The Alfred London Weekly Journal and Bridgwater and Somersetshire General Advertiser (for shorthand the ‘Bridgwater Alfred’) was a political newspaper established by John Bowen, primarily as a vehicle for his anti-reform Bill efforts. Even for his own day, Bowen was an old-fashioned Tory, opposed to electoral reform: Philip J. Squibbs describes him of ‘truculent disposition’. However, while distrusting what he saw as mob rule, he could be fiercely critical of authority, especially in regard to the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act. Despite the surly disposition that comes across in his writing, he was very highly respected in Bridgwater and even after a mob attached him in 1832, he held a peace summit afterwards. Isabella Metford later recalled: “I believe it was after this election in 1832, a hotly contested one, that John Bowen invited the most respected leaders of both sides (many of them previously old friends of different opinion) to a summer evening gathering at his house for the purpose of re-forming ties somewhat loosened by the recent conflict. My uncle Thomas Clark (a great friend of John Bowen’s) said that ‘Bowen’s the only man in Bridgwater who could have done it’ and that it was a complete success.”
In Bowen’s own words:
In the progress of that change in the pursuits of the people which is called the March of Intellect, our little town like most others had a local Newspaper, a low, radical affair generally unprincipled in its tone and matter as such working considerable mischief among its ill informed readers. Believing that a local periodical may be made an instrument of good instead of evil, I aided in purchasing this nuisance and re-establishing the Bridgewater Herald on other principals which may be referred to in the Prospectus attached. I did not become its actual Editor but I contributed in the form of Editorial leaders and otherwise the various Articles to which you will find my signature.
The defeat of the Wellington administration, the death of George the fourth and the revolution in France all served to unsettle public opinion and it became but too evident that a new order of things was approaching. From that time my humble efforts were employed in my own confined sphere in advocating such principles, and forwarding such interests as I honestly believed to be conducive to the public Welfare…
The Bridgwater Herald being too exclusively confined to local Politics an arrangement was made with the Proprietors of the London Alfred a new Conservative Journal just started and conducted with consummate ability for a portion of their impressions with the advertisement part of their pages left blank to be filled up at Bridgwater with local matter. Thus the “Bridgwater Alfred” was started with the advantage of being a full London Weekly Newspaper, in addition to local intelligence and original Articles…..
As indicated by Bowen above, the Alfred is national, even international, in its outlook, and does not deal much with local matters. In terms of local history, the most useful material will come in the form of shipping news, court results and the private advertisements, especially for property. It was essentially a product of Conservative HQ, written and edited there, and sent out as stereotype plates, which had holes left in which the local printer might add his bit. In other words there are probably virtually identical papers out there at that date but with different titles.
The Bridgwater Heritage Group have digitised a microfilm of the paper covering the period 1831 to December 1832. The paper ran for another year to December 1833. We hope to publish at least one issue each week, so check back regularly.
MKP & TW
Volume 1, number 6, Monday 12 September 1831 – includes notes on the Coronation celebrations for William IV, including the launch of a ship. Also note of a Lion eating the arm of its keeper at Bridgwater Fair.
Volume 1, number 8, Monday 26 September 1831 – includes a description of the launch of a ship, the Britannia.
Volume 1, number 10, Monday 10 October 1831 includes a mention of J.R.Poole being appointed mayor of Bridgwater.
Volume 1, number 11, Monday 17 October 1831 – note of a lecture on ‘colonial slavery’ taking place.
Volume 1, number 12, Monday 24 October 1831 – mention of Bridgwater constables and their staffs of office.
Volume 1, number 14, Monday 7 November 1831 – reflections on the Bristol Riots
Volume 1, number 15, Monday 14 November 1831 – includes Dr Jonathan Toogood’s advice for treating Cholera and a meeting for Cholera precautions.
Volume 1, number 16, Monday 21 November 1831 – notice of a Cholera meeting in Taunton – notice on Bridgwater drains – the Alfred’s dispute with John Evered, Barrister, Chairman of the Bridgwater political Union and Captain of the West Somerset Yeomanry.
Volume 1, number 17, Monday 28 November 1831 – notice of the forming of a board of health in Bridgwater, and a subscription for the health of the poor (food, clothing bedding, ventilation, encouragement of temperance, etc), as a result of the ongoing Cholera outbreak.
Volume 1, number 18, Monday 5 December 1831 – Further news on the subscription – £50 allocated to buy blankets and rugs for the poor. Notice for householders to improve their drains. Political editorial attacking Unitarian schoolmasters. Death of a poor Irishman called McCarthy returning from Rio de Janeiro on his way to Bristol to sail to Ireland.
Volume 1, number 19, Monday 12 December 1831 – Mostly political editorials – small report on court decisions: convicted for being drunk and disorderly Charles Hare, George Hutchison, Thomas Perram, Samuel James accused of letting pig muck flow into Mount Lane, and William Morris convicted of stealing timber from James Taylor.
Volume 1, number 20, Monday 19 December 1831 – editorial attach on the ‘Bridgwater Political Union for Promotion Freedom of Election’ who were to meet in the George Inn, which makes mention that admittance was for members only, who bore a medal.
Volume 1, number 21, Monday 26 December 1831 – list of trustees appointed to the Bridgwater Turnpikes, letter and response regarding the laws of nature, science and the existence of a Creator.
Volume 1, number 22, Monday 2 January 1832 – report of a special session of the Justices of the borough and parish for the appointment of special constables. Mr John Webber Cross appointed general superintendent, Mr William Jones assistant superintendent. The town and parish then divided into five divisions and a superintendent is appointed for each.
Volume 1, number 23, Monday 9 January 1832 – Report of the Bridgwater Quarter Sessions
Volume 1, number 24, Monday 16 January 1832 – adverts for the sailing of the Euphrosyne from Bridgwater to Quebec, advert for property on Back Quay, note on the King Square Grammar School, inquest in the Town Hall.
Volume 1, number 25, Monday 23 January 1832 – accounts of the Bridgwater and North Somerset Savings Bank, bankruptcy sale of the property of Mr James Fisher, grocer.
Volume 1, number 26, Monday 30 January 1832 – J.Vale antiquarian bookdealer visit to Bridgwater, reflections on the execution of the Bristol Rioters.
Volume 1, number 27, Monday 6 February 1832 – Mrs Comer brings new dances from London; another ship, the Cybele, due for Quebec; reward offered for the apprehension of Francis Wride for blasting a gun through people’s windows.
Volume 1, number 28, Monday 13 February 1832 – Mostly political editorials. Mr Vale’s book sale ongoing.
Volume 1, number 29, Monday 20 February 1832 – Miss Rawlings to leave King’s Square School, Dwelling house for sale by the Fairfield.
Volume 1, number 30, Monday 27 February 1832 – drapery shop in St Mary Street, house to let in Friarn Place, complaint about traffic in Eastover, letter from a slave plantation overseer.
Volume 1, number 31, Monday 5 March 1832 – Chubb premises on Fore Street/Back Quay to let; inquest of William Gaynor.
Volume 1, number 32, Monday 12 March 1832 – Borough Boundary Changes, Geen & Southwood committed to gaol for stealing from Marshall.
Volume 1, number 33, Monday 19 March 1832 – A dentist to visit Bridgwater, Wares committeed for assaulting Lee, Snook thowing water over Denner, Poem supplied by C.C.
Volume 1, number 34, Monday 26 March 1832 – Comments on the Reform Bill, Convictions, Infirmary Report
Volume 1, number 35, Monday 2 April 1832 – Reports on the emigration to Quebec from Bridgwater on 29 March. Sailed the EUPHROSYNE with 208 passengers, the MEDUSA with 98 passengers and the CYBELE with 38 passengers. Detailed report of one hopeful emigrant becoming the victim of two con-artists, left drugged and robbed.
Volume 1, number 36, Monday 9 April 1832 – Reports on the Taunton Assizes.
Volume 1, number 37, Monday 16 April 1832 – Details from the Bridgwater Borough Sessions, mentions of BOND, NICHOLLS, MATTHEWS, HIGHSTONE and HUNT.
Volume 1, number 38, Monday 23 April 1832 – auction of ‘Cames’ Twelve Acres’, Wembdon; ‘Cree’ in Durleigh and ‘Great South Mead’ in Cannington, with other auctions. Inquest into the suicide of James Mansfield, carpenter. Death of John Kinsey of North Petherton.
Volume 1, number 39, Monday 30 April 1832 – Election of the Churchwardens of St Mary’s Church descends into party political chaos, and responses to written attacks on Bowen. Poem entitled ‘The Crisis’ by C. Report on the Infirmary.
Volume 1, number 40, Monday 7 May 1832 – Mrs Philipps’ fashionable dresses, William Lewington steals from Brown and Champion, Isaac Harrison steals Robert Crane’s trousers and inquest for toddler Ellen Bale.
Volume 1, number 41, Monday 14 May 1832 – Mrs Heard’s fashionable dresses. John Browne accused of corruption in his office of churchwarden, Inquest into the death of George Edolls.
Volume 1, number 42, Monday 21 May 1832 – Money allocated for a gallery in St Mary’s, and a drain in Eastover. Libel against Jonathan Toogood, Infirmary report.