The Spelling of Bridgwater

This list, charting all the known ways of spelling Bridgwater, is a work in progress, with additional entries to be added and earliest and latest dates to be changed as more evidence comes to light. The end of the published Bridgwater Borough Archives in 1485 limits the exploration in the early modern period, but more information will be added as we find it. Please get in contact if you have any to add. Also see the Street Names Project here.

The initial findings indicate that the common argument over the number of ‘e’s in the spelling of Bridgwater seems to be as old as the town itself (we sometimes even see a third ‘e’ added at the end!). Although the first instance ‘Brugie’ has the middle ‘e’, we find ‘Brug’ by1234, and the compound with Walter seems to have used or not used the middle ‘e’ with little consistency over the middle ages. As such the notion that the dropping of the ‘e’ was something of the nineteenth century is incorrect. What is correct though is the favouring of Bridgwater over Bridgewater, which had previously been interchangeable.

What this survey does indicate is the surprising long survival of the ‘l’ in Walter, and the equally surprising late introduction of the ‘d’ in bridge, which seems to first occur in the sixteenth century. The first use of the modern settled spelling seems to be in 1666, although older instances may yet be found. In the local West Country accent the name ‘Walter’ was usually pronounced Water (Walter Raleigh was mocked for this for example), so it is perhaps unsurprising that the ‘l’ was eventually forgotten.

The Spelling of Bridgwater in Domesday.
Bridgwater in the Domesday book.
Year First UsedNameSourceLast Known UseSource and Notes
1086BrugieDomesday, Somerset Folio 19Same Document
1178BrugisPipe Roll Society vol.28 p.71Same Document
1200Bruge WalterCharter Manuscript Blake Museum. Original Charter Lost. Dilks' transcription is from the 1318 Town Charter1310BBA no.66
1234BrugLiber feodorum. The book of fees, commonly called Testa de Nevill, reformed from the earliest MSS (1920)Same Document
1245BrugesBBA no.31367BBA no.238
1260Bruges WalterBBA no.8 Two words later become one.1345BBA no.141
1267BruggewaterBBA no.91476BBA no.942. *up to end of published BBA. May be in use later. One of the more common spellings, especially fourteenth century.
1295BruggewauterBBA no.381385BBA no.405
1298BrugewaterBBA no.431485*BBA no.1069. *up to end of published BBA. Probably in use later.
1299BruggeswalterBBA no.47Same Document
1315BriggewauterBBA no.73Same Document
1317BreggewaterBBA no.801474BBA no.930.
1322BrugewauterBBA no.93Same Document
1325BriggewaterBBA no.1021484/5*BBA no.1071. *up to end of published BBA. Probably in use later. The most common spelling in the fifteenth century. In 1355 spelt with the genitive 'i' suggesting it is still considered a posessive name (BBA no.176)
1350BrugiswalterBBA no.158Same Document
1342BrugwalterBBA no.132Same Document
1352BriggwalterBBA no.162Same Document
1352BriggewalterBBA no.1621479BBA no.965
1360BryggewaterBBA no.190 Sometimes split into two words.1483*BBA no.1053. *up to end of published BBA. Probably in use later.
1361BryghwauterBBA no.1941371BBA no.264
1362BruggewalterBBA no.1981409BBA no.546
1362BryggewalterBBA no.200Same Document
1371BruggeBBA no.2661400BBA no.508
1372BriggeBBA no.2691442BBA no.712
1373BruggBAA no.2831400BBA no. 966 *up to end of BBA, so there may be later usages of this spelling.
1379BruggesBAA no.333Same Document
1380BrugwaterBAA no.3391475BBA no.940. *up to end of published BBA. May be in use later.
1380BriggeBBA no.3521444BBA no.719
1380BruggewatereBBA no.3421397BAA no.484
1400BrygwaterBBA no.505Same Document
1400BrigwaterBBA no.5061479*BBA no. 966 *up to end of BBA, so there may be later usages of this spelling.
1402BriggewatereBBA no.515Same Document
1403*BrudgwaterreBBA no.524 - A forgery. Spelling probably late 16th or early 17th centurySame Document
1420BrugwatereBBA no.599Same Document
1448BryggwaterBBA no.1448Same Document
1452BriggewaltrBBA no.766Same Document
1460BrigewaterBBA no.815Same Document
1446BrigwatereBBA no.747Same Document
1447BriggwaterBBA no.7501473BBA no.919
1475BryggwatterBAA no.939Same Document
1476BregewaterBAA no.946Same Document
1476BruggyewareBAA no.946Same DocumentTwo spellings in the same document.
1477BruggwaterBBA no.950Same Document*up to end of BBA, so there may be later usages of this spelling.
1479BrigwaltereBAA no.964Same Document*up to end of BBA, so there may be later usages of this spelling. Otherwise this would be the last usages of the 'L' of Walter, along with BBA no.965
1555BridgewaterQueen Mary's Charter. Possibly 1466 and BBA no.844, but that's possibly a transcription error.Unofficially Still in UseAll Royal Charters use this spelling up to George III (1764). Used in Act of Parliament 1882. Still in use in the Latin motto on the Town Seal.
1605BrydgewaterCrown Revenues from Somerset & Dorset SRS (2012) p.105Same DocumentIn Early Modern England 'I' and 'Y' were largely interchangable.
1666BridgwaterTown FarthingStill in UseIn use in official capacity since then. Used in 1695, 1903 Acts of Parliament.

MKP 24 April 2022