amidst the leafy ditches and rolling mires of Sedgemoor in Somerset, the town
of Bridgwater is actually one of the 10 most interesting towns in the world (see also
Prague, Amsterdam, Sarajevo, Beirut, Stogumber and 4 suburbs of Los Angeles).
At the time of the last millennium it was underwater.
1000 years later , what was once a swamp now boasts
a town with a radical history second to none. Except maybe Soweto, Paris, Leningrad,
and several others.
It was in (well near) Bridgwater that the famous King Arthur (the famous
king) fought and failed to save Celtic England from the Saxons and where
the slightly less famous King Alfred (the Great) as opposed to his younger brother Derek
(the Rubbish) saved Saxon England from the Vikings
After 1066 when the bloody Normans conquered England, they also conquered
Bridgwater-and built a massive castle here to make sure it stayed conquered. The bridge
built over the river Parret by Walter de Douai (a Norman) gave the town its name.
Norman. No Bridg-of-Walter actually which became brigewater (as displayed on the town
crest) and explains why everyone today insists theres no E in the middle of Bridgwater.
(its mainly on the estates)
In 1200 Bridgwater was granted a Charter by Bad King John-(so the year 2000 is
Bridgwaters 800th birthday) (happy birthday Bridgwater). Trouble is, all
Bridgwaters historical powers were taken away in 1973 when the Tories abolished
Bridgwater Borough and created direct rule from Burnham-on-Sea or Sedgemoor
District Council as it is known.
Bridgwater has a proud reputation as a
radical town with a tradition of Independence and a strong sense of community.
Bridgwater rose up against the Poll Tax in the Peasants Revolt-the revolutionaries
stormed Sydenham manor and st.Johns then marched on county town Ilchester and
executed the poll tax collectors. Fair play says I. Unfortunately, no one told them that
the main peasants revolt had been crushed 2 weeks before in London-so it all went pretty
quiet pretty quickly when they found out
Bridgwater joined the Cornish in the Western rebellionbad planning really
seeing as the Cornish lost as well
sided with the Revolutionaries in the Civil war, obviously then suffered occupation
by the Kings men and Governor Wyndham and his mad wife Christobel who ran around the
castle battlements in her nightie insulting the poor people of the town but was
fortunately liberated by Cromwell personally (and his army)-dispite Christobel trying to
shoot him and the Bore (a large tidal wave in the parret) nearly drowning him.
Bridgwater man Robert Blake led the Republican navy to victory over the
Feudal European powers-France & Spain & fought the rival capitalist Dutch to a
standstill. Blake- Much better than me..(H.Nelson) was the Che guevara of his
day and revolutionary England in the 1650s the equivalent of a little Cuba off the coast
1685-Bridgwater was the scene of the last battle on
English soil (so far) when the Duke of Monmouth was crushed at Sedgemoor-local
people rose up in arms (well, pitchforks) spotting a lost cause immediately and were
defeated, executed & deported
was the first British town to petition against slavery-pretty noble-remembering the
locals forced into Slavery in 1685-but also something to do with the merchant
classes resenting the wealth of rival port Bristol being based on slavery.
1896-The Tory Government of Lord Salisbury used
troops in Bridgwater to smash a strike by brickworkers The Riot Act
was read July 2nd 1896 and the Gloucestershire regiment cleared the streets in
a bayonet charge facing barricades on the penel orlieu.
1938-Bridgwater was the only town in England to
vote against the Munich Agreement-November 17th, with the election of Vernon
was the first British town to twin with a Czech/Slovak town (Uherske Hradiste)
after the Velvet Revolution
Today Bridgwater is a market town of about 35,000 people and has
suffered badly from the decline of manufacturing industry and being deprived of its
own council since the 1970s. A solid Labour town adrift in a Tory district and a
Liberal County it continues to maintain its independence to this day.
As a holiday destination Bridgwater is often
overlooked yet its location is perfect for people who want to visit the South
West. Situated on the M5 motorway with coach and rail links to London and the Midlands,
Bridgwater is within sight of the Mendip and Quantock hills, the unspoilt Sedgemoor levels
and the miles of beach and sand dunes at Burnham,Brean and Berrow and less than an hour
from Bristol ,Bath,Exeter , South Wales and the English Channel beaches and ports from
Weymouth to Torquay.
SITES OF INTEREST
And if youre in Bridgwater check out some of its famous sites
The Bridgwater Arts Centre in castle street (the
first Arts centre in England)
West Quay records ( ask for Adrian and hell
tell you all the latest Bridgwater gossip)
The Unity Club, Dampiet street (home of the Labour
Movement in Bridgwater and cheapest beer in town)
Three Crowns, St Mary street-(regular gigging venue for Bridgwaters wealth of
original local bands)
St.Marys church (if you want to see a church)
The Sedgemoor Splash ( a very big swimming pool)
The Palace ( a nightclub and tribute band heaven)
Blake Museum (birthplace of Admiral Robert)
the Cornhill where several hundred Bridgwater rebels were hung drawn and quartered by
Judge Jeffreys and soak in the atmosphere.
Parret-with its twice daily Bore or tidal wave that raises the river to
capacity the second highest tidal rise in the world.
Canal & Docks-No longer working but recently
renovated so you can walk the length of the canal to nearby Taunton
Walk-often criticised by people yet its here to stay..a mile long length
of ultra violet rope embedded in the ground along the riverside which
mystically pulls people from the out of town supermarkets into the town centre.