For the first time in ages, we visited a favourite nearby town, Bridgwater. We always enjoy going there, wandering around by the River Parrett, looking at the old buildings and imagining where even older buildings might have been beneath the present day roads and streets. Today it was looking particularly splendid under a wonderful blue sky – I think some of the places have been smartened up and given a new coat of paint, certainly it all looked very fresh and attractive. Here’s something I wrote a few years ago – our love affair with Bridgie goes back a fair few years!
This afternoon we visited a favourite nearby town, Bridgwater on the River Parrett and once a bustling and busy and quite important port. You might think it’s called Bridgwater as there is a bridge by the water… no, its name comes from a Norse word meaning quay and Walter de Douai, a Norman lord who received the settlement from William, Duke of Normandy.
There had been settlements in the area going back to earliest times of people settling and living in the area, thousands of years ago. The Romans were all around too but it was only after the Normans that Bridgwater began t o develop, and eventually had a castle built on the south side of the river.
In 1200 the town received a charter from the king, King John who had only come to the throne a year ago on the death of his brother Richard. This charter meant the town had free borough status and could levy tolls and hold markets and fairs. At this point, William Brewer was the lord of the manor and he was allowed a licence to fortify his castle and build crenellations. It had walls all around but sadly all that remains is a bit of the curtain wall along the West Quay where there is also a water-gate. The town itself didn’t have walls, only a ditch running round the boundary, with the walls of the houses and buildings of the town along its length. Typical to towns of the period there were four entry points through gates, north, east, south and west.
Sadly none of these houses remain although there is some evidence of where they were and parts of their walls… they didn’t just fall down or collapse with age, the town suffered badly during the Civil War (1642-1651) It was initially held by the Royalists but the Parliamentarians took it, and in 1646 after much destruction of the rest of the town, the castle was pulled down too. There are still older buildings in the town, including the church of St Mary, and what is now the Blake Museum, the home of the Blake family and birth place of the great Admiral, Robert Blake.
Blake is a hero of mine and we visited the museum today and were delighted to find it had received some attention over the winter closure and all its marvellous artefacts were now more effectively displayed with interesting and informative labels.
Having caught up on history and learned more about a favourite town, we retired to a nearby coffee house for refreshments and carrot cake! A great day!