Nestling 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, Hanoi… er… 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 it’s 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. (it’s mainly on the estates)

   In 1200 Bridgwater was granted a Charter by Bad King John-(so the year 2000 is Bridgwater’s 800th birthday) (happy birthday Bridgwater). Trouble is, all Bridgwater’s 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.

1381 - 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

1499-  Bridgwater joined the Cornish in the Western rebellion—bad planning really seeing as the Cornish lost as well

1640s-Bridgwater 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.

1650s- 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 of Europe.

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

1785-Bridgwater 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 Bartlett

1992-Bridgwater 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 it’s own council since the 1970’s. 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.


   And if you’re in Bridgwater check out some of  it’s famous sites

The Bridgwater Arts Centre in castle street (the first Arts centre in England)

West Quay records ( ask for Adrian and he’ll tell you all the latest Bridgwater gossip)

The Unity Club, Dampiet street (home of the Labour Movement in Bridgwater and cheapest beer in town)

The Three Crowns, St Mary street-(regular gigging venue for  Bridgwater’s 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)

Or just hang around the Cornhill where several hundred Bridgwater rebels were hung drawn and quartered by Judge Jeffrey’s  and soak in the atmosphere.

River 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

The Rope Walk-often criticised by   people yet it’s 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.

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