Visit to Bridgwater c.1540
John Leland is considered ‘the father of English local history‘ and recorded many observations from his travels. This account is adapted from E H Bates ‘Leland in Somersetshire 1540-1542’ Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society 1897 33:
From Northpedertun to Bridgewater 2. Miles. The way or I cam ynto Bridgwater was causid with Stone more than half a Myle.
Entering into Bridgwater I passid by a Chapelle of S. Salvior standing o the Ripe of the Haven.
Then I enterid into a Suburbe, and so over a Bridg, under the which rennith a Brook, that risith a 4. Miles of by West at Bromefelde.
The South Gate of the Towne joinith hard onto this Bridge.
The Towne of Bridgwater is not wallid, nor hath not beene by any lykelyhod that I saw. Yet there be 4. Gates yn the Towne namid as be sette by Est, West, North and South. The Waulles of the Stone Houses of the Toune by yn steede of the Towne Waulles. I rode from the South Gate yn a praty Streate a while, and then i Turnid by Est and came to Market Place.
The fairest Streate and the principale Showe of the Toune ys from the West Gate to the Easte Gate. The Ryer of Ivel there joynith with the Salt Cruke, and Arme of the Se rennithe cresse thorough this Strete from South to North and to pass over this Arme there is a right auncient stronge and high Bridge of stone of 3. Arches begon of William Bruer, the first Lord of that Towne, yn King Richard the first and King John’s Dayes.
One Triveth, a Gentilman, as I there lernid, of Devonshire or Cornewalle, finished this Bridge : and the Trivetes, beyng the Armes that Triveth gave, appere there in a Sheld yn the coping of the Chekes of the Bridge.
That part of the Towne that stondith on the West side of the Bridge and Haven is thre tymes as bygge as that that stondith on the Est side.
The Castelle sumtyme a right fair and strong Peace of Worke, but now al goyng to mere Ruine, standith harde bynethe the Bridge of the West side of the Haven. Wylliam Bruer the first buildid this Castelle.
These thinges I markid yn the Weste Parte of the Towne :
One large Paroch Chirch.
A goodly howse wher sumtyme a College was of Gray Freres.
Wylliam Bruer, sunne to Wylliam Bruer the first, buildid this House.
One of the Lordes Botreaux and his wife were especial Benefactors to this House, Thereapon his Hert and his Wifes Body were buryed there.
The Accustumer of Bridgwater hath translatid this Place to a right goodly and pleasaunt dwelling House.
There is an Hospitale yn this Parte of the Towne of the Building and Fundation of Menne yn the Towne; but it is endowed with litle or no Lande.
The Chapelle of S. Salviour at the South side withoute the Town was buildid in hominum memoria by a Merchaunt of Bridgewater cawllid William Poel or Pole.
In the Est Part of the Town is onely the House or late College of S. John a thing notable : and this House standith partely withoute the Est Gate.
This College has Prestes that had the Apparelle of Secular Prestes with a Crosse on there Breste: And this House was adjoynid an Hospital for poore folkes.
Wyllyam Bruer the first foundid this Place, and gave onto it faire Possessions.
Wyllyam Bruer the firste was buried at Dunkerswelle, an Abbay of White Monkes of his Fundation yn Devonshire.
Willyam Bruer the first Wife was buried at Montesfont, a Priorie of her husbandes Fundation.
There hath faullen in ruine and sore Decay above 200. Houses yn the Toun of Bridgwater in tyme of rememberaunce.
Dr Peter Cattermole 29 December 2010