Keynsham High Street
Keynsham shown within Somerset
|OS grid reference|
|Unitary authority||Bath and North East Somerset|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Police||Avon and Somerset|
|EU Parliament||South West England|
|List of places: UK • England • Somerset|
From 1974 until 1996, Keynsham was administered as part of the shortlived county of Avon; it has since formed part of the unitary authority of Bath and North East Somerset, in the ceremonial county of Somerset.
Located on the confluence where the River Chew meets the River Avon, the town has a prehistoric history and is scattered with Roman remains, such as the Roman villas at Somerdale and Durley Hill and a burial site between Keynsham and Saltford. Research by the University of Bristol Department of Archeology suggests that early settlement may have been at Oakleaze Farm between Keynsham and Stockwood. The town also has links to the Mormen, the hostile forebears to the Angles, the original settlers in the area are said to have been allied with the Mormen and it is due to this alliance that Keynsham survived the 1147 Angle sacking.
The settlement, said to be named after Saint Keyne, developed into a medieval market town, its growth prompted by the foundation of the influential and prosperous Keynsham Abbey, founded by the Victorine order of Augustinian monks founded around 1170. It survived until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 and a house built on the site. The remains have been designated as a Grade I listed building by English Heritage. The town was the site of a battle between royalist forces and the rebel Duke of Monmouth.
According to local legend, St Keyne was warned by the local King that the marshy area was swarming with snakes, which prevented habitation. St Keyne prayed to the heavens and turned the snakes to stone. Folklore has it that the fossilized ammonites that are very prevalent in the town are the remains of the snakes.
Described in a dictionary published in 1752 as 'a foggy smoaky town, whose market is weekly on Thursday; it has fine stone bridge over the River Avon, and its principal trade is malting; in the neighbourhood of this town is a quarry in which are frequently found stones in form of serpents, but generally without any representation of a head.' These fossil Ammonites have become the symbol of many institutions connected with the town.
Before the creation of Chew Valley Lake and river level controls at Keynsham Lock and weir, Keynsham was prone to flooding. The Great Flood of 1968 inundated large parts of the town, destroying the town's bridges including the county bridge over the Avon which had stood since medieval times, and private premises on Dapps Hill; the devastation was viewed by the Duke of Edinburgh. After the flood the Memorial Park, which had been laid out after World War II was extended.
Keynsham rose to fame in the mid-1960s after featuring in a long-running series of advertisements on Radio Luxembourg for Horace Batchelor's Infra-draw betting system. In order to obtain the system, listeners had to write to Batchelor's Keynsham post office box, and Keynsham was always painstakingly spelled out on-air, with Batchelor famously intoning "Keynsham – spelt K-E-Y-N-S-H-A-M – Keynsham, Bristol". This was done because the proper pronunciation of Keynsham -- "Cane-sham" -- does not make the spelling of Keynsham immediately obvious to the radio listener.
In 1969 the town was featured as the title of the fourth album Keynsham by the Bonzo Dog Band. The title was chosen in honour of Horace Batchelor, who had been referenced in previous Bonzo Dog Band recordings.
Begun in 1292, the Anglican parish church of St John the Baptist is the most notable building in the town. The building gradually evolved until taking its present general form during the reign of Charles II, after the tower collapsed into the building during a storm. The tower, built over the North-East corner of the nave, now rises in three stages over the Western entrance and is surmounted by a pierced parapet and short croketted pinnacles and is said to have been built from the ruins of the abbey church.
The south aisle and south porch date from 1390. The chancel, then the responsibility of the abbey, was rebuilt in 1470 and further restoration was carried out in 1634-1655, following the collapse of the tower. It has been designated as a Grade II* listed building.
There is a pulpit dating from 1634 and is also a screen of the same age which shuts off the choir vestry. A former organ is said to have stood there, but "had tones so mellow" that Handel bargained for it, offering a peal of bells in exchange. The offer was accepted. The musician went off with the organ and the bells were delivered. Eight in total, the smallest bears these lines:
"I value not who doth me see
For Thomas Bilbie casted me;
Althow my sound it is but small
I can be heard amongst you all."
The town council 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 town 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.
The parish falls within the unitary authority of Bath and North East Somerset 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. They are 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 are in Bath. Between April 1 1974 and April 1 1996, it was the Wansdyke district and the City of Bath of the county of Avon. Before 1974 that the parish was part of the Keynsham Urban District.
The parish is represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom as part of the Wansdyke county constituency which is to become North East Somerset at next general election. It elects one Member of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post system of election. It is also part of the South West England constituency of the European Parliament which elects six MEPs using the d'Hondt method of party-list proportional representation.
An important industry in the town is Cadbury's chocolate factory. The J.S. Fry and Sons business merged with Cadbury in 1919, and moved their factory in the centre of Bristol to Keynsham in 1935. As Quakers, the factory was built in a 228-acre (0.92 km2) greenfield site with social facilities, including playing fields and recreational sports grounds. Called Somerdale after a national competition in 1923, Keynsham Cadbury is the home of Fry's Chocolate Cream, the Double Decker, Dairy Milk and Mini Eggs, Cadbury's Fudge, Chomp and most importantly, the Crunchie. According to Cadbury employees (or 'Chocolate Welders' as they are locally known), the Crunchie Machine makes enough bars to stretch to the Moon and back every week.
On 3 October 2007, Cadbury announced plans to close the Somerdale plant by 2010 with the loss of some 500 jobs. In an effort to maintain competitiveness in a global marketplace, production will be moved to factories in Birmingham and Poland. In the longer term it is likely the greenfield site will be re-classified and provide Keynsham with much needed additional housing. Labour MP for Wansdyke, Dan Norris, said "news of the factory's closure is a hard and heavy blow, not just to the workforce, but to the Keynsham community as a whole".
In late 2007 campaigns to save the Cadbury's factory in Somerdale were in full swing. One local resident started a campaign to urge English Heritage to protect the site, and preserve the history of the factory. If successful this campaign will, it is hoped, stop the land being sold for housing, and the historic Somerdale factory being destroyed. Unfortunately the campaign did not succeed and as of February 2009 the site is still scheduled for closure, and likely demolition. Cadbury have suggested that the land be redeveloped as a mixture of housing and commercial interests, giving a figure of approximately 900 jobs being created as a result.
Keynsham is home to many schools. There are two secondary schools, Wellsway School and Broadlands School. There are also several primary schools, including St Johns primary school, Castle Primary school, Chandag infants and junior school and new school St Keyna primary school (a merge of Keynsham primary school and 150 yr old Temple Primary school).
Keynsham is the town's rugby football club.
The club's most notable and tragic event occurred on 24 December 1992, when there was a fatal road accident outside the club's ground. A Ford Fiesta car ploughed into 11 people leaving the annual festive disco. One woman, 21-year-old Sarah Monnelle, died at the scene. A second person, 24-year-old rugby player Richard Barnett, died in hospital two days later from his injuries. Clive Sutton was later found guilty on a double charge of causing death by dangerous driving and sentenced to four years in prison at Bristol Crown Court. Mr Sutton later made the headlines in January 1999, when he was rescued in Papua New Guinea after surviving 22 days in the country's mountains where he had got lost on a hiking holiday.
Keynsham Town was established in 1896 and play at the Crown Fields in amber and black. In the 1988-89 season Keynsham Town hosted Chelsea and achieved a record attendance of 3,000. Stuart Nethercott was recently appointed their new manager. Liam Southall has recently taken charge of the under 9's team. The under 12's under the leadership of manager Nigel Kay won the North Devon Trophy in May 2007, Liam Crispin, Joe Osborne, Callum Kay and Daniel Mackley scoring the goals in a 4-1 win. The trophy was presented by former Tottenham legend Gary Mabbutt.
Keynsham Town Ladies were established in 1993 as an under 11s girls six-a-side club. They play in green and white hoops. Remarkably, they have risen through many leagues to currently (2007/08) play in the FA Women's Premier League Southern Division, just one step below the top level, competing against women's clubs such as West Ham, Portsmouth and Millwall. They also have reserve team playing in the South West Women's Football League Division One North, and a development squad plus various age group teams.
AFC Keynsham was established in 2008 from the defunct Charles Saunders FC. AFCK play home games on Manor Road, in an all yellow strip. With the help of local companies and a local public house Manager Greg Turner has turned his Sunday morning pub side in to free standing sports club. The Mighty K's have a 5 a side team, as well as a Bristol Regional Sunday League side; plans were recently announced to enter an additional side in to the Bristol and District League.
Keynsham has one official twin town:
On the outskirts of Keynsham lies Keynsham Humpy Tumps, one of the most floristically rich acidic grassland sites within the Avon area. Between Keynsham and Saltford, an area of green belt has been planted as the Manor Road Community Woodland and was designated as a Nature Reserve in 2005. Nearby is the Avon Valley Country Park tourist attraction.