Porlock Weir is a small harbour-side settlement at the west end of Porlock Bay and faces northeast towards the Bristol Channel with extensive views towards Bossington Hill and Hurlstone Point. These lie 4 km distant to the east, with the Welsh coast between 20-30 km to the north. Steeply wooded slopes immediately above Porlock Weir, plunge some 250 metres towards the sea from the high moors beyond. They form an important backdrop, and provide shelter from the south and west.
The much larger village of Porlock is situated on the A39, less than 3 km. to the east and is linked to Porlock Weir by the B3225. This is a no-through road apart from the Worthy Toll Road, which provides an alternative route to the 1 in 4 gradient at the notorious Porlock Hill.
Part of the conservation area, and much land surrounding it, is within the Porlock Manor Estate, which for the past several centuries has been owned by the Blathwayt family. A number of the estate cottages retain picturesque examples of characteristic vernacular detail, some in the later Arts & Crafts tradition. The strong estate identity enables the maintenance of the traditional features of its buildings, which provides a timeless and homogenous character.
The history of Porlock Weir is undoubtedly closely allied with that of Porlock village. 18th century maps refer to the harbour as Porlock Quay. Porlock dates from Saxon times when it was known as Portloca (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 918). In the Domesday Book it is Portloc, and, as the name implies was “the enclosure by the harbour.” The Manor was given by William the Conqueror to Baldwin de Brionis, and included the Quay. In 1366 it is recorded that the new lord, Sir Nigel Loring created a park in the locality, but during the reign of Richard II, his daughter Isabel possessed the manor following division of her father’s estate, and carried it by marriage into the family of Robert Harrington. Edward Rogers of Cannington is recorded as acquiring the manor from James I in 1610, from whom it was inherited by the Winter and Blathwayt families, originally from Dyrham in Gloucestershire.
Although the precise location is not recorded, it is probable that in 1052, Harold (who was later to confront William at the Battle of Hastings), and his brother landed here from Ireland with nine ships. The landing was opposed by local inhabitants, but an armed resistance backed by men from Somerset and Devon failed to defeat it, and allegedly much booty was carried off. The Rolls of the bailiff for the Manor of Brendon dated 1427 refer to “making of the Weir of Porlock,” presumably for the purpose of supplying cloth and the agricultural trade. There is an interesting record made by William Culliforde, Surveyor General of His Majesty’s Customs dated 13th June 1682 which says: “I went to visit Porlock..where there is a very deep Bay and a good harbour for small vessels, to which place there are several that belong, which trade over sea… and where great quantities of
Herrings are taken and cured, which begets a great concourse of people and small craft, that may be of dangerous consequence to the Customs unless well guarded.”
In 1723, a comprehensive list of tolls was issued, payable to Mr William Blathwayt. This indicates that trade, mainly with Wales, included cattle, sheep and even poultry. The port was also used for the casting and recasting of the bells of Luccombe church, carried out in 1759 by William Evans of Chepstow. There was also some foreign trade, which included wine, tobacco, raisins, sugar, citrus fruit etc., and a suggestion of boat-building with charges on every boat or barque “built upon the lord’s waste.” The present harbour is thought to date from the early-mid 19th century, and it is believed that only one trading vessel was ever built there, in 1858.