This is one of a series of reports on the archaeology of the urban (and formerly urban) areas of Somerset commissioned by English Heritage as part of its Extensive Urban Survey (EUS). The reports were prepared by Somerset County Council in 1994-98. There is a brief history of the town extracted from the report or you can download the whole report and maps in Portable Document Format (PDF).
Lower Weare is situated on a gentle bend in the river Axe as it flows through the Axe valley. It was one of a group of medieval river ports along this valley. There is no known evidence of settlement of the site prior to the medieval period although other areas of the Axe valley have extensive field systems thought to date from the Roman period, and the Mendip hills to the north of the valley are rich in prehistoric remains. Therefore the possibility of earlier occupation in the area should not be excluded.
Weare was probably implanted as a market and trading centre with its own port on the river by the Gournay family who held the manor of Weare and much other land in the Mendip area, in the late 12th or early 13th century. It was represented as a borough in 1243 and was described again as such in 1265. A charter of Edward I of 1280 granted to the burgesses of Nether Weare the same rights as those of Hereford and Breteuil and the right to a market. Private records of the Gournay family and those of St. Marks hospital in Bristol refer to the rents of individual burgage plots in the town. In 1334 the borough of Weare was taxed at one tenth in contrast to the rural part of the parish which was taxed at one fifteenth.
At the height of river trade and the cloth industry Lower Weare was in competition with Rackley, Axbridge and probably wharves at Hythe linked to a market at Cheddar. However it has failed to expand following the demise of both and is now a small village.