Keynsham, Somerset

Keynsham, a town and a parish in Somerset. The town stands on the river Avon, at the influx of the Chew, at the boundary with Gloucestershire, with a station on the G.W.R., 114 miles from London, and 5 ESE of Bristol, and has a post, money order, and telegraph office. Acreage of parish, 4197; population, 2811. The town got its name from St Kayne or, Keyna (see KEYNE, Sr), had long a celebrated Augustinian abbey, was once a market-town, is now a seat of petty sessions and of a court-leet, consists of one street nearly a mile long, and a number of shorter and newer ones, and has two chief inns, a police station, a church, Baptist, Wes-leyan, Free Methodist, and Primitive Methodist chapels, Salvation Army Barracks, a public hall, a drill hall, parochial schools, a workhouse, gaswork, and electric light works. The town is lit by the electric light, and possesses the oldest brass mills in England. St Keyne is storied to have lived here in a wood infested with venomous serpents, and to have converted these into stones, and the common people long believed that ammonites found in the neighbouring quarries were the veritable quondam serpents. The leprous king Bladud also is fabled to have been hired here as a swineherd, and to have driven his hogs hence to the wells of Bath. The abbey was founded between 1167 and 1172 by William, Earl of Gloucester, possessed at the dissolution an income estimated variously at £420 and £450, was then given for twenty-one years to John Panter, and afterwards followed the fortunes of the manor. The buildings of it appear to have been very grand, but large portions of them were taken down in the 17th century for restoring the parish church and rebuilding its tower, and the last remains of them above ground were levelled in 1776. The substructions, however, were excavated in 1865 with the view of laying open and retaining as much as possible of them on the spot, and they were found to present features of much interest to antiquaries and to include many Norman tiles. Some relics of the abbey exist also in the curious " hostelry for pilgrims " in the village (now converted into shops), and the gateway of its grange, in Norman architecture, is at Queen Chariton. The parish church is large, was appropriated to the abbey about 1292, comprises nave, aisle, chancel, and chapel, with lofty tower, contains a handsome carved screen and monuments of the 16th century to the Brydges, ancestors of the Dukes of Chandos, and was thoroughly restored in 1863. The bells were presented by Handel in exchange for the organ, which he removed for his own use. The greater part of it is Early English, one aisle is Decorated, another is Perpendicular, and the tower is of mixed character. Fairs are held on the Monday after Easter and the Wednesday after 15 Aug.; a considerable clothing trade was formerly carried on, but has disappeared. The chief industries are those provided by the brass mills, dyewoods and colour grinding, a boot factory, and the limestone quarries. The surrounding scenery is very fine, and the railway rons through a remarkable series of tunnels and excavations.

The manor was settled by Henry VIII. on his last Queen, Catherine Parr, was leased after her death by Edward VI. to Sir John St Loe, was granted soon afterwards by the same king to Thomas Brydges, Esq., descended from him to the Dukes of Chandos, went by marriage to the Dukes of Buckingham, and is now divided among several proprietors. A seat of the Dukes of Chandos and Buckingham, called Chandos House, was here. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Bath and Wells; value, £250 with residence.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5