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Banwell, Somerset

Historical Description

Banwell, a village and a parish in Somerset. The village stands under Banwell Hill, at the NW extremity of the Mendip range, 4 miles NNW of Axbridge, with a station called Sandford and Banwell, on the Cheddar Valley branch of the G.W.R. A fair is held at it on 18 January, or on the following Monday. A monastery was founded here by some early Saxon king; had for one of its abbots Asserius or Asser, the biographer of King Alfred; was destroyed by the Danes, and afterwards restored, but seems to have given place to an Episcopal palace, and ceased to be monastic long before the dissolution of monasteries. A mineral well in the vicinity expands into a lakelet, drives two mills, and sends off a rivulet to the Bristol Channel near Woodspring priory. The parish contains also the hamlets of Knightcot, East and West Rolston, Towel-head, Westwick and Waywick, Woolfords-hill, and Yarborough. It has a post, money order, and telegraph office. The acreage is 4974; population of the civil parish, 1584; of the ecclesiastical, 1579. On Banwell Hill is an obelisk erected by Bishop Law of Bath and Wells. The manor has belonged, since the time of Edward the Confessor, to the bishops of Bath and Wells. A palace was built on it by Bishop Beckington, but went into neglect. It has been rebuilt and turned into a large house called the Abbey. The old chapel belonging to it has been restored. Two remarkable caverns, discovered in 1824, and which now attract many visitors, occur on the skirts of Banwell Hill; the one, called the Stalactite Cavern, presenting many beautiful specimens of translucent stalactites; the other, called the Bone Cavern, found to have contained many bones of bears, buffaloes, deer, wolves, foxes, and other animals, mingled with diluvium. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Bath and Wells; gross value, £563 and residence. Patrons, the Dean and Chapter of Bristol. The church is Later English, and has a richly-carved screen, a finely sculptured stone pulpit, a circular font, and three brasses. There is a Wesleyan chapel.

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


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountySomersetshire 
Ecclesiastical parishBanwell St. Andrew 
Poor Law unionAxbridge 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records, in association with Somerset Archives & Local Studies, have images of the Parish Registers for Somerset online.

Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Banwell from the following:


Online maps of Banwell are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Somerset papers online:

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitation of Somersetshire, 1623 is available on the Heraldry page.

CountyNorth Somerset
RegionSouth West
Postal districtBS29
Post TownBanwell