Nailsea is in a beautiful rural location of North Somerset, about eight miles south west of Bristol. The pennant sandstone, which lies beneath this area, has provided stone for building materials since the Roman occupation. Although this stone is mainly a sort of muddy brown, there are variations including a pretty shade of coral pink sometimes found in local walls.
The presence of this type of sandstone gave rise to coal mining which flourished for over four hundred years. The earliest date on which there is a mention of coal mining in Nailsea is in 1507, at which time coal was being transported to fire the limekiln at Yatton. At this early date coal would only have been mined from outcrops near to the surface. By the mid 19th century a local pit was operating at a depth of 620 feet below the surface. The last pit closed in 1882 due to competition from larger mines in the North of England and South Wales. There are several surviving examples of winding and pumping houses, mainly ruins or conversions into houses. The Middle Engine Pit complex in Golden Valley is now a scheduled monument.
Good quality coal made Nailsea the ideal lace for a glassworks, and one was established in the late 18th century. By the middle of the following century this had become the fourth largest glassworks in Britain, producing crown, cylinder and plate glass, along with a small amount of coloured glass. However, it was the incidental domestic and novelty ware made by the glass blowers that gave Nailsea international recognition for its glass. A fine collection of Nailsea Glass is on display at Clevedon Court, a National Trust Property a few miles from the town.
Following the closure of the mines and glass works at the end of the 19th century, Nailsea reverted to a predominantly agricultural and cider-making community. In the late 1950s, the area was selected by Somerset County Council as the site for a new town. Today Nailsea is a thriving country town which has all the modern facilities and yet has managed to retain its village atmosphere.
One of the town’s best known celebrities was Adge Cutler, formerly the lead singer of the pop group “The Wurzels”. The group’s album “Live at the Royal Oak” was recorded at the pub of that name on the High Street in Nailsea.
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