The people of Brean

Imagine having this view from your house © Jim Elliott

Imagine having this view from your house

Though uninhabited today, Brean Down has been home to many people over the years, and from as early on as the Ice Age.

Two of Brean's most famous residents were Gunner Haines and Harry Cox.

Gunner Haines

Gunner Haines, who was stationed at Palmerston Fort on Brean Down in the 1900s, was perhaps Brean's most mysterious resident. We still don't know why he came to such an odd end.

At 5am on 6 July 1900, locals reported the sound of an explosion at the fort. The explosion left Gunner Haines dead.

An unexplained death on the down

Haines had only been stationed at Palmerston Fort for a week. He'd spent the evening at a local pub. That night he arrived back later than everyone else, as his bicycle had a puncture.

Haines managed to make his way back to the fort, remove all of his clothes and fold them neatly on his bed.

He then stole a gun and walked to the magazine, where 3 tonnes of gunpowder were stored. He proceeded to fire a shot into the magazine. The spark from the gun ignited the gunpowder. Consequently, he blew himself and most of the fort up.

Only one other person was injured, and an enquiry into the incident took place. A friend who had been drinking at the pub with Haines that night reported he didn't seem drunk. So what made him fire the gun? We will never know.

Harry Cox

Harry Cox was Brean's most recent, and an incredibly hardy, resident.

He was the warden on Brean Down from 1909 to 1949. He was also the warden on the island of Steep Holm, in the Bristol Channel, for 19 years. 

Harry's first house was what can only be described as a tin shack. The other still remains and you can find it on the north side of the down, now a ruin. 

Brean Down is a place with no natural water supply, so Harry lived off rainwater he had collected from his roof.

He must have really loved the place. If you've visited the Down on a stormy winter day, you'll know how open to the elements it is.