MINEHEAD, a market town and seaside resort of Somerset shire, England, 188 m. W. by S. of London by the G.W. railway. Pop. of urban district 6,315. Minehead owed its origin and growth to its good harbour. Certain documents suggest that it had a corporate existence during the 15th century, but no record of the grant of a charter has been found. A charter of incorporation given by Elizabeth in 1558 vested the government in a portreeve, a steward and twelve burgesses, the continuance of the corporation being subject to the port and harbour being kept in repair. The charter lapsed in the reign of James I., and an attempt to obtain its renewal in the 18th century failed. The corporation was replaced by two constables chosen annually in the court leet of the manor until 1894, when an urban district council was appointed. The borough returned two members to parliament from 1558 until disfranchised by the Reform Act of 1832. A weekly market on Tuesdays and a fair (Sept. 29 to Oct.
2) were held from the 15th century. In 1465 a second annual fair on May I was granted by Edward IV., which is still held on the Wednesday in Whitsun week. The other fair has been discontinued, and the market day has been changed to Wednes day. During the i6th, 17th and 18th centuries Minehead had a considerable coastwise trade in wool, grain and wine, but began to decline owing to the migration of the woollen industry to the north of England, and to the decay of the herring fishery. A renewal of prosperity began when it acquired a reputation as a watering-place. The town has three parts : the Upper, built on a foreland known as North Hill ; the Lower ; and the Quay Town, with many old houses, stretching for about a mile beside the harbour. St. Michael's, the parish church, has a Perpendicular tower.