Saint Mary’s Church Bridgwater in Medieval Times

Saint Mary’s church Bridgwater in medieval times

By Jonathan Conibere, Frances Pearce & Tony Woolrich, 2005

This paper is based on the research done in the late 1970s for an exhibition of church history which was held during 1980. It was published as a pamphlet in 2005 as part of the reordering effort then, and is now updated to reflect changes to the building in the recent reordering. A number of new illustrations have been added.


The precise date of the founding of the Parish of Saint Mary’s is not known, nor its boundaries known with any degree of precision. The Borough records contain many references to money collected for church purposes in hamlets outside Bridgwater proper, and from these it is clear that Bridgwater parish included Horsey, East Bower, Dunwear, Hamp, Haygrove, West Bower and Chilton-in-the-Marsh, but since then sections have been formed into parishes in their own right. – Saint John’s, Holy Trinity and Saint Francis.

The parishioners had the right to worship in Saint Mary’s and in the middle ages to use it for secular purposes as well. The nave had no fixed pews then and the space was all used for all manner of non-church events, rather as a church hall is used today. Saint Mary’s seems to have been one of the few churches at this time to raise money for repairs and extensions by means of an annual rate on each household rather than by the more common way of holding a church ale. The medieval accounts for building the spire and also the medieval churchwardens’ accounts both contain entries for the sums collected by street wardens for Bridgwater proper, and wardens in the outlying hamlets.

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