A Local Guide to Combe Down
Situated on the outskirts of Bath, the village of Combe Down sits in the county of Somerset, peppered with 18th and 19th century Bath stone-built villas, terraces, and workers’ cottages.
A Brief History of Combe Down
The etymology of Combe Down is derived from Old English. ‘Combe’ can be traced back to the Old English ‘cumb’, meaning ‘steep-sided valley’, while ‘down’ comes from the Old English ‘dun’ or ‘dune’, shortened from ‘adune’ meaning ‘downward’, from the phrase of ‘dune off the hill’.
Historians believe that a Roman villa was once located within the southern slopes of Combe Down, just below Belmont Road, from the remains of a site discovered during the 1850s. Stones recovered from the site are thought to date from AD 212-222, bearing ancient Roman script. Several pieces of history such as this were brought to the Somerset County Museum at Taunton.
Beyond Romanic rule, Combe Down’s history can be traced back to the 16th century, when small open stone quarries were operating on the land, most of which was purchased by Ralph Allen. Beds of oolitic Bath limestone were intensively mined, used for building stone to expand Bath’s operations as a spa city.
At this time, there was little to no habitation in the village besides a small number of scattered cottages. During 1803, major land sales triggered the development of smarter middle class houses that continued during the early 19th century, contained around the south end of The Avenue, in Church Road, and along Belmont Road.
By 1860, the skeleton of the Combe Down we know today had formed, with a church, chapel, school, and vicarage in full swing. The stone mines had mostly been closed, having been largely worked out.
Housing development continued during the late 19th and 20th centuries, with more cottages and terraces of artisan housing constructed. Since then, an overlay of suburban housing has been woven into the village, accelerated by the arrival of the Admiralty at Foxhill during 1940.
Location of Combe Down
The village of Combe Down sits on a ridge above the city of Bath, around 1.5 miles from the city centre. Natural woodland adjoins Combe Down to the north, from Fairy Wood, to Rainbow Wood, Klondyke Copse and Long Wood, with public footpaths available to look at the sights over the city. Views of the Midford Valley can be seen at the south of the village.
Sights to See
Combe Down is home to sights of stunning Georgian architecture, with the same honey-coloured brick houses and buildings that line the streets of central Bath. There are also a number of Victorian and 20th century properties that line North Road, Bradford Road, and the 20th century Mulberry Park development on the site of the former Ministry of Defence offices.
Firs Field, a public open space, houses the village war memorial and children’s play area, with three parcels of land making up the grounds.
The village is also home to several houses of worship, including the Holy Trinity Anglican church and the non-conformist Union Chapel. The Saint Peter and Saint Paul Roman Catholic church also sits on the edge of the village, adjacent to the Foxhill estate.
Things to Do
Some of the many woodland walks in Combe Down are owned and managed by Bath and North East Somerset Council, while others are part of the National Trust’s network, incorporated into the Bath Skyline trail.
Combe Down also houses the Combe Grove Manor, a 4-star hotel and health club, with 69 acres of surrounding garden and woodland.
If you fancy taking in all the wonderful sights of Combe Down, the privately owned Bath ‘circular tour’ bus passes through the outskirts of the village and down Ralph Allen Drive on its route to the city centre.
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