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Pensford and Viaduct.jpg
Aerial photo of Pensford with the Pensford Viaduct in the foreground
Pensford is located in Somerset
Location within Somerset
Populationapprox. 1,000
OS grid referenceST619637
Civil parish
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townBristol
Postcode districtBS39
Dialling code01761
PoliceAvon and Somerset
AmbulanceSouth Western
UK Parliament
List of places
51°22′16″N 2°32′48″W / 51.3710°N 2.5466°W / 51.3710; -2.5466Coordinates: 51°22′16″N 2°32′48″W / 51.3710°N 2.5466°W / 51.3710; -2.5466

Pensford is the largest village in the civil parish of Publow in Somerset, England. It lies in the Chew Valley, approximately 7 miles (11 km) south of Bristol, 8 miles (13 km) west of Bath and 14 miles (23 km) north of Wells. It is on the A37 road from Bristol to Shepton Mallet.

Pensford was identified as being of special architectural and historic interest and was designated as a Conservation Area in May 1988.[1]


High Street

The name Pensford is in all likelihood derived from Brythonic Penffordd, meaning roughly 'top of the road' or 'the highest or furthest point of the road'. Alternatively, it may mean 'The animal pens by the ford' from the Old English pens and ford.[2]

The parish of Pensford was part of the Keynsham Hundred,[3]

During the 14th to 16th centuries Pensford was a cloth centre based on local wool.[4]

On 24 June 1685 rebel forces camped at Pensford during the Monmouth Rebellion.[5]

During the 19th and 20th centuries the main industry was coal mining, with Pensford and the surrounding area forming a major part of the Somerset coalfield. Pensford colliery opened in 1909 and closed in 1955.[6]

The River Chew suffered a major flood in 1968 with serious damage to towns and villages along its route. The flood swept away the bridge over the A37 and damaged the railway viaduct so badly that it never reopened.[7] On 10–11 July, a storm brought heavy rainfall to the valley, with 175 millimetres (7 in) falling in 18 hours on Chew Stoke, double the area's average rainfall for the whole of July.[8]

In 2014 the Chew Valley Brewery, a microbrewery, was opened by local resident Dom Lowe and Matt Stalker, after training at Masters Brewery in Wellington.[9][10] First sales of their Pagan bitter were at the Stoke Inn in Chew Stoke,[11] and after a successful run with retirement looming, the owner closed it down in the summer of 2017.

Government and politics[edit]

Pensford and Publow has its own parish council which has some 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, such as the village hall or community centre, playing fields and playgrounds, as well as consulting with the district council on the maintenance, repair, and improvement of highways, drainage, footpaths, public transport, and street cleaning. Conservation matters (including trees and listed buildings) and environmental issues are also of interest to the council.

It is part of the Publow and Whitchurch Ward which is represented by one councillor on the Bath and North East Somerset Unitary Authority which was created in 1996, as established by the Local Government Act 1992. It provides a single tier of local government with responsibility for almost all local government functions within its area including local planning and building control, local roads, council housing, environmental health, markets and fairs, refuse collection, recycling, cemeteries, crematoria, leisure services, parks, and tourism. It is also responsible for education, social services, libraries, main roads, public transport, trading standards, waste disposal and strategic planning, although fire, police and ambulance services are provided jointly with other authorities through the Avon Fire and Rescue Service, Avon and Somerset Constabulary and the Great Western Ambulance Service.

Bath and North East Somerset's area covers part of the ceremonial county of Somerset but it is administered independently of the non-metropolitan county. Its administrative headquarters is in Bath. Between 1 April 1974 and 1 April 1996, it was the Wansdyke district and the City of Bath of the county of Avon.[12] Before 1974 that the parish was part of the Clutton Rural District.[13]

The village falls within the Publow and Whitchurch electoral ward. From Pensford the ward strikes north to end at Whitchurch on the Bristol border. The total population of this ward taken from the 2011 census was 2,473.[14]

The parish is represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom as part of North East Somerset.[15] It elects one Member of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post system of election.


According to the 2001 Census, the Publow and Whitchurch Ward (which includes Belluton and Publow), had 1,087 residents, living in 429 households, with an average age of 40.8 years. Of these 73% of residents describing their health as 'good', 24% of 16- to 74-year-olds had no qualifications; and the area had an unemployment rate of 2.3% of all economically active people aged 16–74. In the Index of Multiple Deprivation 2004, it was ranked at 26,408 out of 32,482 wards in England, where 1 was the most deprived LSOA and 32,482 the least deprived.[16]


St Thomas à Becket Church[edit]

The St Thomas à Becket Church is a Grade II* listed building[17] and is currently on the English Heritage Heritage at Risk Register,[18] following damage in a flood in 1968. During the 1980s an attempt was made to turn it into an arts centre but this was abandoned when the extent of the repairs required to make the building safe became clear. In 2007 the church was put on the market for redevelopment,[19] and in 2008 purchased for repair and use as a private dwelling.[20] The redevelopment of the church into a private dwelling was featured in the first episode of television series Restoration Home.

The Lock-up[edit]

The Lock-up

Pensford has an octagonal eighteenth-century village lock-up.[21] This is a Grade II listed building[22] and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.


George and Dragon

Pensford has three pubs: the Travellers Rest, the Rising Sun, and the George and Dragon. During the 17th and 18th centuries Pensford was an important staging post for stage coaches which stopped at the George and Dragon and the Rising Sun.[21] The George and Dragon dates from 1752 and is a Grade II listed building.[23]

Other Grade II listed buildings[edit]

Bridge over the River Chew and Bridge House, both Grade II listed buildings
  • 149 High Street[24]
  • Bridge House[25]
  • Bridge over the River Chew[26]
  • Gill's G.V. Shoe Shop[27]
  • 129-131 High Street[28]
  • Old Bakery[29]
  • Guy's Farm[30]
  • Viaduct View[31]

The village's war memorial commemorates the seven people from the village who died in each of World War I and World War II. It is a wheel cross, with a Celtic-style carving.[32]

For centuries Pensford has been an important crossing point on the River Chew. The modern road bridge was rebuilt in 1968 after flood damage, but the much older (1839–85) bridge, by the church, survived the flood.

On the western side of the village is Pensford Viaduct on the disused Bristol and North Somerset Railway, built in 1873 but closed to trains in 1968 after the great flood of Pensford, after which it was deemed unsafe. The last passenger train had been earlier: the 9:25 a.m. from Frome to Bristol on 31 October 1959; after that there were only goods trains (mainly bringing coal from Radstock), which ceased in 1964, and very occasional excursion trains. Pensford viaduct is 995 feet (303 m) long, reaches a maximum height of 95 feet (29 m) to rail level and consists of sixteen arches. The viaduct is now a Grade II listed building.

Surrounding area[edit]

Nearby is Lord's Wood, Pensford, and the village is on the route of the Monarch's Way long distance footpath.

Famous residents[edit]

Pensford was home to the clarinet player, Acker Bilk. Philosopher and physician John Locke FRS 1632-1704, known as the 'Father of Liberalism' lived in John Locke's Cottage in Belluton within the parish of Publow with Pensford from shortly after his birth until 1647. Robert Hunter of the Grateful Dead lived in the village from 1979–81. John Perry guitarist with The Only Ones lived here between 1972 and 1975.


  1. ^ "Pensford Conservation Area Character Appraisal". Bath and North East Somerset Council. Archived from the original on 13 April 2008. Retrieved 14 January 2008.
  2. ^ Robinson, Stephen (1992). Somerset Place Names. Wimborne, Dorset: The Dovecote Press Ltd. ISBN 1-874336-03-2.
  3. ^ "Somerset Hundreds". GENUKI. Retrieved 15 October 2011.
  4. ^ Hare, J.N. (22 January 2003). "Growth and recession in the fifteenth-century economy: the Wiltshire textile industry and the countryside". The Economic History Review. 52 (1): 1–26. doi:10.1111/1468-0289.00116. Archived from the original on 6 January 2013.
  5. ^ Tincey, John (2005). Sedgemoor 1685: Marlborough's first victory. Barnsley: Pen and Sword Books. p. 61. ISBN 978-1844151479.
  6. ^ Down, C.G.; Warrington, A. J. (2005). The history of the Somerset coalfield. Radstock: Radstock Museum. ISBN 978-0-9551684-0-6.
  7. ^ "The great flood of 1968". Memories of Bristol. Archived from the original on 2 May 2006. Retrieved 4 January 2006.
  8. ^ Richley, Rob (June 2008). The Chew Valley floods of 1968. Exeter: Environment Agency.
  9. ^ Biddle, Pete (Summer 2014). "More breweries opening in local area!" (PDF). Pints West. No. 102. CAMRA. p. 3. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  10. ^ "New brewery launched". Mendip Times. 10 (8): 18. October 2014.
  11. ^ "Chew Valley rolling out the barrel" (PDF). Pints West. No. 103. CAMRA. Autumn 2014. p. 7. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  12. ^ "The Avon (Structural Change) Order 1995". HMSO. Archived from the original on 30 January 2008. Retrieved 9 December 2007.
  13. ^ A Vision of Britain Through Time : Clutton Rural District Archived 23 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "Publow and Whitchurch ward 2011". Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  15. ^ "Somerset North East: New Boundaries Calculation". Electoral Calculus: General Election Prediction. Archived from the original on 14 February 2009. Retrieved 19 September 2007.
  16. ^ "Neighbourhood Statistics LSOA Bath and North East Somerset 020D Publow and Whitchurch". Office for National Statistics 2001 Census. Retrieved 25 April 2006.
  17. ^ Historic England. "St Thomas A Beckett Church (1136393)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 27 July 2007.
  18. ^ "St Thomas A Beckett Church". English Heritage Buildings at Risk Register. Archived from the original on 26 August 2011. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
  19. ^ "For Sale — Pensford Church". Chew Valley Gazette. October 2007.
  20. ^ "Church sold". Mendip Times. May 2008.
  21. ^ a b Mason, Edmund J. & Mason, Doreen (1982). Avon Villages. Robert Hale Ltd. ISBN 0-7091-9585-0.
  22. ^ Historic England. "Pensford Lock (1129494)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 1 July 2008.
  23. ^ Historic England. "George and Dragon (1136411)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 1 July 2008.
  24. ^ Historic England. "149 High Street (1365672)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 22 April 2006.
  25. ^ Historic England. "Bridge House (1136398)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 22 April 2006.
  26. ^ Historic England. "Bridge over the River Chew (1129492)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 22 April 2006.
  27. ^ Historic England. "Gill's G.V. Shoe Shop — Row of 6 cottages (1129493)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 22 April 2006.
  28. ^ Historic England. "129-131 High Street (1136406)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 22 April 2006.
  29. ^ Historic England. "Old Bakery (1312807)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 22 April 2006.
  30. ^ Historic England. "Guy's Farm (1194767)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 22 April 2006.
  31. ^ Historic England. "Viaduct View (1365671)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 22 April 2006.
  32. ^ "Pensford". United Kingdom National Inventory of War memorials. Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 1 July 2008.


  • Durham, I. & M. (1991). Chew Magna and the Chew Valley in old photographs. Redcliffe Press. ISBN 1-872971-61-X.
  • Janes, Rowland, ed. (1987). The Natural History of the Chew Valley. ISBN 0-9545125-2-9.

External links[edit]