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Banwell (St. Andrew)

BANWELL (St. Andrew), a parish, in the union of Axbridge, hundred of Winterstoke, E. division of Somerset, 5 miles (N. N. W.) from Axbridge; containing 1819 inhabitants. The manor has been in the possession of the bishops of Bath and Wells since the time of Edward the Confessor, with the exception of the short reign of Edward VI.; one of them built an episcopal palace here, the remains of which, in the early part of the last century, were converted into a private residence, called Banwell Court. The park was subsequently divided into inclosures, which were assigned on lease for lives. Some of the leases, however, were lately bought up, and the ground disposed in a tasteful manner, by forming plantations, with drives conducting to pleasing and richly variegated prospects. The late Bishop Law, also, in 1827, erected a cottage ornée for his own accommodation, and that of the numerous visiters which the discovery of two caverns in the rock, one denominated the Bone, and the other the Stalactite cavern, has attracted hither. The parish comprises by measurement 5000 acres of land, of which the soil is fertile, and the substrata abound in mineral varieties; limestone and blue lias are quarried, and lead, iron, and copper ore were formerly worked to a very great extent. The manufacture of paper is carried on, affording employment to about 80 persons. The village is pleasantly situated under the Mendip Hills, in a vale watered by a copious stream issuing from a spring formerly in repute for medicinal properties, and from which the place is supposed to have taken its name. A fair for fat-cattle is held on the 18th of January. The Bristol and Exeter railway passes through the parish, in which a station has been established. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £26. 6. 0½.; patrons and appropriators, the Dean and Chapter of Bristol: their tithes have been commuted for £225, and the vicarial for £702. The church is a fine specimen of the later English style, and contains a richly carved screen and rood-loft, a finely sculptured stone pulpit, and windows of stained glass. There is a place of worship for Wesleyans. A monastery was founded at Banwell by one of the early Saxon kings, to the abbacy of which Alfred the Great appointed Asser, his subsequent biographer: it was entirely demolished in the Danish irruptions; and although restored, it never recovered its former splendour, and fell to decay several years before the general suppression of religious houses. The summit of a neighbouring eminence is crowned by a British earthwork, inclosing within its irregular rampart an area of about twenty acres; and about a quarter of a mile from this is an intrenchment nearly square, in the centre of which the ground is elevated in the form of a cross.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.