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Keynsham
Street scene showing shops on left and right, with cars and vans on road. On the left hand pavement is a sign saying welcome to Keynsham high street.
Keynsham High Street
Keynsham shown within Somerset
Population 16,641 (2011)
OS grid reference ST654684
Civil parish
  • Keynsham
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Region
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town BRISTOL
Postcode district BS31 2
Dialling code 0117
Police Avon and Somerset
Fire Avon
Ambulance Great Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament
  • North East Somerset
List of places
UK
England
Somerset

Keynsham /ˈknʃəm/ is a town and civil parish between Bristol and Bath in Somerset, south-west England. It has a population of 16,000. It was listed in the Domesday Book as Cainesham, which is believed to mean the home of Saint Keyne.

The site of the town has been occupied since prehistoric times, and may have been the site of the Roman settlement of Trajectus. The remains of at least two Roman villas have been excavated, and an additional 15 Roman buildings have been detected beneath the Keynsham Hams. Keynsham developed into a medieval market town after Keynsham Abbey was founded around 1170. It is situated at the confluence of the River Chew and River Avon and was subject to serious flooding before the creation of Chew Valley Lake and river level controls at Keynsham Lock in 1727. The Chew Stoke flood of 1968 inundated large parts of the town. It was home to the Cadbury's chocolate factory, Somerdale, which opened in 1935 as a major employer in the town.

It is home to Memorial Park, which is used for the annual town festival and several nature reserves. The town is served by Keynsham railway station on the London-Bristol and Bristol-Southampton trunk routes and is close to the A4 road which bypassed the town in 1964. There are schools, religious, sporting, and cultural clubs and venues.

History

Roman Trajectus

Evidence of occupation dates back to prehistoric times, and during the Roman period, Keynsham may have been the site of the Roman settlement of Trajectus, which is the Latin word for "bridgehead." It is believed that a settlement around a Roman ford over the River Avon existed somewhere in the vicinity, and the numerous Roman ruins discovered in Keynsham make it a likely candidate for this lost settlement.

Keynsham Cemetery - geograph.org.uk - 1730548
Keynsham Cemetery at Durley Hill, which is built over the remains of the grand Roman villa

In 1877 during construction of the Durley Hill Cemetery, the remains of a grand Roman villa with over 30 rooms was discovered. Unfortunately, construction of the cemetery went ahead, and the majority of the villa is now located beneath the Victorian cemetery and an adjacent road. The cemetery was expanded in 1922, and an archeological dig was carried out ahead of the interments, leading to the excavation of 17 rooms and the rescue of 10 elaborate mosaics.

At the same time as the grand Roman villa was being excavated at Durley Hill Cemetery, a second, much smaller Roman villas was discovered during the construction of Fry's Somerdale Chocolate Factory. Two fine stone coffins were also excavated, interred with the remains of a male and a female. The villa and coffins were removed from the site, and reconstructed near the gates of the factory grounds, and construction on the factory went ahead. Fry's constructed a museum on the grounds of the factory, which house the Durley Hill mosaics, the coffins, and numerous other artifacts for many years. The factory was shuttered in 2011, and the property sold to Taylor Wimpey for redevelopment into a housing community. In 2012, Taylor Wimpey carried out a detailed geophysical assessment of the area, and discovered an additional 15 Roman buildings centered around a Roman road beneath Keynsham Hams, with evidence of additional Roman buildings that have been disturbed by quarrying. Currently, there are no plans to excavate the Roman ruins at Keynsham Hams.

Medieval Keynsham

According to legend, Saint Keyne, daughter of King Brychan of Brycheiniog (Brecon), lived here on the banks of the River Avon during the 5th century. Before settling here, she had been 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. The fossil ammonites found in the area were believed to be the result. However, there is no evidence that her cult was ever celebrated in Keynsham.

Some scattered archeological evidence suggests that an Anglo-Saxon settlement existed in Keynsham in the High Street area, and that in the 9th century a Minster church existed in Keynsham as well. The earliest documentary reference to Keynsham is in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, (c. 980) which refers to it as Cægineshamme, Old English for 'Cæga's Hamm.' The town is also listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as "Cainesham." It has therefore been suggested that the origin of Keynsham's name is not, in fact Saint Keyne, but from "Ceagin (Caega)."

Around 1170, Keynsham Abbey was founded by the Victorine congregation of canon regulars. Archeological evidence suggests that the abbey was built over the site of the previous Saxon Minster church. The settlement developed into a medieval market town, and the abbey of Keynsham was given ownership of the Keynsham Hundred. The Abbey survived until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539, and a house was subsequently built on the site. The remains have been designated as a Grade I listed building by English Heritage.

Modern history

Keynsham played a part in the Civil War as the Roundheads saved the town and also camped there for the night, using the pub now known as the Lock Keeper Inn as a guard post. During the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685 the town was the site of a battle between royalist forces and the rebel Duke of Monmouth. Bridges Almshouses were built around 1685 and may have been for the widows of those killed in the rebellion.

Post World War II

Clock Tower, Keynsham. from south-west
1960s Keynsham Clock Tower, removed in 2010s regeneration

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 during the late 1950s and early 1960s when it featured in a long-running series of advertisements on Radio Luxembourg for Horace Batchelor's Infra-draw betting system. 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.

Since the 1950s Keynsham has become a dormitory town for Bristol and Bath. The High Street shopping area has been remodelled, and a Town Hall, Library, and Clock Tower were built in the mid-1960s.

2010s regeneration

Design work for regeneration of the town hall area was awarded by Bath and North East Somerset Council to Aedas in 2010, with the works cost stated in 2011 to be £33 million (£34 million in 2012). Realisation of the plans is hoped to "attract new business and jobs", in the aftermath of the announcement of the Cadbury Somerdale Factory closure.

In January 2012, it was announced that the Willmott Dixon Group had been appointed as contractor on the scheme. The Council's planning committee in August 2012 deferred the approval decision, pending alterations to the external appearance of the building. These were approved in October 2012, with demolition commencing in the same month. The regenerated Civic Centre area came back into use in late 2014 and early 2015.

Geography

The lock keeper at Keynsham
The Lock Keeper pub on the River Avon

Keynsham is located where the River Chew meets the River Avon. Fishing rights for the Millground and Chewton sections of the Chew are owned by Keynsham Angling Club. The Mill Ground stretch of the River Chew consists of the six fields on the western bank from Chewton Place at Chewton Keynsham to the Albert Mill. The water is home to Chub, Roach, European perch and Rudd, along with good numbers of Gudgeon, Dace and Trout. Keynsham Lock on the Avon opened in 1727. Just above the lock are some visitor moorings and a pub, on an island between the lock and the weir. The weir side of the island is also the mouth of the River Chew.

Memorial Park, the northern part of which has existed as parkland since the 19th century, as shown by the ordnance Survey maps of 1864 and 1867, was formally laid out after World War II was extended after the floods of 1968. It covers 10.7 hectares (26 acres) of woodland and grass alongside the River Chew. It commemorates the war dead of Keynsham and includes facilities including two children's play areas, a skateboard park, multi-sport area, bowling green, public toilets, a bandstand and refreshment kiosk. The formal gardens within the park are adjacent to the River Chew with the Dapps Hill Woods at its western end. Part of the park is known locally as Chew Park because of its proximity to the River and another area, close to Keynsham Abbey as Abbey Park. The park received the Green Flag Award in 2008/09, and again for 2009/10.

Albert Mill, Keynsham
Albert Mill on the River Chew

On the outskirts of Keynsham lies Keynsham Humpy Tumps, one of the most floristically rich acidic grassland sites within the Avon area. The site is on a south-facing slope running alongside the Bristol to Bath railway line. It consists of open patches of grassland and bare rock, interspersed with blocks of scrub. It is the only site in Avon at which Upright Chickweed Moenchia erecta, occurs. Other locally notable plant species found here include Annual Knawel Scleranthus annuus, Sand Spurrey Spergularia rubra, Subterranean Clover Trifolium subterraneus and Prickly Sedge Carex muricata ssp. lamprocarpa. The site does not have any statutory conservation status, and is not managed for its biodiversity interest. Threats to its ecological value include the encroachment of scrub onto the grassland areas, and damage from motorcycle scrambling. Between Keynsham and Saltford, a 15 hectares (37 acres) area of green belt has been planted, with over 19,000 trees, as the Manor Road Community Woodland, which has been designated as a Nature Reserve. Nearby is the Avon Valley Country Park tourist attraction.

Along with the rest of South West England, Keynsham has a temperate climate which is generally wetter and milder than the rest of England. The annual mean temperature is about 10 °C (50 °F) with seasonal and diurnal variations, but due to the modifying effect of the sea, the range is less than in most other parts of the United Kingdom. January is the coldest month with mean minimum temperatures between 1 °C (34 °F) and 2 °C (36 °F). July and August are the warmest months in the region with mean daily maxima around 21 °C (70 °F). In general, December is the dullest month and June the sunniest. The south west of England enjoys a favoured location, particularly in summer, when the Azores High extends its influence north-eastwards towards the UK.

Cloud often forms inland, especially near hills, and reduces exposure to sunshine. The average annual sunshine totals around 1600 hours. Rainfall tends to be associated with Atlantic depressions or with convection. In summer, convection caused by solar surface heating sometimes forms shower clouds and a large proportion of the annual precipitation falls from showers and thunderstorms at this time of year. Average rainfall is around 800–900 mm (31–35 in). About 8–15 days of snowfall is typical. November to March have the highest mean wind speeds, with June to August having the lightest. The predominant wind direction is from the south west.

Demography

Keynsham Health Centre, from south
Keynsham Health Centre

In the 2001 census Keynsham had a population of 15,533, in 6,545 households, of which 6,480 described themselves as White. Keynsham East Ward had a population of 5,479, Keynsham North 5,035 and Keynsham South 5,019. In each of the wards between 75 and 80% of the population described themselves as Christians, and around 15% said that they had no religion.

In 1881 the population of the civil parish was 2,482. This grew gradually until 1931 when there were 4,521, before there was a steeper rise to 1951 when there were 8,277. Over the next ten years this nearly doubled to 15,152 in 1961.

Culture

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. In the early 1960s, Batchelor became known through his regular advertisements on Radio Luxembourg for his football pools prediction service. When giving his contact address, he would slowly spell out 'Keynsham' letter by letter, and this became an amusing feature for many young listeners.

Keynsham Festival, which started in the late 1990s, takes place in the Memorial Park each July, and attracts around 16,000 people. There is also a Victorian evening held in the town each November. Keynsham and Saltford local history society was formed in 1965 and is concerned with researching and recording the history of the area.

Keynsham was chosen as the outdoor location for a dramatic story-line in the BBC One TV serial EastEnders in September 2012 with filming taking place in a cordoned-off section of the High Street.

In Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, Catherine and her friends ride to ″within view of the town of Keynsham″.

Transport

Keynsham bypass
Keynsham A4 Bypass

The town is served by Keynsham railway station on the London-Bristol and Bristol-Southampton trunk routes. It opened in 1840 and was renamed Keynsham and Somerdale in 1925. The factory had its own rail system which was connected to the mainline. The connection to Fry's chocolate factory was taken out of use on the 26–27 July 1980. The station's name reverted to Keynsham on 6 May 1974. The station was rebuilt in 1985 as a joint project between British Rail and Avon County Council.

The A4 road used to run through the town, however much of this traffic is now carried on the bypass, which was constructed in 1964. The bypass runs from Saltford, a village which adjoins Keynsham, to Brislington, Bristol. Keynsham is on the Monarch's Way long distance footpath which approximates the escape route taken by King Charles II in 1651 after being defeated in the Battle of Worcester.

The town is served by no less than 9 bus routes, 5 of which connect Bath with Bristol, 1 which runs from Ashton Way at the back of the shops to Bristol City Centre via Kingswood, another bus service runs from Ashton Way at the back of the shops to Southmead Hospital and one bus service runs to Cribbs Causeway. In numerical order:

Religious sites

St John the Baptist, Keynsham, tower end
St John's church

Begun in 1292, the Anglican parish church of St John the Baptist gradually evolved until taking its present general form during the reign of Charles II, after the tower collapsed into the building during a storm in 1632. 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. There is a pulpit dating from 1634 and is also a screen of the same age which shuts off the choir vestry. It has been designated as a Grade II* listed building.

A former organ is said to have stood in the church, 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. There are eight bells in total, some made by the Bilbie family of Chew Stoke, 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."

St. John the Baptist church is one of five churches in the Church of England Parish of Keynsham, the others being the village churches of St. Michael's in Burnett and St. Margaret's in Queen Charlton, the "Mission Church" in Chewton Keynsham (formerly the school building), and St. Francis' Church on the Park Estate which in 2013 - 2015 underwent extensive modernisation and offers two halls for use by community groups.

There are also the Victoria and Queens Road Methodist churches, St. Dunstan's Roman Catholic Church and an Elim Church. The churches work together, also with churches in Saltford, under the banner of "Churches Together in Keynsham and Saltford" and often with the strapline "More to Life".

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