George Parker

Bridgwater Historian

George Parker was born on 6 July 1796, to parents George and Mary Parker. He was baptised in St Mary’s Church on 21 August that year. The 1841 census lists 45-year-old George as living in Dampiet Ward (an old name for Blake Street), his occupation given as a Custom House Officer. He seems to have been living with his 65-year-old mother, Mary Parker, a brewer. Also living there were Mary Little, a 30 year old living on independent means, and Charity Daniel(?) a domestic servant. We can be sure that this was Blake’s House as next door was a flour mill. We see a similar arrangement in the 1851 census, where mother Mary, still working as a brewer at 76, with George (a ‘Searcher of Customs’) and his sister Mary Anne and William Parker a ‘Sugar Planter’. A Jane Dyment was their general servant.

In 1853 George was elected Mayor of Bridgwater. By 1861 Dampiet Ward had been renamed Blake Street. That year’s census shows that Mary had died, meaning George was now head of the household. His occupation was given as ‘Alderman and Officer of Customs Superannuated’. His sister Mary Anne is described as a ‘Brewer and Malster’, having evidentially taken over her mother’s business. They had a house servant, Jane Gould. In 1865 George was elected Mayor of Bridgwater for 1866. His year in office saw an outbreak of Cattle Plague, for which he had to close the towns markets (Bristol Times and Mirror 19 December 1865).

The Somerset County Gazette of 18 May 1867 records George’s membership of ‘the Bridge Committee’, also known as the Bridgwater Conservative Association – at the time he was the oldest member of the committee. The same paper on 19 October that year also records his active support of the Bridgwater Infirmary, as vice chairman of the subscribers’ association. In 1871 we find George described as ‘Super annuated officer of customs waiter and searcher’. His sister Mary Anne is still a ‘Brewer and Malster’. They were joined in the house by Lilla Parker, their niece. An Emily Collard was their domestic servant. In the 1881 census George’s occupation is given as ‘Land Waiter of Customs’. Mary Anne was still living with him, along with Lilla Parker, their niece and their servant Mary Reed. George died in 1888, aged 92 years. He was buried in the Wembdon Road Cemetery on 26 July 1888.

The Weston Mercury reported on 4 August 1888: BRIDGWATER: DEATH OF MR GEORGE PARKER
Our obituary of this week contains an announcement of the death of Mr George Parker, at the advanced age of ninety-two years. The deceased gentleman was, we believe, the oldest inhabitant of the borough. as he was, undoubtedly-, one of the most deservedly esteemed and respected. Mr Parker was born in the year 1795,{sic. actually 1796] the same year as the recently demolished bridge over the Parrett was constructed and erected by the Coalbrookdale Company. He spent his boyhood days with his father, who carried on business in the shop now occupied by Mr Best, pawnbroker, in Fore-street. For some time he was officially connected with the Customs and on his retirement (occasioned by weakness of sight) was granted a small pension, which he has been in receipt of ever since. He was also for a time in business as a maltster and brewer, and at that period occupied the premises in Blake-street now in the possession of Mr E. Ware, veterinary surgeon. He was also owner of what are known as the ‘Town Mills’, in close proximity of Blake-house, the residence of the deceased for several years past, and historically a place of great interest as the birth-place of Admiral Blake. Mr Parker twice filled the place of mayor of the borough, and was also an alderman for several years, taking an active part generally in the affairs of the Corporation. For many years he was governor of Dr. Morgan’s school, and in conjunction with the late Mr Gabriel Poole was mainly instrumental in placing that school on a much better footing. He founded, about the year 1836, the Mount Infants’ school and was a very active supporter also of St. Mary’s Sunday-school. He was also as active promoter of the undertaking for the erection of Holy Trinity Church. Mr Parker was well-known as the author of a short ‘History of Bridgwater’, Which was published about twelve or fourteen years ago; a tale of West Somerset, entitled ‘Tom Balch’, and also as a writer of poems.

A sketch of Bridgwater and its neighbourhood; a poem. To which notes are added containing a history of the Siege of the town by Fairfax, and also the Battle of Sedgemoore .8vo., Bridgwater, 1854.

The ancient history of Bridgwater and its neighbourhood:also poems connected therewith.1st edit. 8vo., Bridgwater, 1877. 2nd edit., corrected. With photo, of St. Mary’s Church. 8vo., Bridgwater, 1877.

Tom Balch; an historical tale of West Somerset during Monmouth’s Rebellion; together with amusing and other poems, some of them in the Somersetshire dialect. Front. 8vo., Bridgwater, 1879.

Parker long lived at Blake House, now the Blake museum. Its grounds can be seen from the plan attached to the Sale particulars in 1926. The Mill cottage was added to the Museum in the 1960s

The Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society held their Annual Meeting in Bridgwater on August 7, 1877, and visited Blake House (ProcSANHS, vol 23, 1877, pp32-33):
The Members next visited the house of Admiral Blake, in Blake Street. On their arrival there, Mr. G. PARKER, its owner, explained to them that many years ago, in renovating the premises, he retained as much as possible of the old remains of the building, which spoke plainly of its authenticity. He showed the old kitchen, with an immense beam across the fire place, the kitchen seats, and where the window stood ; also a large square stone which was taken from a circular stone staircase. The Members were likewise shown an old corner cupboard, taken out of this kitchen, and which is now placed in a summer-cot at the end of a large garden. Mr. Parker also showed them his dining-room, where was the six-square ceiling, with the shields in the centre ; also a bold fluted chimney-piece, and other remains of the original building well preserved. On the table lay a deed, which he stated was a commemoration of the property of the mill, the earliest records of the town, he said, spoke of this mill. The owner in 1 709, as recorded in the deed, promised, upon certain conditions of agreement with the Corporation of Bridgwater, to convey in pipes water from the stream called the Durleigh stream, for the use of the inhabitants, to the High Cross, which stood on the Cornhill, to be repaid by the sale of the water. To encourage him the Corporation was to pay him £100; but when the deed was to be signed they refused.

MKP & Tony Woolrich November 2019