Access to the materials on Bridgwater Heritage is offered freely to promote interest in the history and heritage of the town. However, in order to support the ongoing cost of the website, this small bookshop has been set up to raise funds.
The Blake Museum’s Bookshop can also be visited here.
You might also be interested in visiting David Bown’s local history bookshop here .
Bridgwater Somerset, 1983 to 2004: a working class, left wing, rebellious town?
Dave Chapple takes an interesting perspective to Bridgwater as a rebel town through the lens of 21 years of trade union activism. Learn more here.
Lost Ships of the Severn Sea
Also of interest may be Paul Barnett Lost Ships of the Severn Sea 192 page book details final resting place of the 121 vessels at Purton, Lydney and Sharpness. Over 450 unique photos. Copies can be obtained for £14.95 plus £2.50 p&p from the author – email him here for details.
Notes on Bridgwater History Books
The Ancient History of Bridgwater and its Neighbourhood; also Poems Connected therewith
Published in Bridgwater by the Bridgwater Mercury Offices, 1876
This is a small publication (44 pages), but important as it is the first attempt at a dedicated history of the town. Contains a brief outline of the history of the town, descriptions of the borough documents, church, and a number of Parker’s own poems. A rare book given it’s more ephemeral nature.
Sydney Gardnor Jarman
A History of Bridgwater
Published in London by Elliot Stock in 1889
A very important text on the history of Bridgwater, containing a very rich amount of material on the town, its inhabitants and their past. Some of the most useful chapters are closer to Jarman’s own time, such as a section on the various friendly societies in the town (Druids, Oddfellows) which includes details on some of their members, or the history of the various churches and congregations in the area. This is one of the most valuable historic texts on the town. Illustrations include St Mary’s Church, Admiral Blake, E J Stanley MP for Bridgwater, St John’s Church, the Congregational Chapel, the Riverside Hospital, Quantock Lodge Nether Stowey and Mayor J H Waddon.
Reverend Arthur Herbert Powell, Vicar of Bridgwater
The Ancient Borough of Bridgwater in the County of Somerset
Published in Bridgwater by Page and Son in 1907
A history of Bridgwater up to just after the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685. Contains chapters on, among others, Bridgwater Castle, the Grey Friars, St John’s Hospital, St Mary’s Church, St Bridget’s Chapel, the Reformation, Trade, Admiral Blake, the Civil Wars and the Monmouth Rebellion.
Illustrations include the bridge, the castle Watergate, several of and in St Mary’s Church, the chapel of Idstock, a plan of Horsey chapel, a map of the Battle of Sedgemoor and the Corporation Maces.
Reverend Arthur Herbert Powell, Vicar of Bridgwater
Bridgwater in the Later Days
Published in Bridgwater by Page and Son in 1908
A history of Bridgwater from after the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685 to Powell’s own days. Contains chapters on, among others, eighteenth and nineteenth century politics from the reign of Queen Anne through Jacobitism, George Bubb Dodington, the 1832 Reform Bill to the town’s disenfranchisement in the 1860s. There’s also chapters on the town’s place within the English coaching system, the town’s fairs and holidays and the religious communities of the town. There is also a whole chapter devoted to the village of Chilton Trinity.
The illustrations are some of the stand-out feature of this book, including rare pictures of fragments of the medieval Bridgwater Ceiling (now in the Burrell Collection in Glasgow), a map and illustration of part of the castle of 1790, Chubb’s painting of the Salmon Parade tollhouse, the interior of St Mary’s Church in 1834 before the Victorian alterations, along with a number of pretty protographs of the town in Powell’s day.
Thomas Bruce Dilks
Bridgwater in Brief
Published in Bridgwater by the East Gate Press in 1927
Perhaps the best introductory short history of Bridgwater, this was published by Dilks himself from his home in Eastover, next to the Cobblestones. Despite being written ninety years ago, Dilks was one of the most informed scholars of old Bridgwater. The contents are still current and this is very readable.
Philip J Squibbs
Bridgwater Victorian Days
Published by Squibbs himself in Bridgwater in 1957
Squibbs’ first collection of notes and photographs of Bridgwater in the nineteenth century. Each image, mostly from the 1860s and 1870s, and its extensive caption cover a page. There are ninety images in total. Squibbs was passionate about the history of the town and sought to share his passion through making and distributing these volumes himself. As such these volumes are an artefact of the town’s history in themselves.
Philip J Squibbs
More Pictures of Old Bridgwater
Published by Squibbs himself in Bridgwater in 1971
Squibbs’ third collection of notes and photographs of Bridgwater in the nineteenth century. Each image, mostly from the 1860s and 1870s, and its extensive caption, covers a page. There are eighty images in total. Squibbs was passionate about the history of the town and sought to share his passion through making and distributing these volumes himself. As such these volumes are an artefact of the town’s history in themselves. This volume is especially interesting as it contains a number of images that did not get republished in Squibbs’ History of 1982, especially of the village of Wembdon.
T. B. Dilks, R. W. Dunning and T. D. Tremlett
Bridgwater Borough Archives, volume 5, 1468-1485
Published in Frome by the Somerset Record Society in 1971.
This is the fifth volume published of the town’s very rich series of medieval documents, which also contains a very useful historical introduction. Absolutely invaluable for the historian of Bridgwater, or for anyone interested in medieval property and borough administration. Many of the documents are in Latin, some in middle English, although each has a useful summary and a couple have translations. Of very special interest are two hymns on Doomsday and Christmas, written on the back of a lease.
Philip J Squibbs and Jack Lawrence
Squibbs’ History of Bridgwater
Published in Chichester by Phillimore in 1982
All three off Squibb’s self published books in one volume. This book contains two sections with photographs from the second half of the nineteenth century, and a chronology of the history of the town from 1800 to 1967. The pictures are a little smaller than in the previous books, but in much, much better quality and definition. Some pictures of Wembdon and large houses were not included though. The chronology of the town is very interesting, covering all sorts of civic events, storms, fires, celebrations, institutions and even notices of emigrant ships leaving the town for America or the Colonies.
Brian J Murless
Bridgwater Docks and the River Parrett
Published in Bridgwater by the Somerset County Library in 1983
This is a comprehensive history of the docks and the various attempts to build a ship canal from Bridgwater to the mouth of the Parrett. This also includes a section on Somerset Bridge near Dunwear. This includes an excellent range of illustrations and diagrams, as well as a number of fascinating maps of the river.
Rob Fitzhugh and Will Loudon
Bygone Bridgwater and the Villages
Published in Coventry by Avalon Press in 1987
Fitzhugh and Loudon’s first volume of 250 picture postcards of the towns and villages, dating to around 1900. A wonderful collection of images of the late Victorian and Edwardian town, including sections on ‘the town’, ‘earning a living’, ‘special occasions’ and ‘the river, docks and waterways’. The villages included are Ashcott (2 images), Bawdrip (1), Burtle (2), Burton (1), Cannington (3), Catcott (1), Chedzoy (2), Combwich (4), Chilton Polden (1), Cossington (2), Dunball (4), Eddington (2), Enmore (2), Goathurst (3), Huntspill (1), Knowle (2), Lilstock (1), Middlezoy (2), Moorlynch (3), Nether Stowey (3), North Petherton (7), Moorland (1), North Newton (1), Othery (2), Over Stowey (1), Pawlett (2), Puriton (3), Shapwick (2), Stockland (1), Stawell (1), Spaxton (5), Stogursey (2), Stoke St Gregory (3), Stolford (1), Westonzoyland (3), Woolavington (2), Watchfield (1)
Rob Fitzhugh and Will Loudon
More Bygone Bridgwater and the Villages
Published in Coventry by Avalon Press in 1989
Fitzhugh and Loudon’s second volume of 250 picture postcards of the towns and villages, dating to around 1900. A wonderful collection of images of the late Victorian and Edwardian town, including sections on ‘the town’, ‘earning a living’, ‘special occasions’ and ‘the river, docks and waterways’. The villages included are Ashcott (3 images), Athelney (4), Bawdrip (1), Burtle (1), Burton (1), Burrowbridge (2), Cannington (4), Catcott (2), Chedzoy (1), Combwich (1), Cossington (2), Dunball (2), Durston (2), Enmore (1), Fiddington (1), Goathurst (1), Huntworth Gate (1), Huntspill (6), Knowle (1), Lilstock (2), East Lyng (2), Meare (1), Middlezoy (3), Moorlynch (1), Nether Stowey (3), North Curry (3), North Petherton (8), North Newton (1), Othery (4), Over Stowey (1), Pawlett (2), Puriton (3), Shapwick (1), Spaxton (2), Stogursey (2), Stoke St Gregory (3), Stawell (3), the Levels (6), Thurloxton (2), Westonzoyland (6), Walford Cross (2), Woolavington (3)
J. D. Harrison
The Bridgwater Railway
Published in Witney by the Oakwood Press in 1990
A wonderfully detailed history of the Bridgwater branch of the Somerset and Dorset Railway. Includes a description of the railways inception, operation and even the proposals for a railway through Stogursey to Stowey. Also includes a description of the line, reminiscences by Will Locke and the railway’s eventual demise. There are lots of excellent pictures and diagrams.
Bridgwater History and Guide
Published in Stroud by Phoenix in 1992
A go-to and very authoritative history of the town from 1200 to 1992. Also includes a pleasant walking tour of the town centre. Although this is largely an unreferenced edition of the history of the town contained within the Victoria County History, this is much more accessible and contains some very interesting and otherwise unavailable illustrations. Examples include Penel Orlieu in 1850, St Mary’s before the Victorian restorations, the St John’s Hospital window, the Watergate in 1792, the Concrete Castle, Barham’s Brickyard, Holy Trinity Church and the original plans for St John’s Church, including a spire.
Bob Dunning, editor
A History of the County of Somerset, Volume 6: Bridgwater and Neighbouring Parishes
Published in Oxford for the Institute of Historical Research in 1992
This is a thoroughly comprehensive history of Bridgwater and all the nearby settlements, large and small. This is a go-to text not only for Bridgwater, Cannington, North Petherton and Stogursey but for all the small villages and hamlets in between, including those in the parishes of Wembdon, Thurloxton, Pawlett, Chilton Trinity, Over Stowey, Nether Stowey, Spaxton, Stockland Bristol, Otterhampton, Enmore and many others.
Although much of the material is available freely online, this volume is much easier to browse and contains some excellent pictures.
Bridgwater and the River Parrett in Old Photographs
Published in Stroud by Sutton in 1993
A wonderful collection of photographs of the River Parrett, its shipping, the various bridges and the Bridgwater Docks. Includes sections on Brean Down, Burnham on Sea, Highbridge, Combwich, Dunball and Langport. An absolute must for the commercial and industrial history of the area, but also for anyone with ancestors connected to the river.
Bridgwater with and without the ‘E’
Published in Bridgwater in 1994
Roger Evans is Bridgwater’s foremost storyteller and prolific writer on the history of the area. His works are wonderfully accessible, being lively, engaging and fast paced. Evans neatly summaries the early history of the town, but is most fascinating when recounting the recent history of the town and its inhabitants. This book is especially valuable for its chapters on the other ‘Bridgewaters’ around the world, as well as its notes on the Bridgwater dialect.
By Waterway to Taunton: a history of the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal and the River Tone navigation
Published in Tiverton by Somerset Books in 1994
An extensive and comprehensive history of the canal, lavishly illustrated and expertly written. Contains chapters on the River Tone, the Somerset canals between 1768 and 1828, the creation of the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal, its subsequent history, the Bridgwater Docks, two chapters on life on the waterways, the battle with the railway, the decline of the canal and its restoration. Contains many interesting maps and diagrams. A must for anyone who has ancestors who worked on the waterways.
The Blake Museum
Published in Stroud by Chalford in 1998
The first collection of archive photographs from the museum to be published. Contains sections on general town views, ‘from Penel Orlieu to Eastover’, ‘Riverside to Castle Street’, ‘Around West Street’, ‘On the River’, ‘Keeping the Faith’, school photographs, working activities, sports and leisure, ‘markets and fairs’ and ‘pageant and parades’. Some of the street scenes are republished from Squibbs, although these are complimented by many other pictures from later times. The group photographs, social, work and leisure pictures are entirely unpublished elsewhere. There are excellent sections on the West Street Courts, carnival and the brick and tile industry.
James Crowden and Pauline Rook
Bridgwater: the Parrett’s Mouth
Published in Bridgport by Agre in 2000 (but printed in Bridgwater’s Bigwood and Staples)
A poetry, photography and history book published to mark the millennium. A wonderfully odd sort of book, most valuable for recording a lot of modern history and even individuals. Highlights include a picture of the Wesleyan Street Chapel full of mattresses and Thompson’s Ironmongers.
The Blake Museum
Bridgwater: The Second Selection
Published in Stroud by Tempus in 2001
The second photographic selection published by the town’s museum. Contains sections on the 1950s and 1960s redevelopments in the town, businesses and shops, work, school groups, skittles and sports, theatrical groups, carnival, special occasions and country life. For the town this has very valuable pictures of the demolition of parts of Victorian Bridgwater for the social life there are many individuals and events recorded. Unlike the first volume, these are all unpublished photographs and now only available in this book.
Jack Lawrence and Chris Lawrence
A History of Bridgwater
Published in Stroud by Phillimore in 2005
Perhaps the best history of the town in publication. Thorough, comprehensive and engaging. Well illustrated. Most useful for medieval and early modern history, the later Victorian sections are briefer, although still very informative.
The Book of Bridgwater: Medieval Markets to Modern-Day Carnivals
Published in Tiverton by Halsgrove in 2006
Roger Evan’s second major history of Bridgwater, which incorporates material from previous town histories alongside many of Evan’s own reminiscences, which are the real value of this work. This is perfect as an accessible introduction to the history of the town, with many interesting pictures, some of which are not published elsewhere.