I have started a local history course in our town of Weston-super-Mare; the leader/lecturer is historian John Crockford-Hawley, one of our local councillors. It was the first evening and as a start Mr Crockford-Hawley went back 35,00 years to the earliest inhabitants of our little Somerset village of Uphill… Obviously there wasn’t a village here that long ago, well not a village as we know it. However people lived here, and no doubt had successful lives in their terms – an area with fresh water, plenty of birds and animals and fish, plenty of land and sea plants, relatively safe as it is by a hill, and with plenty of stone to use as tools and weapons. We travelled through the millennia up to about 1841, when railways arrived here in Weston. At first the people in charge insisted that the actual engines remained out of town and the carriages were pulled to the station by horses!
Uphill was the first part of the area which was inhabited, and although other areas soon had early peoples and then the Romans, Uphill is the place which can claim to be the oldest. Although we have a hill, Uphill Hill, the village isn’t called after it; a pill or pyle is the local name of a small navigable channel – the pill here probably belonged to Oppa or Opo, hence Oppa/Opo’s Pill – Uphill!
There are many legends as well as true stories attached to our village – my favourite I think is that St Patrick was snatched from the hill here when he was a boy tending his father’s flocks. He was taken to Ireland as a slave, and became a saint in due course, the patron saint of Ireland but maybe he was actually a Somerset lad! I also knew the legend that Jesus is supposed to have travelled to Glastonbury with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea. However, I didn’t know that they were supposed to have arrived at the wharf in Uphill, and maybe travelled up our River Axe into the Mendip hills to the lead mines where Joseph, Uncle Joe who was a metalworker purchased some fine Somerset ore.
When William Blake came to write his well known poem ‘And did those feet in ancient time’, he was thinking of that legend – some think as I mentioned, that Jesus and his Uncle Joe went to Glastonbury, but why would they, there’s no metal there, no lead to be bought!
And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green and pleasant Land.