Burnham-on-Sea is a large seaside town in Somerset, England, at the
mouth of the River Parrett, upon
Bridgwater Bay. Burnham was a small
fishing village until the late 18th century, when it began to grow
because of its popularity as a seaside resort. It forms part of the
Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge
Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge and shares a town council with
its neighbouring market town of Highbridge. According to the 2011
census the population of the parish (i.e. including Highbridge) was
19,576, of which the populations of the wards of Burnham Central
and Burnham North, which made up most of the town, totalled 13,601.
The position of the town on the edge of the
Somerset Levels and moors
where they meet the Bristol Channel, has resulted in a history
dominated by land reclamation and sea defences since Roman times.
Burnham was seriously affected by the
Bristol Channel floods of 1607,
with the present curved concrete wall being completed in 1988. There
have been many shipwrecks on the Gore Sands, which lie just offshore
and can be exposed at low tides. Lighthouses are hence prominent
landmarks in the town, with the original lighthouse known as the Round
Tower built to replace the light on the top of the 14th century tower
of St Andrews Church. The 110-foot (34-metre) pillar or High
Lighthouse and the low wooden pile lighthouse or
Lighthouse on legs on
the beach were built to replace it. The town's first lifeboat was
provided in 1836 by the Corporation of Bridgwater.
A stone pier was built in 1858 by the
Somerset Central Railway. Soon
afterwards, in 1860, a steamer service to
Wales was inaugurated, but
it was never a commercial success, and ended in 1888. Burnham-on-Sea
railway station was the terminus of the Burnham branch of the Somerset
and Dorset Joint Railway. It opened in 1858, closed to scheduled
passenger traffic in 1951, and stopped being used for excursions in
1962. The former
Great Western Railway
Great Western Railway station is now known as
Highbridge and Burnham. A second pier, built of concrete between 1911
and 1914, is claimed to be the shortest pier in Britain.
2.2 Sea defences
2.3 Lifeboats and BARB
4.3 The Royal Clarence Hotel
4.4 Listed buildings
6 Religious sites
8 Culture and sport
9 Notable residents
10 Twin towns
12 External links
The name Burnham is derived from Burnhamm, as it was called in the
will of King Alfred, made up from the
Old English words Burna meaning
stream and Hamm for enclosure. On-Sea was added later as there are
several other towns of the same name in England.
The history of
Burnham-on-Sea is the history of the reclamation of the
Somerset Levels from the
River Severn and the Bristol Channel. The
Romans were the first peoples to try to reclaim the
and it was their people who were probably the first settlers in the
high sand dunes behind the River Parrett. This could have been in
part to maintain navigational systems, to aid ships entering the River
Parrett and what is now Highbridge. When the Romans left, the system
of drainage they installed was not maintained, and the areas reverted
to become a tidal salt flat during the
Anglo Saxon period.
Bandstand on the Esplanade, 2009
It is likely that at the time of the Norman Domesday book, settlements
existed at Burnham and Huntspill, their common boundary running along
what is now the Westhill Rhyne. The church at Burnham and its lands
were given to
Gloucester Abbey in the 12th century, later transferred
Wells Cathedral along with up to 50 houses surrounding the
church. Burnham was part of the hundred of Bempstone.
One of the earliest recorded incidents to affect the town was the
Bristol Channel floods of 1607, since when various flood defences
have been installed. In 1911 a concrete wall was built. After the
Second World War, further additions to the defences against the sea
were added by bringing part of the remains of a
Mulberry harbour used
for the Normandy Landings, and burying them in the sand. Today the
town is defended from flooding by a large curved concrete wall,
completed in 1988 following serious flooding in 1981. The wall runs
along the Esplanade, and serves as the canvas for a wide variety of
graffiti and street art.
USS Aulick was a
Clemson-class destroyer in the United States
Navy built in 1918 to 1919. In 1940 she was transferred to the British
under the agreement with the
United Kingdom exchanging American
destroyers for bases in the Atlantic. She transferred to the Royal
Navy where she served as HMS Burnham (H82) during the Second World
War. In 1942, Burnham was formally adopted by Burnham-on-Sea. In 1944,
she was used on aircraft training duties in the Western Approaches
Command, which allowed a contingent from the ship to visit the town
and march through its streets. Burnham was reduced to reserve at
Milford Haven, Wales, in November 1944. She was ultimately scrapped at
Pembroke, in December 1948.
Burnham-on-Sea is notable for its beach and mudflats, the danger they
pose to individuals and shipping, and the efforts to which locals have
gone in defending their town and preventing loss of life. Burnham is
close to the estuary of the
River Parrett where it flows into the
Bristol Channel, which has the second highest tidal range in the
world. At 11 m (36 ft), it is second only to the Bay of
Fundy in Eastern Canada. Burnham's extensive mud flats are
Bridgwater Bay and the rest of the Bristol Channel,
where the tide can recede for over 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometres).
Bridgwater Bay consists of large areas of mud flats, saltmarsh,
sandflats and shingle ridges, some of which are vegetated. It has been
designated as a
Site of Special Scientific Interest
Site of Special Scientific Interest since 1989,
and is designated as a wetland of international importance under the
Apex Leisure and Wildlife Park, in the south-west corner of
Burnham-on-Sea, north of the River Brue, occupies an area of more than
42 acres (17 hectares). The park was created from excavated clay pits,
which were flooded, and the lakes are now home to many types of
wildlife and leisure activities.
Hinkley Point is a headland extending into
Bridgwater Bay 5 mi
(8 km) west of Burnham-on-Sea, close to the mouth of the River
Parrett. The landscape of
Hinkley Point is dominated by two nuclear
Hinkley Point A –
Magnox (now closed) and
Hinkley Point B – AGR. A third, twin-unit European Pressurized
Reactor (EPR) reactor is planned, and will become
Hinkley Point C.
Along with the rest of South West England, Burnham has a temperate
climate which is generally wetter and milder than the rest of the
country. The annual mean temperature is approximately 10 °C
(50 °F). Seasonal temperature variation is less extreme than
most of the
United Kingdom because of the adjacent sea temperatures.
The summer months of July and August are the warmest with mean daily
maxima of approximately 21 °C (70 °F). In winter, mean
minimum temperatures of 1 °C (34 °F) or 2 °C
(36 °F) are common. In the summer the
Azores high pressure
affects the south-west of England, however convective cloud sometimes
forms inland, reducing the number of hours of sunshine. Annual
sunshine rates are slightly less than the regional average of
1,600 hours. In December 1998 there were 20 days without sun
recorded at Yeovilton. Most the rainfall in the south-west is caused
by Atlantic depressions or by convection. Most of the rainfall in
autumn and winter is caused by the Atlantic depressions, which is when
they are most active. In summer, a large proportion of the rainfall is
caused by sun heating the ground leading to convection and to showers
and thunderstorms. Average rainfall is around 700 mm
(28 in). About 8–15 days of snowfall is typical. November to
March have the highest mean wind speeds, and June to August have the
lightest winds. The predominant wind direction is from the
Burnham was seriously affected by the
Bristol Channel floods of 1607,
and various flood defences have been installed since then. In 1911, a
concrete sea wall was built, and after
World War II
World War II further additions
to the defences were made using the remains of a Mulberry harbour.
On 13 December 1981, a large storm hit the North
Meteorological conditions resulted in a very intense secondary
low-pressure area moving rapidly at 40 knots (74 km/h;
46 mph) into the Bristol Channel, with pressure dropping from
1,012 to 962 hectopascals (29.9 to 28.4 inches of mercury) between
00:00 and 18:00. This caused a large rising surge in sea level, with
the maximum surge at
Hinkley Point measured at 1.3 m (4 ft
3 in) above the 7.4 m (24 ft 3 in) tidal level
Ordnance Datum (OD) at 20:25, and 1.3 m (4 ft 3 in)
measured at Avonmouth. The wind was measured at 40 knots
(74 km/h; 46 mph) from the west. Over topping of the sea
defences along a 7 mi (11 km) stretch of the
at 22 locations from
Porlock began after 19:30, and
continued until about 21:30 when the wind speed had reached 50 knots
(93 km/h; 58 mph) from the west. Although there was no loss
of life, the resultant flooding covered 12,500 acres (5,100 ha)
of land, affecting 1,072 houses and commercial properties, with
£150,000 worth of livestock killed and £50,000 of feed and grain
Wessex Water Authority estimated the total cost of the
damage caused at £6M. This resulted in a three-year programme of sea
defence assessment, repair and improvement.
Burnham, being the largest occupied town within the 1981 surge
affected area, also bore the brunt of the resultant damage. 400
properties were affected, with pavements, stone and concrete from the
sea wall ripped up and the Esplande destroyed; total damage within the
parish was estimated at £1.5M. Although emergency repairs were
Wessex Water Authority began planning new sea defences for
the town. Construction work started in 1983 on a £7M scheme, creating
what was then Britain’s biggest wave return wall. The scheme raised
the level of the sea wall and the promenade by 1 m (3 ft
3 in), by creating a 1.6 km (0.99 mi) long and
3.2 m (10 ft 6 in) high sea wall, and a new wider
Esplanade. Taking five years to complete and coming into operation in
1988, beach access is now via a series of raised steps for visitors,
with three vehicle access points which can be closed during storms
using sealed gates.
BARB rescue hovercraft
Spirit of Lelaina
Lifeboats and BARB
There have been many shipwrecks on the Gore Sands. The first lifeboat
was sent to Burnham by the
Bridgwater Corporation in 1836, and a
replacement boat in 1847.
The first Royal National Lifeboat was funded by the town of
Cheltenham, and arrived in 1866. The lifeboat was removed in 1930
because of the difficulty in getting a full crew, and because the
launching arrangements were not suitable for a powered boat. The
Burnham-on-Sea Lifeboat Station
Burnham-on-Sea Lifeboat Station is the base for Royal National
Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) search and rescue operations. The present
station was opened in 2003. It operates two inshore lifeboats (ILBs),
a B Class rigid-hulled boat and an inflatable D Class.
Burnham-on-Sea Area Rescue Boat
Burnham-on-Sea Area Rescue Boat now known as BARB Search &
Rescue was set up in 1992 to fund and operate rescue craft in the
Bridgwater Bay area. BARB's boat house on the sea front was built in
1994 by the
Challenge Anneka TV show. In 2002, Lelaina Hall, a
five-year-old girl from Worcester, died on the mud flats before help
could reach her. The outcry over her death prompted a Western Daily
Press campaign to fund an inshore hovercraft. BARB currently
operates the Spirit of Lelaina alongside her sister hovercraft the
Light of Elizabeth, which is named after Lelaina's sister.
The civil parish of
Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge
Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge has responsibility
for local issues, including setting an annual precept (local rate) to
cover the council's operating costs and producing annual accounts for
public scrutiny. The parish council evaluates local planning
applications and works with the local police, district council
officers, and neighbourhood watch groups on matters of crime,
security, and traffic. The parish council's role also includes
initiating projects for the maintenance and repair of parish
facilities, as well as consulting with the district council on the
maintenance, repair, and improvement of highways, drainage, footpaths,
public transport, and street cleaning. In recent years the parish
council has become a significant grant funder of local organisations
and events. There is currently a debate underway about the correct
disbursement and monitoring of these grants, following allegations of
impropriety regarding some councillors.
Burnham was a large ancient parish, and until the late 19th century
included the then hamlet of Highbridge and rural areas around
Edithmead. In 1894 Highbridge became a separate civil parish, itself
divided in 1896 between the new civil parishes of North Highbridge
(within Highbridge Urban District) and Burnham Without. Burnham itself
became Burnham Urban District, renamed
Burnham-on-Sea Urban District
in 1917. In 1933 it annexed Highbridge Urban District. This
combined urban district became a civil parish in 1974 under the Local
Government Act 1972. The town now falls within the non-metropolitan
district of Sedgemoor, which was formed under the same legislation.
Sedgemoor is responsible for local planning and building control,
local roads, council housing, environmental health, markets and fairs,
refuse collection and recycling, cemeteries and crematoria, leisure
services, parks, and tourism.
Somerset County Council is responsible for running the largest and
most expensive local services such as education, social services,
libraries, main roads, public transport, policing and fire services,
trading standards, waste disposal and strategic planning.
There are two electoral wards in the town itself (Central and North)
making the total population at the 2011 census mentioned above of
It falls within the Wells county constituency which elects one Member
of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the
United Kingdom, by the first past the post voting system. As of 2010,
the MP is
Tessa Munt of the Liberal Democrats. It is also within
South West England
South West England of the
European Parliament which elects six
MEPs using the d'Hondt method of party-list proportional
Because of its position near the mouth of the River Parrett, and the
constantly shifting sands of the Bristol Channel, there has always
been a significant risk to shipping in the area. As a result, several
lighthouses, have been built.
The original lighthouse, known as the Round Tower, was built after the
local vicar, either John Goulden in 1764 or Walter Harris in 1799,
raised a subscription amongst the local population to replace the
light on the top of St Andrews Church tower. The four-storey Round
Tower was built next to the church. It was taken over and improved by
Trinity House in 1815, and operated until 1832, following which
the top two storeys were removed.
The 110 ft (34 m) pillar or High
Lighthouse was designed and
built by Joseph Nelson for
Trinity House in 1830, and equipped with a
paraffin lamp. The ground floor was 5 m (16 ft 5 in) in
diameter and the top room 3 m (9 ft 10 in). It was
automated in 1920. In 1992, it was sold to a member of the Rothschild
family, who owned it until 1996, when it was bought at auction by
Patrick O'Hagan. Conversion for residential use included the removal
of the 6th floor and the construction of stairs where there had
previously only been ladders. A Grade II listed building,
it is now available for holiday lets.
The low wooden pile lighthouse or "
Lighthouse on legs", was built two
years later, also by Joseph Nelson, to complement the High Lighthouse.
It is a total of 36 ft (11 m) high, with the light being at
23 ft (7.0 m) above the sand. It stands on nine wooden
piers, some with plate metal reinforcement. The structure is
whitewashed with a vertical red stripe on the sea side. The
lights were inactive between 1969 and 1993, but were recommissioned
when the High
Lighthouse lights were permanently deactivated. They
have a focal plane of 7 m (23 ft 0 in) and provide a
white flash every 7.5 seconds, plus a directional light (white,
red, or green depending on direction) at a focal plane of 4 m
(13 ft 1 in).
The UK's claimed shortest pier
A 900 ft (270 m) stone pier was erected in 1858 by the
Somerset Central Railway. Soon afterwards, in 1860, a steamer service
Wales was inaugurated, but it was never a commercial success, and
ended in 1888. The pier retains its railway lines under a surface
coating of concrete.
The concrete pier, built in 1911–1914, is claimed to be the
shortest pier in Britain. In 2008, it was rated amongst the top
five piers in Britain by the Daily Express.
The Royal Clarence Hotel
The hotel was built in 1796 and incorporated the first bar in
The Esplanade along the sea front contains several listed buildings
from the early 19th century, including number 44, which is also known
as Steart House, and numbers 46 and 47.
On Berrow Road, near the High Lighthouse, numbers 4, 6 and 8 were part
of a terrace built between 1838 and 1841. Number 31 was previously
a lodge. On the corner of Berrow Road and Sea View is a drinking
fountain from 1897 with a single dressed stone pier and moulded
plinth, topped by a cast iron urn. Each side has the lions head design
with those on the north and south sides giving water into a Purbeck
Primary schools in the town providing education for children up to the
age of 11 include: Berrow Church of
England Primary School,
Burnham-on-Sea Community Infants School, St Andrew's Church of England
Junior School, St Joseph's Catholic Primary School and Nursery.
The nearest secondary school is The
King Alfred School, a
coeducational comprehensive school located in Highbridge, often
referred to as the 'College of Knoweledge'. The school is a specialist
Sports College. In 2007, the school celebrated its 50th anniversary.
The facilities of the dual-use
King Alfred Sports Centre, which is
next to the school site, are shared between the school and town.
St Andrew's Church
The parish church, St. Andrew's, is a Grade I listed building dating
from the 14th century. It has a 78 ft (24 m) high tower,
which leans significantly from the vertical, caused by its poor
foundations. During the 18th century, a light was placed on the tower
to guide fishing boats into the harbour. The church contains a
number of marble carvings designed by Sir
Christopher Wren for the
private chapel in the Palace of Westminster.
There are also places of worship for Baptists, Methodists,
Roman Catholics and
Jehovah's Witnesses in the town.
Burnham-on-Sea railway station
Burnham-on-Sea railway station was the terminus of the Burnham branch
Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway, but the tracks continued
onto the jetty, where ferry services to South
Wales could be boarded.
The station opened in 1858 as Burnham, and was renamed Burnham-on-Sea
in 1920. It closed to scheduled passenger traffic in 1951 and stopped
being used for excursions in 1962. It finally closed to goods traffic
Great Western Railway
Great Western Railway station is now known as Highbridge
and Burnham. The station was opened as "Highbridge" on 14 June 1841,
Bristol and Exeter Railway
Bristol and Exeter Railway opened its broad gauge line as far
as Bridgwater. A road crossed the line at the north end of the
platforms, and a goods shed was provided beyond this on the west side
of the line. The
Bristol and Exeter Railway
Bristol and Exeter Railway amalgamated with the Great
Western Railway on 1 January 1876.
Highbridge & Burnham station on the Bristol to Exeter Line.
The town is approximately 3 mi (5 km) from the M5 motorway
and the A38 road.
Culture and sport
The town is part of the
West Country Carnival
West Country Carnival circuit.
Burnham and Berrow Golf Course lies at the North of the town and is a
36-hole championship course voted as one of the top 100 courses in the
Burnham-on-Sea is a noted venue for Kitesurfing, as well as other
water sports, and has its own sailing club.
Land side many activities cater for either the dominant resident
elderly population or the seasonal tourists, including bowls, and
there is also a swimming pool and sports academy.
Burnham-on-Sea rugby union club was founded in 1919 but was wound
up after World War 2. The club subsequently reformed, and after
winning the Tribute
Somerset Premier in the 2008/2009 season they were
promoted to the Western Counties North. At the start of the 2013-14
season they were moved into the
Tribute Western Counties West
Tribute Western Counties West division
of the English Rugby Union South West Division.
The Burnham on Sea Cricket club was established in 1861 and has played
continuously since then. The Club currently plays in the Somerset
Cricket League Premier Div.The ground is situated in Stoddens Road and
boasts fine facilities. The best-known player in the club's history is
Sammy Woods, who played Test cricket for
England and Australia during
the 1890s. The club has also provided a number of players for Somerset
County Championship competition.
The town has a twice a year food and drink festival, focused on
producers within a 25 mi (40 km) radius.
Thomas Alan Stephenson, a marine biologist, was born in the town in
1898, and it was also the birthplace of John Pople, a theoretical
chemist, in 1925. The novelist
Isobel English was sent to La
Burnham-on-Sea convent school, in 1920. The town was
also the home of Walter "Wally" Postings and Beatrice "Pete" Postings.
The couple were married for 80 years, the longest marriage in
Britain. Arthur Gilbert, confirmed as the world's oldest
triathlete in 2011, lives and competes in the town. George Shelley
of X Factor boy band
Union J lived in
Burnham-on-Sea and attended The
King Alfred School, Highbridge, where he studied his GCSEs. Also
resident is world champion Scottish Darts player Gary Anderson.
Burnham-on-Sea is twinned with:
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