Chew Magna is a village and civil parish within the Chew Valley in the Unitary Authority of Bath and North East Somerset, in the Ceremonial county of Somerset, England. The parish has a population of 1,149.
The village is close to the northern edge of the Mendip Hills (a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), and was designated a conservation area in 1978. There are many listed buildings reflecting the history of the village. The River Chew flows through the village. Just outside the village is Chew Magna Reservoir: this small Bristol Water supply reservoir intercepts the Winford Brook.
The village has approximately 1,200 residents. There is one primary school, and an adjacent secondary school, several shops and small businesses, three churches, and three pubs serving the area. There is also a football pitch and children's play area. The village frequently wins regional categories in the Calor Village of the Year competition, and is currently moving towards zero waste status, having been described as "probably the greenest parish in Britain".
Chew Magna has long been the largest village in the district, and can trace its importance back to Saxon times. It was a thriving woollen centre in the Middle Ages - in 1086 for example having 108 households rendering £46 per year, most of its land being cultivated and having five mills, 29 cattle, 36 pigs, 448 sheep and 46 goats. It acquired market town and non-represented borough status. The picture was not entirely benign as 22 of these households were serfs.
The manor of Chew was held by the Bishops of Bath and Wells from 1062 to 1548, and therefore was called Chew Episcopi or Bishop's Chew. The bishops built a palace near the church of St Andrews, which was visited by Henry III in 1250. Chew Court is a surviving part of the palace and has its adjacent well head also listed for its long heritage.
According to Robinson its manors, lay and religious holdings formed an episcopal property held, as overlord, by Giso, the last Saxon bishop and the name Magna comes from the Latin meaning 'the greater'. This is supported by the Domesday Book which was made to specify the 1086 and the pre-conquest holder, in both instances given as the "Bishop of Wells". Hence its benefice was from the early medieval period converted from a rectory to a vicarage, with substantial tythings adjoining named Bishop Sutton, Knowle with Knighton Sutton, North Elm, and Stone. Furthermore it had the living of Dundry annexed to it. By 1848 all tithes had been commuted and the sole improprietor is listed in 1848 of the great tithes as George Smyth.
In the eastern corner of the south aisle of the church is a monument of the Baker family, who formerly had large possessions in the parish, after whom the manor of Chew Baker is named; and inserted in a window of the aisle, is a wooden effigy, supposed to be of Sir John de Hautville, a Knight of Henry III's, who owned the northeastern estate named Norton Hautville, now Norton Hawkfield: in the same directional corner of the church are monuments to the Strach(e)y family who lived at Sutton Court.
After the Dissolution of the Monasteries
Since about 1600, the name changed to Chew Magna as this has been the most important of the several villages along the banks of the River Chew and reflecting the reduced wealth of the established church from the Dissolution of the Monasteries onwards.
Around 1700 the Lord of the Manor was Sir William Jones, the Attorney General of England and in the 1820s it was the seat of Lord Lyttelton. Until about 1880 the village had toll roads and a toll house to collect the fees.
By 1848 the population was partly employed in coal mines in Bishop Sutton, and in the manufacture of stockings and of edge tools to a limited extent; formerly there was a considerable factory for cloth.
During the late 19th and 20th centuries the importance of the wool trade in the village declined and it became largely a dormitory area for the cities of Bristol and Bath, although it has continued to be the commercial centre of the valley.
Second World War
During German bombing raids targeted on Bristol, many bombs fell in the parish: Ruen House on the road to Chew Hill was bombed. The nearly flat area just east of the Y-junction on Chew Hill was initially chosen as a Starfish site area to be lit by fires to simulate Bristol in flames. Later, about half way between North Chew Farm and Manor Farm, North Wick was an area secured by Royal Air Force personnel, lit by fires, and with "automatic" guns to simulate anti-aircraft guns. There was also a genuine heavy anti aircraft battery at Chewhill farm. The area was guarded by pill boxes of which one remains on the west side of Blacklands (map reference ST579640).
Chew Valley Lake Construction
On 10–11 July 1968 a storm brought heavy rainfall to the Chew valley and Dundry, with falling in 18 hours on Chew Stoke, double the area's average rainfall for the whole of July, and flooded 88 properties in Chew Magna with many being inundated with of water. The bridge on the road to Dundry was demolished.
The Chew Magna telephone exchange was manually operated until the 1950s. An important number Chew Magna 2 was that of Dr Terrell Hughes: the exchange operators could often locate him in an emergency even if he was away from his home and surgery. The manual exchange served most of the Chew valley and even East Dundry.