This vilIage is set to survive. Where Ashcombe, Milton and Worle have forever lost their tranquil rural feel, Uphill remains a village, and this despite its very obvious links with Weston. Any temptation to develop the golf course, Broadoak fields, Castle grounds and the delightful so-called Donkey Field would meet the stiffest opposition. Uphill is safe!
Early 19th century quarrying exposed evidence of very early occupation, with flint tools and animal bones found in a small cave indicating habitation 40,000 years ago and those who walk the track over Walborough should spare a thought for our Bronze Age forebears who were laid to rest on this windswept hillock.
Uphill’s position on the coast gives a clue to its growth. Imagine the sea lapping around the hill side. Though hard evidence is scant, it seems the Romans may well have used Uphill as a port for moving lead from their mines at Charterhouse. It was the Mediaeval monks of Glastonbury who changed the local landscape forever with the construction of flood defence dykes and drainage ditches, turning the River Axe into an important inland waterway. Do not imagine for one minute that the Holy Brothers spent all their time at prayer.
More of the salt marsh was reclaimed during the 17th century, establishing new fields known as warths. Most of their trade was across the Bristol Channel. Sheep came from Wales and, during the Industrial Revolution, lime went back for the steel industry and the remains of an old lime kiln can still be seen by the boatyard. In 1592 a French merchant ship was reported to have here “mett by an Englishe shippe appointed warlyke belonging to Syr Walter Rawleigh” and forced in to Uphill where its cargo of fish and oil was seized by Bnstol merchants. Even the Duke of Monmouth was urged to use Uphill as a staging post in his rebellion of 1685.
From walking your dog on the beach to meeting the cows on the hill the nature of Uphill will provide hours of enjoyment and interest.
The oldest building to survive the ravages of time stands defiantly on the hilltop. The old Church of St Nicholas, built just after the Norman Conquest of 1066, may be on the site of an earlier Saxon church. The roof was partially removed in 1864 and with the building of the new St Nicholas Church in a more accessible part of the village, ‘Old Nick’ fell into disuse and is now looked after by the Churches Conservation Trust. Despite no longer being a place of regular worship, its floodlit countenance gazes down upon the heathen lands of modern time.
Many people assume that Uphill’s name is somehow related to the hill, but this is not so. The village’s name, as recorded in the Domesday Book, of Opopill is more realistic, indicating a place Uphill’s story is inextricably bound to water as those villagers of 1981 will testify. Hopefully, the new flood defences put up two years later will provide the local residents with total protection from the raging elements, even allowing for global warming.
The grandest house in Uphill is the ‘castle’, though it is by no means the oldest nor is it genuinely defendable. Built in 1805 as a school, it was acquired in 1825 by Thomas Knyfton who added the Gothic design features. The current owners have restored the grand Puginesque interior making the house into a fine family house with B & B.
Further up the hillside is Uphill Grange, once the residence of the Whitting family and a former Muller orphanage. This is now a nursing home set in spacious grounds with two charming gate lodges, the lower one of which is currently being expertly extended.
The oldest domestic building is Uphill Farm, probably late 16th Century. It is the former Manor House and has been recently acquired by Weston Hospice. Sandcroft Cottages, Rose Cottage, Park Cottage and the superbly restored Old Schoolhouse complete with thatched roof are all surviving examples of Uphill’s rural past and the Coastguard Cottages remind us of the illicit trade in spirits and tobacco which went on hereabouts. Uphill is not without literary links. The writer Hannah More, a friend of the social reformer William Wilberforce, stayed some time in the village and the poet William Lisle Bowles was the son of a former rector. The school was built in 1872 and has been extended to cope with an ever- increasing population of children.
The Ship has been a pub for over than 250 years and though the Dolphin burned down in 1860 it was soon replaced. Both pubs were haunts of smugglers who were often known to leave their ale on hill and, by careful use of lanterns, guide ships into Uphill with their contraband cargoes. On one occasion a French lugger failed to up- anchor in time and the tide ran out, leaving the captain high and dry, surrounded by kegs of brandy! Proper pubs, not those converted into restaurants which just happen to serve beer, are an integral part of village life, as are the church, chapel, primary school, Westhaven school, post office and cricket pitch.