Marshalls Field, Clevedon
A Geophysical Survey of Stone Feature in River Bank
This survey was carried out by Bob Smisson, David Robinson and Stewart Edwards on the 25th of July 2014, to see if they could establish the purpose of this masonry, and to evaluate what it might have been.
Two techniques were used:- 1) Resistivity 2) Electric Pseudo-Section survey.
The following is a summary of this survey – technical detail, maps and photographs have been removed, they can be found in the full report compiled by Bob Smisson.
The recreation ground of Marshall’s field is a firm favourite with dog walkers. One of the features of the field is the presence of the Land Yeo, running along the northern side of the field. There is one particular point along the river, where an outcrop of masonry makes for a firm footing, and this is where continuous use by dogs entering the river for a swim continues to expose stonework, some of which has fallen and lies on the river bed.
There is much folklore about what this might have been, this includes assertions that this is the abutment of a former bridge across the river providing access to villagers from Kingston Seymour to St Andrew’s Church. It was recently confirmed that this area may have had a different role in the life of the town in the past. When the sea wall was raised and the outlet sluice from the Land Yeo rebuilt, there was clear evidence of a long abandoned tide mill underneath the nineteenth century stonework at the outlet from the Land Yeo.
The results of the geophysical survey did tend to shed light on the probability that the visible masonry may be part of the management system for the tide mill. The Tithe Map of 1839 shows that the area now called Marshall’s field was known as Mill Ground in the past. It seems that the modern name stems from the name of the Benefactor who gave the field to the town of Clevedon for use as a recreation ground.The plan also shows the relationship between the Land Yeo (an artificial watercourse) and the Middle Yeo, a river that has recently been put in a culvert through the town. It seems likely all these resources would have been available for use in the water management of the tide mill.
Speculation – It seems likely a tide mill at the location of the present outfall of the Land Yeo into Clevedon Pill would have required similar water management measures to those of other tide mills in England. Consider, for example, the tide mill at Woodbridge in Suffolk. which is a tourist attraction, although its mill pond has been drastically reduced in size, part of it being converted into a marina. The extent of the pond that used to be allowed to fill at high tide is clearly shown on the available first edition ordnance survey maps. It is significant that the area of this Mill Pond is similar in scale to the area of Marshall’s field, prompting the question if some or all of the present field is not the former mill pond.If this were the case, then one problem the millers would have faced is the rapid siltation that is likely to have occurred in the Bristol Channel, when silts would have been brought in to the area when any pond was filling, which would then have been deposited, as velocities reduced. A well known problem, solved in many cases by the use of flushing water, to be run through the area at low tide in order to erode any large silt deposits. At Eling Tide mill in Southampton water, the local river was directed through the mill pond to achieve this. It can be suggested that there was provision to flush out any mill pond in Marshall’s field using water from the Middle Yeo, in which case the presence of a sluice in the location under investigation would be logical. Evidence for these speculations can be seen in the uneven ground levels in Marshall’s field, with indications that it has never been ploughed or used for arable farming, and the surface features of swales that appear to follow the probable route of a rhyne connecting the Middle Yeo to the Land Yeo.
Conclusions – The investigation into the visible masonry exposed at the side of the Land Yeo in Marshall’s field raises some questions about the former use of this part of Clevedon. It is clear this was not a bridge, and there is no indication of a building at this location, and at this time it seems most likely that there was a sluice at this location, helping to control water in the area, and probably as part of the water management system for the tide mill located where the river outfalls at present. It would be interesting to extend this investigation and to seek any earlier plans or records for the tide mill when opportunity presents.