In 1685 the last battle ever fought on English soil occurred 3 miles outside of the small market town of Bridgwater in Somerset. 300 years later that bloody engagement between radical English revolutionaries and a kings army bolstering a dying and increasingly oppressive feudal system, is recalled in the name of the district Council administered from Bridgwater.

BATTLE OF SEDGEMOOR After the battle of Sedgemoor the revolutionaries suffered widescale retribution, public execution and transportation as white slaves to the colonies. Every crossroads in Somerset was adorned with the mutilated torso of a rebel from Bridgwater, Taunton or one of the many small rural communities that had provided soldiers -mostly armed with the implements of their labour-pitchforks, bill hooks & axes, to support the Duke of Monmouth champion of the Progressive movement that sought to oust the reactionary King James II.

ENGLISH REVOLUTION From 1642 to 1648 the English Civil War had brought about an English Revolution releasing radical ideas and social movements reversing the economic stranglehold of the landowning classes . In 1645 , Bridgwater , occupied by the Kings army ,was liberated by the Parliamentarian Army of Oliver Cromwell after a swift but bloody siege. Bridgwater castle-built by the Normans in 1202, was destroyed and never again rebuilt Cromwell turned England into a Republic and set up a Commonwealth system of government. His commander at sea was Admiral Robert Blake. This fellow Republican is Bridgwaters most famous son-his statue still stands in Bridgwater town centre and his birthplace is now the famous Admiral Blake Museum. It was Blake who defeated the naval power of France, Spain and Holland , and to this day his memory is celebrated in the town of Bridgwater with Drama groups, schools and even Fish n chip shops carrying his name.

ALFRED THE GREAT Bridgwater is situated on the River Parret 10 miles from the sea and surrounded to the South and west by the Sedgemoor marshland known as the Somerset Levels-underwater until the 10th century and drained by Dutch engineers in the 17th century. It was this land from where king Alfred the Great organised his Guerilla army to fightback against the Viking invaders that threatened to conquer Saxon England in the 9th Century. His great fortress of Athelney was located 8 miles from Bridgwater. His flag-the Wyvern of Wessex, became the flag of England after his subsequent victory over the Norsemen. It is depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry alongside the last of the Saxon kings , Harold, at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and today it is the proud symbol of Somerset County.

KING ARTHUR Originally settled by the Celtic tribe the Belgae, Somerset was occupied and administered in the first century AD by the Romans. The Celts and Romans eventually lived together and formed a joint administration. Some of the original Celtic 'Lake Villages' have been restored and recreated between Bridgwater and Glastonbury. It was in this area that the legendary King Arthur of the Britons fought his last battles-defending this Romano-Celtic civilisation against the Saxon invaders in the 5th century. Today the Glastonbury Tor is a place of pilgrimage for pagans, mystics and Arthurian enthusiasts who believe him to be buried there alongside his knights of the Round Table. Glastonbury-12 miles from Bridgwater, is also said to be the site of the coming to England of Joseph of Arimethea, who brought the Holy Grail from the last supper of Jesus with him. In the 16th century Glastonbury Abbey was destroyed by soldiers during King Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasterys with the Abbot taken to the Tor and executed. In the 1960s,Hippies and radical thinkers settled in great numbers in the town giving the place a strange feel of mysticism and paganism in a quaintly rural setting. It is also the site of the Glastonbury Pop Festival where 100's of thousands of pounds are raised every year for progressive causes and Environmental issues .

PEASANTS REVOLT In 1381 Bridgwater was the centre of the Peasants revolt in the West of England. Inspired by Peasant uprisings around Europe against the incumbent Feudal system of the Norman lords, ordinary people rose up against an unjust system of taxation known as the Poll Tax-wherein rich or poor paid the same tax no matter what their income. The social iniquity of this was challeneged by the down trodden poor throughout the South of England with the slogan 'When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?' Revolutionaries stormed the
tower of London executing the chancellor and the Kings 'bad advisors'. In Bridgwater the Peasants stormed the Sydenham Manor House , destroyed their feudal bond papers and executed the Tax collectors leaving their heads on the town bridge! The leader of the Rebels-Nicholas Frampton, has a street named after him in Bridgwater today. The transformation of power from feudalism to capitalism saw the rise in the wealth of Bridgwater through its port, which despite being 10 miles from open sea and on a tidal river (which rose and fell 20 metres twice a day) saw trade with all parts of the world untill eclipsed by the nearby port of Bristol in the 18th century.However, the radical citizens of Bridgwater had no truck with the abhorent practice of slavery-upon which Bristols fortune was made and the town was the first in England to petition the government against it in 1797.

TRADE UNION MILITANCY With the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th century Bridgwater rapidly developed through its port, market trading , the creation of a canal to Taunton and the advent of the railways. The major industry in Bridgwater was brickmaking with the large workforce required bringing rapid urbanisation and with it confrontation with the profit hungry bosses. In 1896 the workers of Bridgwater had formed one of the strongest Trades Unions in the West of England port towns and launched a series of strikes for better conditions against the brickyard owners. It was the time of the reactionary government of lord Salisbury, who had no problem with sending Soldiers to the small Somerset town to make an example. The strike was broken by the advent of soldiers who broke down the barricades of the Bridgwater workers and cleared them from the High street at bayonet point.

CARNIVAL TRADITION Bridgwaters radical history is also reflected annually in it's world famous Carnival-the largest free show in England. Originating from the Gunpowder plot of 1605, the tradition of massive popular celebrations with bonfires , tableaux and a procession-with the burning in effigy of hated political figures, the Carnival is enacted every November on the nearest thursday to Guy Fawkes night-only today it is a modern spectacle of light and sound which draws thousands of people to the town in its wake.

POPULAR FRONT In 1938 Bridgwater demonstrated its Internationalist credentials when , alone amongst English Parliamentary constituencies, it elected a Popular Front candidate to Westminster. This was the year of the Munich agreement and the Nazi threat to the Czech Sudetenland and many British people were shamed by the policy of 'Appeasement' which was threatening the existence of the democratic and multi-ethnic Czech/Slovak state. In Bridgwater a by-election on November 17th saw the progressive candidate Vernon Bartlett-a newspaper journalist , elected instead of the Government candidate thus sending a powerful message to both the Prime Minister and to Hitler himself. It was with this demonstration of solidarity with the peopleof Czechoslovakia in mind that Bridgwater became the first British town to formally twin with a Czech town following the Velvet Revolution. In 1991 Bridgwater twinned with the Moravian town of Uherske Hradiste and the Bridgwater-Czech/Slovak Friendship Society has since become the most active twinning society in the county organising a multitude of cultural, educational and business exchanges .

Bridgwater today (population 35,000) is suffering from the ravages of economic policies that have caused the largest unemployment figures in the South West and the devastation of the commercial heart of the town. It was no wonder that in 1990-when the Government brought back the Poll Tax,hard hit places like Bridgwater were at the forefront of an Anti-Poll Tax campaign of non-payment, victim support and demonstrations that led to the rapid demise of this hated tax. 1996 was the 50th anniversary of the Bridgwater Arts Centre. The end of the second world war saw a mood of optimism sweep the country with a desire for radical change and the empowerment of ordinary people. It was in the historical town of Bridgwater that the countries first Arts Centre was set up, and today, like the town and its radical tradition, it's still going strong

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