married daughters and their families. William Martins daughters were married to Columbos and James de Audley and later to Robert de Veer, Earl of Oxford, John de Holland, Earl of Huntington and Stanley Earl of Derby.

The first Blagdon church was probably Saxon in origin. In the reign of Henry II, 1154, Robert Fitzharding granted the church to the Cistercian Abbey of Stanley. At the Dissolution, the Church was granted to the Cathedral of Winchester who's Dean and Chapter were patrons of Benefice. Robert Fitzharding was Provost of Bristol, he became the first Lord Berekeley his grand daughter was the wife of Thomas de Harptree, son of William de Harptree.

The first recorded rector of the Church was Peter de Esse who was inducted in 1317 by the Archdeacon of Wells in the same year that the second church was consecrated. Augustas Toplady was curate of this church for a time, June 1762. He is remembered for the Hymn "Rock of Ages", he wrote it on the back of a playing card while sheltering in a cleft in the rock from a storm at Burrington Combe.

The winter of 1683 and the hardship suffered by the population of Blagdon are recorded in a document written Edmund Derrick, he recalls the 'Great Frost'. The snow fell and was some 6ft deep and lay on the ground for 13 weeks, it was still on the high Mendips in mid summer.

Again in 1703 Edmund recalls the 'Terrible Tempest' when the village was devastated by thunder, lightening, wind and rain. There was a flood, trees were up-rooted, roofs blown off and the streets were filled with thatch and tile, he records how their bed shook with the violence of the storm.

Many men and boys worked in the Lead Mines, "Mindry" at Charterhouse, the men were payed on the last Saturday of each month. The original "Mindry Pay House" was in one of the Blagdon Public Houses as you can imagine the wives were lucky to see any for housekeeping. There was another scam, where the local shop was appointed to provide the miners with everything. Each month their debt was settled and they receive what was left over if any.

The miners wives lived in fear of their men being "Mindered" which was their name for Lead Poisoning. Before a water supply was installed it had to be fetched from the village wells, one was at Park Batch, the other was Timsell Well.

The main employment apart from mining was in agriculture on the local farms. There were other businesses in Blagdon, a Saw Mill, numerous Lime Kilns, two Slaughter Houses, three Smithies, a Garage, a Haulier, the Bakery, two Shirt factories, several Shops including the Butchers, a Post Office and two Inns. There were other trades such as, Thatchers, Masons and Carpenters employed in the village and surrounding area.

Eventually villagers began to move to the towns and cities looking for work and a better life. Bristol was nearest but South Wells was in reach and even London, they didn't stop there, soon it was Canada, America, Australia and the World.


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