Brief History of Brent Knoll Village.
by the Romans as: "The Mount of Frogs," the Knoll
is an outcrop of the nearby Mendip Hills. 137 meters high, (449
feet) it affords splendid views of the Polden Hills to the south,
Glastonbury Tor to the east, the Mendip Hills and Cheddar Gorge
to the north east, the Bristol Channel and Wales to the west
and the Quantock Hills to the south west. The word "Brent"
may mean a beacon, a slope, lofty, steep, smooth, unwrinkled,
or a round hillock. The Knoll dates from the Jurassic times
of 300 million years ago when dinosaurs, primitive mammals and
strange birds roamed the area. A warm, shallow sea washed around
its slopes thus giving its other name of "Frog Island."
of clays and limestone soon attracted primitive man as a secure
and advantageous place. Subsequently Bronze Age and Iron Age
peoples set up encampments on the summit which became a focus
for religious activity and the Romans built a temple there.
Roman coins of the Emperor Trajan (AD98 -117) and Septimus Severus(AD145
- 211) were found in an urn on the Knoll in 1610.
coming up the Bristol Channel may have made good use of the
Knoll as a look-out post. They were followed by the Vikings,
known for their ferocity, so much so that the monks would offer
up the earnest prayer: "From the fury of the Norsemen,
O Lord, deliver us!"
On its eastern
slopes is the site of a battle in AD875 when the Saxons drove
away the Danes. Hence, the village has the "Battleborough
Grange" Hotel, and nearby Battleborough Lane. The Hotel
caters for local people as well as visitors to the area.
Book, commissioned by William I in AD 1086 shows the make-up
of the land near the Knoll. About 250 people were living around
its base, eking out a poor existence. The land was marshy and
often in flood. It dried out for summer pasturage. The next
200 years saw more efficient use of land, better drainage, an
absence of invaders, rule of law and increased trade.
Lay Subsidy Returns of AD 1327 set out actual names of about
180 residents from whom tax would be extracted. Including East
Brent about 600 persons were living in the area at that time.
Intricate patterns of rhynes helped improve the fertility of
the land and attract people.
English Civil War (1641 - 1645) some Royalist soldiers caused
mayhem in the village. Under the leadership of John Somerset,
local people rose up against the plunderers. His effigy and
those of his family may be seen in the church.
In AD 1607
the whole of the Vale of Avalon flooded to the depth of twelve
feet as far as Glastonbury. In AD 1703 the sea broke across
the land again. Drainage efforts increased in the 18th and 19th
centuries and made living in the village a more viable proposition.
1801 population of 500 persons had doubled by 1841 due to the
temporary presence of itinerant railway workers building the
Bristol to Exeter railway which runs north-south near the western
base of the Knoll. Between 1875 and 1883 the village name was
changed from South Brent to Brent Knoll to avoid passenger confusion
with the village of South Brent in Devon.
village population had declined to 688 persons. By 1961 it had
risen barely 10%. But with the coming of the M5 Motorway, completed
in 1974, people were attracted to the village so that by 1981
there were 1,092 souls.
orchards grow on its lower west facing slopes. Cider making
is still a small but thriving industry. Formerly a farming village,
Brent Knoll is now made up of several modern developments interspersed
with original but modernised farm buildings. It has a mixed
population with a proportion of retired people who enjoy its
the A 38 junction, once a turnpike road, stands the newly refurbished
Fox and Goose Inn. Originally a coaching inn mentioned on the
tithe map of 1811 it was the home of the Kennels of the Brent
and Wedmore Harriers. Its grounds were also home to deer which
were kept for twice weekly hunts. On the Inn's side wall may
be seen a Victorian Post Box.
Street and Burton Row stand various modernised farm dwellings
mixed with modern homes. Briars Cottage is dated 1688 and near
the Parish Hall may be seen Ivyclad Hall, built during the reign
of Queen Anne. Names of other dwellings such as The Laurels,
The Croft, Myrtle, Saddler's, Phoenix, Courthay, Victoria, Lavender
Cottages, Pen Orchard, Tableland Farm, Nightingale Farm, Shrub
Farm and the Grange reflect the original rural nature of the
the centre of the village stands the Red Cow Public House, a
red bricked building whose style of architecture suggests that
parts of it were built in the 18th century at least. Tastefully
modernised it caters for the modern visitor.The Woodlands Hotel,
in Church Lane, a modernised farmhouse caters for the overnight
guest as well as the daily visitor. These two establishments
afford splendid views of the Knoll's wooded slopes from where
the visitor, whilst enjoying food and drink, may watch a variety
of bird life, including buzzards and rooks which occasionally
have territorial spats. Horses and rabbits roam over the lush
the Parish Hall, shortly to be modernised thanks to the efforts
of its fundraising committee, stands the Village School. Built
in 1861 it retains its links with the past. It is a thriving
school serving some 120 pupils from the village and the surrounding
area. At the time of writing it is to have further modernisation.
dedicated to St Michael, has a Norman doorway but the present
nave was built in AD 1290.The pulpit dates from the 17th century.
The most interesting features of the interior are the finely
carved bench ends illustrating the story of Reynard the Fox.
The remaining benches show various devices and grotesques.
AD 1837 a Chapel was erected by the Bible Christian Society.
The founder of Methodism, the preacher John Wesley once climbed
the Knoll and declared: "I know not wherever I saw such
on the lower western slopes of the Knoll stand the large residences
of the Manor House, and Ball Copse Hall which enjoy splendid
views over the flat land towards Burnham on Sea. Their dominating
presence adds to the ambience of the village.
of the village are the Reservoir halfway up the Knoll. Several
footpaths lead towards neighbouring East Brent and afford wonderful
views of Uphill and the southern environs of Weston Super Mare.
Walkers are strongly requested to keep to the clearly sign posted
footpaths. Foxes, rabbits and badgers inhabit this area which
has a range of wild flowers and insects. On the flat land to
the west you may spot a hare. Apart from the usual garden birds,
buzzards may be seen circling on thermals, two varieties of
woodpecker may be heard, flocks of long tailed tits will suddenly
appear. Jays, kestrels and sparrow hawks are also common.
In our village
there are some very keen historians. Here are some contacts:-
Page - Village Historian
Freestone - Family History