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24 September 2014

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Point 7: Minehead Harbour

Continue walking along Quay Street and Quay West until you can see Minehead Harbour on your right.

In the 1400s, Minehead was still an agricultural area where people farmed to survive. It might have continued that way had it not been for the proximity of the sea.

The fishing industry developed first, with herring being the staple catch of the Minehead fishing fleet for hundreds of years.

In spite of constant problems with the harbour walls and silting, trade developed rapidly during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Much trade was carried on with ships from Ireland, Virginia and the West Indies - the cargoes included wool, linen, yarn, coal, salt, hides and livestock, as well as wines from France and Spain.

The rise and decline of trade

The Luttrell family, who owned the Dunster estates from the 1300s onwards, provided Minehead with a stone harbour, which was completed in 1616. The harbour was further strengthened in 1682 with great boulders.

Lifeboat station

Although Minehead prospered during the 1600s, from both its shipping and the woolen industry, the 18th century saw a rapid fall in the town's fortunes.

The expansion of ports elsewhere, such as Bristol and Liverpool, adequately catered for the new large ships, and developing world markets, which Minehead had neither the size, nor the position, to seize.

At the same time, the local woolen industry began to decline, as a result of the competition with new machines housed in factories.

A huge fire also swept through the town in 1791.

A new image for Minehead

Minehead first began to develop as a holiday centre as early as the 1770s.

It was the age of the Romantics who idealised the scenery of Exmoor.

Wordsworth and Coleridge trampled over the Quantocks, and part of Exmoor, and recorded their impressions in their poetry.

Culver Cliff

Medical doctors were also beginning to advocate bathing in sea water as a remedy for many ailments.

Gradually, a new image began to form - that of Minehead as a holiday resort.

The shape of the town, the occupations of the people, and their attitudes, soon changed to accommodate this image.

With the growth of transport links, visitors continued to increase during the 19th century.

Leave the harbourside and continue walking. Shortly you will see the lifeboat station on your right.

Minehead Pier was built in 1901 which played an essential part in the town's development as a holiday resort.

The lifeboat station was built a year later.

It was the era of the paddle-steamer and pleasure trips, rather than trading and fishing for herring.

View across to Wales

For nearly 40 years, Minehead Pier served the steamers which brought day-trippers from the industrial areas of South Wales.

Then, in the 1940 summer of blitzkrieg and Dunkirk, the pier was demolished for fear it might block the field of fire.

In 1951, the harbour was sold by Squire Luttrell to the then Minehead Urban District Council.

Today, the harbour is a launch point for boats, as well as windsurfing and water-skiing. You can go on fishing trips, see the old cannons on the quayside, and hire out boats.

Bristol Channel cruises also leave from the harbour, and, on a clear day, you can see across the Bristol Channel to South Wales, Burnham-on-Sea, and Weston-super-Mare.

If you would to take the optional part of the walk to see Culver Cliff and get better views across the Bristol Channel to Cardiff, continue along Quay West past where the road ends and becomes a paved footpath.

BBC Wales, BBC Bristol and BBC Gloucester have further walks on the Bristol Channel coast for you to explore.

The Minehead Meander continues in the opposite direction - walk back past Minehead Harbour and along Quay West.

last updated: 19/11/08
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