History of BiARS and Burnham-on-Sea



Early in 2011, BiARS was formed with the intention of taking over the Burnham-on-Sea Tourist Information Centre.


In April 2011, the responsibility of running the TIC was passed to BiARS from Sedgemoor District Council.


BiARS is run with the good will of volunteers and a manager with the intention of promoting Burnham-on-Sea and the surrounding areas and giving advice and information to residents and tourists..


The Coastguard Association and BARB Search and Rescue (Burnham's very own hovercraft rescue team) also joined the team to promote sea safety advice.


BiARS are now selling a wide range of gifts, some of which can be found here.


To assist BiARS good work, some of the volunteers attend car boot sales selling donated goods. Anyone wishing to donate can bring their goods into BiARS during opening hours.


In September 2012, BiARS took another step in its progression by employing a paid Business and Tourism Manager. This Manager can be contacted on ianfromburnham@gmail.com  if you wish to have any input into BiARS or any planned events for the seafront.


For any advertising enquiries, email Dan on danjefferies94@hotmail.co.uk





Burnham was a small village until the late 18th century, when it began to grow because of its popularity as a seaside resort. It forms part of the parish of Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge.


The position of the town on the edge of the Somerset Levels, where they meet the Bristol Channel, has resulted in a history dominated by land reclamation and sea defences. The Romans were the first peoples to try to reclaim the Somerset levels, and it was they who were probably the first settlers in the high sand dunes behind the River Parrett. This could have been in part to maintain navigational systems, to aid ships entering the River Parrett and what is now Highbridge. When the Romans left, the system of drainage they installed was not maintained, and the areas reverted to become a tidal salt flat during the Anglo Saxon period.


It is likely that at the time of the Domesday Book, settlements existed at Burnham and Huntspill; their common boundary running along what is now the Westhill Rhyne.


The name Burnham is derived from Burnhamm, as it was called in the will of King Alfred, made up from the Old English  words Burna meaning stream and Hamm for enclosure. On-Sea was added later as there are several other towns of the same name in England.


The church at Burnham and its lands were given to Gloucester Abbey in the 12th century, later transferred to Wells Cathedral along with up to 50 houses surrounding the church.


One of the earliest recorded incidents to affect the town was the Bristol Channel flood of 1607, since when various flood defences have been installed. In 1911 a concrete wall was built. After the Second World War, further additions to the defences against the sea were added by bringing part of the remains of a Mulberry Harbour used for the Normandy Landings, and burying them in the sand. Today, the town is defended from flooding by a large curved concrete wall, completed in 1988 following serious flooding in 1981. 


There have been many shipwrecks on the Gore Sands, which lie just offshore and can be exposed at low tides. The need to protect shipping using the channel has also led to the development of the lighthouses, which are prominent landmarks.



Rescue Services 

The town's first lifeboat was provided in 1836 by the Corporation of Bridgwater. The first Royal National Lifeboat was funded by the town of Cheltenham, and arrived in 1866. The lifeboat was removed in 1930 because of the difficulty in getting a full crew, and because the launching arrangements were not suitable for a powered boat. The current Burnham-on-Sea Lifeboat Station is the base for Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) search and rescue operations. The present station was opened in 2003. It operates two inshore lifeboats (ILBs), a B Class rigid-hulled boat and an inflatable D Class.


The Burnham-on-Sea Area Rescue Boat (BARB) was set up in 1992 to fund and operate rescue craft in the Bridgwater Bay area. BARB's boat house on the sea front was built in 1994 by the Challenge AnnekaTV show. In 2002, Lelaina Hall, a five-year-old girl from Worcester, died on the mud flats before help could reach her. The outcry over her death prompted a Western Daily Press campaign to fund an inshore hovercraft. BARB currently operates theSpirit of Lelaina alongside her sister hovercraft the Light of Elizabeth, which is named after Lelaina's sister.  



A stone pier was built in 1858 by the Somerset Central Railway. Soon afterwards, in 1860, a steamer service to Wales was inaugurated, but it was never a commercial success, and ended in 1888. 

The Pavillion, built of concrete between 1911 and 1914, is claimed to be the shortest pier in Britain.



 HMS Burnham

The USS Aulick was a Clemson-class destroyer in the United States Navy built in 1918 to 1919. In 1940, she was transferred to the British under the agreement with the United Kingdom exchanging American destroyers for bases in the Atlantic. She transferred to the Royal Navy where she served as HMS Burnham(H82) during the Second World War. In 1942,  HMS Burnham was formally adopted by Burnham-on-Sea. In 1944, she was used on aircraft training duties in the Western Approaches Command, which allowed a contingent from the ship to visit the town and march through its streets. HMS Burnham was reduced to reserve at Milford Haven, Wales, in November 1944. She was ultimately scrapped at Pembroke, in December 1948.  



 Apex Park

Apex Leisure and Wildlife Park, in the south-west corner of Burnham-on-Sea, north of the River Brue, occupies an area of more than 42 acres. The park was created from excavated clay pits, which were flooded, and the lakes are now home to many types of wildlife and leisure activities.  



The original lighthouse, known as the Round Tower, was built to replace the light on the top of the 14th-century tower of St Andrews Church. The four-storey round tower was taken over and improved by Trinity House in 1815, and was operational until 1832. The top two storeys were later removed, to prevent confusion with the new lighthouse. It is currently a Guest House and can be found on our accommodation listings.



High Lighthouse

The 110-foot  pillar or High Lighthouse was designed and built by Joseph Nelson for Trinity House in 1830, and equipped with a paraffin lamp. The ground floor was 16 feet in diameter. It was automated in 1920. In 1992, it was sold to a member of the Rothschild family, who owned it until 1996, when it was bought at auction by Patrick O'Hagan. Conversion for residential use included the removal of the 6th floor and the construction of stairs where there had previously only been ladders. 



Lower Light  

The low wooden pile lighthouse or "Lighthouse on legs", was built two years later, also by Joseph Nelson, to complement the High Lighthouse. It is a total of 36 feet high, with the light being at 23 feet above the sand. It stands on nine wooden piers, some with plate metal reinforcement. The structure is whitewashed with a vertical red stripe on the sea side. The lights were inactive between 1969 and 1993, but were recommissioned when the High Lighthouse lights were permanently deactivated. They have a focal plane of 23 feet and provide a white flash every 7.5 seconds, plus a directional light (white, red, or green depending on direction) at a focal plane of 13 feet. 




Burnham-on-Sea railway station was the terminus of the Burnham branch of the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway, but the tracks continued onto the jetty, where ferry services to South Wales could be boarded. The station opened in 1858 as Burnham, and was renamed Burnham-on-Sea in 1920. It closed to scheduled passenger traffic in 1951 and stopped being used for excursions in 1962. It finally closed to goods traffic in 1963. 


The former Great Western Railway station is now known as Highbridge and Burnham. The station was opened as "Highbridge" on 14 June 1841, when the Bristol and Exeter Railway opened its broad gauge line as far as Bridgwater. A road crossed the line at the north end of the platforms, and a goods shed was provided beyond this on the west side of the line. The Bristol and Exeter Railway amalgamated with the Great Western Railway on 1 January 1876.


Below is the final part of the 1963 BBC film where Sir John Betjeman completes his journey along the 24 mile branch line from Evercreech Junction to Burnham on Sea by taking a freight train from Highbridge to Burnham-on-Sea.




Berrow is mentioned in the Domesday Book when at the time it was part of the vast manor of Langford, which had been confiscated by William the Conqueror from the defeated King Harold after the Battle of Hastings.


Berrow lies on the north Somerset coast between the towns of Burnham-on-Sea and Weston-super-Mare. The Bristol Channel lies to the west and open farmland of the Somerset Levels to the east. The holiday centre of Brean lies immediately to the north. Berrow is a seaside village which attracts many visitors to enjoy the seven miles of sandy beach stretching from Burnham-on-Sea to Brean Down. This length of beach has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world and still benefits from the natural sea-defence of high sand dunes. An evening stroll along the beach with the tide in and the sun setting is a magical experience not to be miss. 


The church of St. Mary Magdalene stands proudly on the sand dunes welcoming all. Parts of the old church date back to 1150AD. Inside there are items of historical interest, whilst outside the headstones tell their own stories of sorrow, fame and fortune. Lord Cave, Earl of Richmond and a Lord Chancellor, was buried there in 1928.


Berrow has several listed buildings including its Manor House and an unusual 17th century Pigsty. A stroll through the village can take you past all these buildings, each with its own individual character and charm. The Parish Council works with the planning authorities to try and preserve a rural village atmosphere.


 Berrow has a Village Hall, the core of which was built as a Church Hall in 1906, with a flat-roofed extension being added in 1977. In 2010, after ten years of fund raising, the whole building was fundamentally redesigned and refurbished to provide two main halls which can be combined as one, a large meeting room, smaller committee room and better kitchen and toilet facilities.


The Village Hall reopened in February 2011 and welcomes bookings from local clubs and businesses, as well as individual parties or receptions. In addition, a vibrant entertainment committee is organising regular events both in the Hall and around the Village. They would welcome any one who would like to contribute time and/or ideas.


Much of Berrow lies within a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). The Berrow Dunes Local Nature Reserve was established at the northern end of the village in 1992 and this offers pleasant walks with plenty to observe. The Reserve protects and sustains many rare and beautiful species of plants and insects as well as providing a safe haven for birds and animals.

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