A. Fullarton & Co.

The Parliamentary gazetteer of England and Wales, adapted to the most recent statistical arrangements, and lines of railroad and canal communication, with a complete county-atlas of England … maps of Wales, and an appendix, containing … the census of 1841.
Edinburgh, 1851.
4 vol. This extract is from Vol 1.
Some contraction in the text have been extended here, and some paragraphing been done

BRIDGEWATER, a sea-port, borough, market- town, and parish, locally situated in the hundred of North-Petherton, division and union of Bridgewater, county of Somerset; 139 miles west by south of London, and 11 north-north-east of Taunton, in the immediate vicinity of the Bristol and Exeter railway, which is carried across the river Parret, about 3/4 of a mile above the town by an arch of 100 feet span. The limits of the borough, for municipal purposes, are co-extensive with those of the parish. Its boundaries, for election purposes, which were much narrowed by a decision of the house of commons in 1769, are, by the boundary act, rendered nearly coterminous with the limits of the municipal borough.

Living, a vicarage, with the rectory of Chilton annexed, in the archdeaconry of Taunton, and diocese of Bath and Wells; valued at £11 7s. 6d., rated in the parliamentary returns at £110; gross income £354; in the patronage of the lord-chancellor. The church is an ancient Gothic structure, with a very lofty spire. It contains a fine altar-piece, taken from a French privateer, and presented to the parish by the Hon. A. Poulett. A new church has been built by the parliamentary commissioners, in the Gothic style, with porches, at an expense of £3,254. Sittings l,093. The Wesleyan Methodists, Independents, Baptists, Society of Friends, and Unitarians have places of worship here; the Independent church was formed in 1818; the Unitarian in 1688; the Baptist in 1600; and the Wesleyan Methodist in 1816. Here is a grammar-school, founded in 1561, and endowed with £16 13s. 4d. per annum, for which two boys are taught Greek and Latin. Here is also a free school for 30 scholars, founded and endowed in 1723 by Mr. John Morgan, in which the system of Dr. Bell is followed. In 1781, Mr. Edward Fackerell founded and endowed a school here, to which, by a decree of the court of chancery, his own relatives only are admit- ted; these are now 30 in number, and the annual revenue is about £174. There are also in this borough 13 daily schools, 5 Sunday schools, 4 of which have lending libraries attached, and a day and Sunday school. John Gilbert, in 1731, bequeathed certain lands, which now produce £56 9s. l0d. per annum, this sum is expended in purchasing bread and cloth- ing for the poor. Other charities connected with the borough produce £86 per annum.

The town stands on the river Parret, over which is an iron bridge of one arch, erected on the site of an ancient stone structure. The greater part of the town is situated on the western side of tbe river, and contains some good streets, which are paved, lighted, and kept remarkably clean. By a local act -7° Geo. IV. -24 trustees are appointed for this purpose, who have power to make bye- laws, to employ watchmen, and to light the streets with gas. The power of lighting the town with gas has never been acted upon. It is in a prosperous state, the trade is improving, and considerable facilities have been afforded by the erection of new markets for the accommodation of the inhabitants. The market days are, Tuesday for corn and cattle, and Saturday for provisions. Fairs for cattle and all sorts of merchandise are held on the second Thursday in Lent, June 24th, October 2d and 3d, and December 28th. There is a branch of the West of England and South Wales district bank, and of Stuckey’s banking company, here. Bridgewater is a warehousing port, and possesses considerable trade; the river being navigable up to the town for vessels of 200 tons burden, and as far us Langport and Taunton for barges and boats. The number of vessels which entered inwards in 1832 was 2,089, and the amount of custom-duties for the year ending 5th July, 1833, was £6,878. The foreign trade with the United States, Canada, and the West Indies, consists in the importation of wine, hemp, tallow, and timber; but the greater part of the vessels are employed coast-wise; large quantities of coal are imported from Wales, and sent inland by a canal as far as Taunton. Bridgewater was constituted a free borough in 1200 by King John, and until the passing of the late municipal act, was governed under a charter granted by that monarch, but subsequently modified and enlarged by Edward III, Elizabeth, Charles II, and other monarchs. The corporation consisted of a mayor, recorder, two aldermen, two bailiffs or sheriffs, and other office-bearers. By the municipal act, this borough has been divided into two wards,- north and south,-to each of which 9 councillors have been assigned, who, with 6 aldermen and a mayor, compose the governing body. The quarter sessions tar the county are held at this place during the summer, and the county assizes once in every two years. There is a court of record or civil court, held every Monday in every week, before the mayor, recorder, and aldermen for the time being, or any three, two, or one of them, The jurisdiction of this court extends to all personal actions, and to any amount. Petty-sessions are generally held every Monday. The town has had a commission of the peace granted to it, and a court of quarter-sessions. The income of the town, in 1837, was £1,775. This borough has returned two members to parliament since the 23° Edward I. The right of election belonged formerly to the scot and lot paying inhabitants of a small part of the town, called ‘the borough;’ it was afterwards extended over the whole town. The electors were formerly about 460 in number; those registered under the new act in 1832, amounted to 484. Of these, 132 were registered as scot and lot voters; none as freemen. The mayor is the returning officer. The influence of the Poulett family formerly predominated here. Bridgewater is also a polling-place in the election of members for West Somerset.

Here are some alms- houses and a well-supported infirmary, founded in 1813. An eye dispensary was erected in 1834 by Mr. Torgood, surgeon, and is supported solely at his expense. Bridgewater was the birth-place of Admiral Blake. The Egerton family takes the title of Earl from Bridgewater. Pop., in 1801, 3,034; in 1831,7,807. Houses 1,400. Acres 3,580. A. P. £28,235. Poor rates, in 1837, £2,094 A work- house has been erected here, for the union of Bridge- water, by the poor-law commissioners, at an expense of £7,500, capable of accommodating 300 persons. The Bridgewater poor-law union comprehends 40 parishes, embracing an area of 133 square miles; with a population returned, in 1831, at 28,566. The average annual expenditure on the poor of this district, during the three years preceding the formation of the union, was £13,387. Expenditure, in 1838, £10,401.

The name appears in ancient records to have been formerly spelt Burgh-Walter, or Brugg-Walter, and is thought to imply that it was the burgh of Walter de Douay, a follower of William the Conqueror. In the reign of Henry II. it reverted to William de Briwere, who built a castle of great size and strength here. He also founded an hospital, the revenue of which, at the dissolution, was valued at £121. In the parliamentary war, this place declared itself for the king, and, in consequence, was besieged and taken by General Fairfax, who demolished the castle.

Transcribed by Tony Woolrich.