Minehead is a coastal town and civil parish in Somerset, England. It lies on the south bank of the Bristol Channel, 21 miles (34 km) north-west of the county town of Taunton, 12 miles (19 km) from the border with the county of Devon and in proximity of the Exmoor National Park. The parish of Minehead has a population of approximately 11,981, making it the most populous town in the western part of the Somerset West and Taunton local government district, which in turn, is the worst area in the country for social mobility. This figure includes Alcombe and Woodcombe, suburban villages which have been subsumed into Minehead.
There is evidence of human occupation in the area since the Bronze and Iron Ages. Before the Norman conquest it was held by Ælfgar, Earl of Mercia and after it by William de Moyon and his descendants, who administered the area from Dunster Castle, which was later sold to Sir George Luttrell and his family. There was a small port at Minehead by 1380, which grew into a major trading centre during the medieval period. Most trade transferred to larger ports during the 20th century, but pleasure steamers did call at the port. Major rebuilding took place in the Lower or Middle town area following a fire in 1791 and the fortunes of the town revived with the growth in sea bathing, and by 1851 was becoming a retirement centre. There was a marked increase in building during the early years of the 20th century, which resulted in the wide main shopping avenue and adjacent roads with Edwardian style architecture. The town’s flood defences were improved after a storm in 1990 caused flooding.
Minehead is governed by a town council, which was created in 1983. In addition to the parish church of St. Michael on the Hill in Minehead, the separate parish church of St Michael the Archangel is situated in Church Street, Alcombe. Alcombe is also home to the Spiritualist Church in Grove Place. Since 1991, Minehead has been twinned with Saint-Berthevin, a small town close to the regional centre of Laval in the Mayenne département of France. Blenheim Gardens, which is Minehead’s largest park, was opened in 1925. The town is also the home of a Butlins Holiday Park which increases Minehead’s seasonal tourist population by several thousand.