The Bridgwater Alfred

The Bridgwater Alfred

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.


Volume 1, number 1: Wednesday 10 August 1831 – introductory editorials, advert for the new London and Bridgwater Shipping Company, details results of the Somerset Assizes.

Volume 1, number 2: Monday 15 August 1831 -report on the Somerset Assizes, death notices of George Rich of Bridgwater and James Hurford of Dunwear.

Volume 1, number 3: Monday 22 August 1831

Volume 1, number 4, Monday 29 August 1831

Volume 1, number 5, Monday 5 September 1831

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 7, Monday 19 September 1831

Volume 1, number 8, Monday 26 September 1831 – includes a description of the launch of a ship, the Britannia; theft from Manchip the baker by Isaac Harrison; Rev. John Poole robbed by an armed man on his way to Enmore; Criddle’s Cooperage in St Mary Street; Hamp Farm, late run by John Knight, to be let; Eastover foundry of Brown, Watson and Murch dissolved and reformed as Nias and Watson; Murch sets up in Clare Street.

Volume 1, number 9, Monday 3 October 1831

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 13, Monday 31 October 1831

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.

Volume 1, number 43, Monday 28 May 1832 – Mention of burning an effigy of the Duke of Wellington in either Bridgwater or Taunton; a poem on Ferdinandea Island by ‘C’ and notes on the shipping list.

Volume 1, number 44, Monday 4 June 1832 – King’s Birthday Celebration display by the Bridgwater and Stowey Yeomanry, Inquest on the death of Thomas Drew, found drowned at Penny’s Hook, Dinner of the ‘Mayor of Eastover’, Vestry concerning galleries in the church.

Volume 1, number 45, Monday 11 June 1832 – Account of the Annual Examinations in the King Square Grammar School.

Volume 1, number 46, Monday 18 June 1832 – Addresses to the Electors of West Somerset by Tory MPs.

Volume 1, number 47, Monday 25 June 1832 – Inquest of William Wippell of the Bristol Arms, Highway Robbery at North Petherton, Annual Ball at Stowey.

Volume 1, number 48, Monday 2 July 1832 – Auction of property in St Mary Street including the Crown Inn, Editorial critiquing the Whigs’ agents in Bridgwater for hypocrisy concerning slavery.

Volume 1, number 49, Monday 9 July 1832 – Meeting in the town to react to an assassination attempt on William IV, reports on political campaign meetings, report on the injury of a man named Hodges and the need to amputate his leg.

Volume 1, number 50, Monday 16 July 1832 – mention of the EUPHROSYNE to sail to Canada and the auction of Mrs Coles of Cannington. The local news section given over to political adverts.

Volume 1, number 51, Monday 23 July 1832 – mostly political editorials, a poem contributed by ‘C’ entitled ‘Lisetta, the Betrothed’.

Volume 1, number 52, Monday 30 July 1832 – Mention of the West Somerset Archers meeting at Maunsel House, inquests of Elizabeth Prior, George & John Bloaden and the death of Ann Symes of Sydenham Farm.

Volume 2, number 53, Monday 6 August 1832 – Letter from Jonathan Toogood regarding the possibility of Cholera and recommended treatments. Also ridicule of Dr Kingslake for dancing in the street in Taunton.

Volume 2, number 54, Monday 13 August 1832 – Reaction to Toogood’s Cholera instructions, description of Weston super Mare, fossils and geology of the Polden Hills, James Evans builder of the Quay advertisement, notice of Miss Tratt’s ‘Seminary’ in Blake Street.

Volume 2, number 55, Monday 20 August 1832 – Cholera at Taunton, Bridgwater Races, Poem by C ‘the Picture’.

Volume 2, number 56, Monday 27 August 1832 – Results of the Bridgwater Races, Infirmary Report, Somerset Assizes Verdicts, Thomas Wodward complains of vagrants.

Volume 2, number 57, Monday 3 September 1832 – subscription advertisement for Phelps’ History of Somersetshire, detailed report on the reopening of Ashcott Church.

Volume 2, number 58, Monday 10 September 1832 – 19th Anniversary Meeting of the Bridgwater Hospital, Petition to set up a Mendicity society, discussion on Somerset Natural History, auction of the goods of Thomas Leigh of Combwich.

Volume 2, number 59, Monday 17 September 1832 – Extensive report on the 19th Anniversary Meeting of the Infirmary. Evidence of Vincent Stuckey on banking in Somerset.

Volume 2, number 60, Monday 24 September 1832 – Auction of Mrs Cooze Castle Street interiors – Auction of Cossington Manor’s interiors – Bridgwater Turnpike Tolls to be let – inquest of the body of a drowned mariner found at Steart – Poem contributed by C – precauctions against Cholera at St Matthew’s Fair.