I’ve been connected with Weston-super-Mare for many years; my family moved here when I was still at school but two years later I moved away to Manchester and didn’t return except to visit for a very long time. When my own children were quite small, we moved back to Weston for a variety of reasons and have lived here ever since.
The first thing I remember heating about Weston from someone who knew it was that its nickname was Weston-super-Mud – I thought we were going to move to live by the sea which would be similar to the sea I knew and loved on the east coast of Norfolk and Suffolk. Weston got its nick-name because it is on an estuary of the Rivers Severn and Avon and so there is a lot of silt in the water and the shore line itself is a band of marine clay.
When we moved to Weston it seemed so incredibly old-fashioned, unbelievably so! I thought maybe coming from Cambridge which is only fifty miles from London that maybe I had an unrealistic idea of what things were like – but no, moving to Manchester and Weston seemed even more old-fashioned.
The town is only quite new compared to other places. It was only really in the early 1800’s that it began to develop from a tiny fishing hamlet and a few farms into a sizeable village. it was already becoming bigger and more significant when the railways arrived and that wrought huge changes on the town. It began to develop as a tourist centre, but other industries develop too, including potteries, mineral mining, quarries and lime production. However it was the tourist industry which took over and in the early twentieth century Weston was a very popular destination. However the general decline in numbers of holiday makers visiting British seaside towns affected Weston – perhaps cheap package holidays abroad and a greater expectation than Weston could provide hastened the decline.
There were however other things going on; light industry, manufacturing, dormitory housing now there was the motorway link to the north and south, and Weston’s population began to grow. To be sure people are employed in the many retirement/residential/care homes, but the local college is increasing in status and there are many great things about the town which now has nearly 80,000 people living here.
I have recently been attending a series of lectures about the history of the town, which have been most interesting and opened my eyes to much that residents of W-s-M should be proud of – and forget the Weston-super-Mud sobriquet!