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The Dragon Inn

This pub is closed permanently. Your nearest Wetherspoon pub: Cabot Court Hotel
Alfred Leete was a local artist who drew the famous World War I recruiting poster ‘Your Country Needs You’. He later published A Book of Dragons, featuring a popular cartoon character ‘Dennys the Rouge Dragon’, recalled in the name of this Wetherspoon pub.

Illustrations and text about Knightstone.

The text reads: Between 1811 and 1814 Weston began to develop a reputation among doctors in Bristol and Bath, and among the wealthier general public, as a health resort. The bath house and swimming pool on Knightstone Island were among the first facilities created to help Weston-super-Mare develop as a resort.

Mr Howe from Bristol erected the first medicinal baths here when he bought the island in 1820. Reverend T Pruen brought it in 1824 and built a causeway to link it to the mainland (previously, at high tide, visitors had to be rowed to the island). Then in 1830 Dr Edward Long Fox became the new owner and built a new causeway and buildings. The Bristol Mirror newspaper informed its readers in 1832 that “Dr Fox of Brislington is engaged in erecting a special buildings on one Knightstone rock… for the purpose of introducing fresh and salt water, hot and cold vapour and shower, sulphur and every description of medicated baths”.

Top: Knightstone, c1845
Above: left, Dr Edward Long Fox, right, Knightstone and the bay from Worle Hill.

Illustrations and text about the Birnbeck.

The text reads: The Birnbeck, or Bearn Beck, was a very ancient fishery. However, fishermen had to wait until low tide to cross the causeway to gather their catch from the nets. This meant the upper nets were exposed for some time, and offered the gulls a feast. So the fishermen shared the cost of keeping two men living on the island to frighten the gulls away by yelling.

These gull yellers’ needed powerful lungs. The most celebrated yeller, Bill Hurle, could be heard at Congresbury on a good day.

There was a famous cow, which took to swimming out to Birnbeck at high tide, spending most of her time there. She would occasionally swim back into Kewstoke Bay, or Anchor Head, and browse “as if it were the usual thing for a cow to swim a quarter of a mile across a tide running like a mill stream”. After three years swimming she fell down a crevice on the north side of the island and died.

Birnbeck became HMS Birnbeck during World War II. The Admiralty took it over, and filled it with scientists, nicknamed ‘Wheezers and Dodgers’, to develop new weapons.

Top: Fishing stakes, 1855
Above: Birnbeck Pier, low tide 1880.

Prints and text about the railways.

The text reads: After the sea-bathing mania came the railway mania of the 1830s. Bristol was connected to London by 1841. The line was built by the Great Western Company, whose engineer was the remarkable Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

The Bristol and Exeter Company, also employing Brunel, extended the line to Exeter. Landowners here were against the railway entering the resort, so it passed nearby. However, a brand line and station were built by 1841.

Brunel himself lived in Weston during the line’s construction. He and his family stayed at Swiss Villa, off Locking Road, which is now only remembered in the name of Swiss Road.

For the ten years the branch line train consisted of three coaches drawn by horses. The journey was slow, especially into a head wind, and passenger often found it quicker to walk. In 1851 the horses were replaced by a small steam locomotive. Eventually the Bristol and Exeter was absorbed by the GWR, which decided to build a loop line and through station, which opened in 1884.

When the coaching era ended around 1840 some 7,000 visitors came to Weston each year. By 1844 it was 23,000.

Top: Weston-super-Mare Station, 1896
Above: left, IK Brunel, right, Swiss Villa.

Prints and text about Laurie Lee.

The text reads: The writer Laurie Lee was born in Slad in Gloucestershire in 1914. In Cider with Rosie he recalls a choir outing to Weston:

“…we had never seen such openness… Canvas booths flapped on the edge of the prom, mouths crammed with shell-fish and vinegar… bath chairs, carriages and donkeys; and a white pier like a sleeping dragon.”

On the pier “one glided secretly to one’s favourite machine, the hot coin stirring one’s hand”. A slot machine which showed Dr Crippen being hanged was his favourite, “the painted gallows, the nodding priest, the felon with his face of doom”. Back home he goes to bed, “my ears full of motors and organs, my shut eyes printed with images of the day – mud, and red rock and hangmen…”

Top: Laurie Lee
Above: The pier slot machine showing Crippen’s execution.

A photograph of the Grand Pier, Weston-super-Mare, c1908.

Copies of Alfred Leete posters.

Top: The famous Kitchener poster
Above: A more local image.

A photograph of the bay and promenade, Weston-super-Mare, c1930.

A photograph of Regent Street, Weston-super-Mare, c1925.

A photograph of Madeira Cove, Weston-super-Mare, c1910.

A poster showing the ‘ladies of Weston-super-Mare’.

A photograph of the Grand Pier, Weston-super-Mare, c1905.

A photograph of The Boulevard, Weston-super-Mare, c1920.

A photograph of the roof garden and two bays, Weston-super-Mare, c1912.

External photograph of the building – main entrance.

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