VCH Volume: 
Somerset Volume XII
Pier head, Minehead harbour

Minehead is blessed with scenic beauty, which made it a popular seaside resort from the later 19th century. Not only the fine sweep of its seashore closed by the steep cliffs of North Hill above the harbour but also the great hill itself dwarfing the church and surrounding houses on its eastern slope and the gentler hills which form the southern backdrop to the town. The latter were described in the 1780s as ‘a continued succession of lofty swelling hills and rich deep vales, finely contrasted.’ The climate was also mild and the sea breezes salubrious.[1] However the same sea could be destructive especially at Quaytown, destroying ships, fish stores and houses in the early 18th century.[2] The troop ship Lamb was wrecked on the beach in a snowstorm with the loss of 78 of 128 on board in 1736.[3] Three fires in the 1790s were even more destructive and the town took a long time to recover. However by the 1850s Minehead could boast that there was ‘not a locality in England more deserving of notice, and yet less known, the quiet Town of Minehead; situated 25 miles from any Railroad, it is almost an undiscovered region, visited only by a few adventurous tourists for the sake of exploring, or travellers on their route to the more celebrated rocks of Lynmouth’.[4] That soon changed after the railway arrived and by the mid 20th century it was a major resort with a large holiday camp, a place to retire and a shopping and service area for west Somerset.[5]

[1]     SHC, A/AQP 8. This article was completed in 2012.

[2]     D. Defoe, The Storm (2005 edn.), 122—3; TNA, C 108/6 (accounts 1738—9).

[3]     Historical and Antiquarian Gleanings relating to Minehead and Neighbourhood (c.1889), 9—11.

[4]     Guide to Minehead and its Environs (1857).

[5]     Below, econ.hist.