Reprinted from Newsletter 115, dated 2005 May

Six houses proposed on Wearyall Hill near Holy Thorn

Arrow shows site of the proposed new houses, which would share the existing driveway to 24 Roman Way. This view is from Torview Avenue approaching the junction of Roman Way (turn right for Hill Head).
The location of the six mooted houses is well below the brow of the hill where today’s Holy Thorn stands. This view is from the start of the footpath in Hill Head. [JN photos]

Planning permission has been asked for six houses in the steeply sloping garden of Edward James at the beginning of Roman Way. Three of them would share the existing driveway, and there would be two new entrances from the road. Plans include a double garage for each house.

  Mr James had permission years ago for two houses but did not take it up. The rest of Roman Way is already built up on both sides, and the Conservation Society has raised no objection to the plan.

  The Holy Thorn is on the other side of Wearyall Hill, over the brow from the extreme top right of the first photo and then a dozen feet down.

Holy Thorns of the past

  This specimen was planted in 1952. It replaced one planted by the mayor, Henry Scott Stokes, in 1951 to mark the Festival of Britain year but which died.

  The original Holy Thorn of the Joseph of Arimathea legend stood much further along Wearyall Hill, near number 60 Roman Way, where there is a memorial seat. For centuries Roman Way was the main road to Bridgwater, and there is written evidence of stagecoaches stopping there for travellers to take a sprig of the tree. The site is marked as “spina sacra” on a 17th-century gunnery map hanging in the foyer of the Town Hall.

  The Conservation Society planted a Holy Thorn — which is always a graft onto native hawthorn rootstock — at the ancient location in the 1970s but it reverted to common hawthorn.

  The current site, nearer to Hill Head and overlooking the town, started with John Clark laying a stone slab there in the early 19th century.

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