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Bridgwater Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Bridgewater; Brugewaltii

In the civil parish of Bridgwater.
In the historic county of Somerset.
Modern Authority of Somerset.
1974 county of Somerset.

OS Map Grid Reference: ST29873717
Latitude 51.13009° Longitude -3.00199°

Bridgwater Castle has been described as a probable Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This is a Grade 2* listed building protected by law*.

Description

This was built by Wm. de Briwere, A.D.1202 (Parker 1856). It passed to the King A.D. 1233, and in 1245 repairs were ordered to its motte and towers (HKW). Parliamentary forces virtually levelled it in 1645 (Parker 1856).
The site is centred in the area of Chandos St. and Castle St.: King Square is on the site of the Bailey. There was a moat on three sides and the river Parrett on the fourth (east). Traces of the moat occur in the cellars of the buildings in Fore St, and to the north in the garden of 'The Lions' - (Club). Structural remains are fragmentary and consist, mainly, of an arch of The Water Gate (See ST 23 NE 55), adjoining No.12 West Quay, and part of the castle wall incorporated in the rear wall of No. 14, West Quay. (Dilks 1940). G. Parker (Parker 1878) recollects (c.1805), seeing foundations in an open area, now King's Square, and, to the north, a wide ditch known as the Bailey Ditch.
The only surviving remains of the Castle that can be identified with certainty are the Water Gate (ST 23 NE 55 at ST 2988 3721) and the remains of the Curtain Wall on either side of it; the latter now incorporated in the party walls of modern buildings. The fragment of wall, shown by the OS at ST 29883722, corresponds with the corner of the 'Castle Garden' shown on a plan of 1777 (Locke), and is unlikely to have been part of the curtain wall. A moat shown in the 18th century along the northern perimeter of the Castle grounds (Locke; Strachey) no longer survives, but it joined North Gate and seems to have been part of the Town Ditch (ST 23 NE 20). It is possible that the Town and the Castle defences were coincident at this point. The ruined keep shown on 18th century maps and prints at ST 29873717, in what is now the south-east corner of King Square (Locke; Strachey; Field Investigators Comments F1 GHP 12-OCT-64).
In 1972 a trench in Castle Street, ST 298371, showed footings of a slight stone wall inside the castle court-yard; 16th-17th century pottery was found. Excavation in May & Hassels Yard, ST 298373, on the north side of King Square, showed that the castle's curtain wall had been almost entirely removed; below its foundation level were at least 2 periods of bank with 14th century pottery, over-lying an occupation area with post-holes and 13th-14th century pottery; The moat was found to have been 22m wide and 8m deep. Excavation at the back of Westminster Bank, ST 297371, revealed a depression 6m deep and over 8m wide, which could have been the moat (Langdon, 1972.)
Various ditches and walls, possibly outwork parts of the castle, were recorded in a sewage trench along West Quay in 1973 (SANH 1977).
Excavations have identified the site of the castle and its moat. The moat was found to be at least 4m wide, 3m deep and backfilled in the C 18. A sluice barrier or weir possibly forming a bridge across the eastern end of the moat is present and was constructed at the same time as the castle. Parts of the north curtain wall and the northeast corner tower have been identified and excavated. The tower was 12m in diameter. The course of the curtain wall is reflected within the c 18 street layout, on the south side - along Queen Street and to the north Chandos Street. Observations in the C 19 and C 20 between Fore Street and Queen Street suggest the presence of the moat, as does the drop in the level south of Queen Street. the curtain wall and moat are separated by a 6m berm. Burials were located west of the tower, situated within the berm (ST 23 NE 66). The presence of the circular tower dates construction of the castle to the first quarter of the C 13. The castle probably had an inner and outer bailey with a gatehouse keep. A map of 1777 shows two circular towers marked as castle ruins, another map c 1730 shows a gatehouse keep. Documentary evidence indicates that the castle enclosure contained Mortemere's Hall, a camera, belltower, dovecote, stable and kitchen. The castle was taken during the Civil War in 1645 and later dismantled (Aston and Leech 1977; Ellis 1985; Croft 1988). (PastScape)

Castle wall, watergate and undercroft. C13. Red Wembdon sandstone rubble, some blue lias limestone to the wall, rubblestone and some Ham Hill stone to the arch; brick vaults, probably C18, to the rear in Bond Street. Approx 3.5m thick at the base, the wall at the junction of West Quay and Chandos Street is over 6m high - higher to the right - where the windows to the building to rear are above it. Within the base of the wall close to north of watergate are 2 vaults approx 2m high. The River Parrett formerly came right up to the wall. The watergate, approx 30m to the south, is set back between Nos 11 & 12 West Quay (qv). It has 3 segmental arches, the first has splayed outer jambs to an arch partly rebuilt with C19 brick, a chamfered inner arch and that to rear is rebated. In the space between the 2 outer arches is a recess to the right, possibly for a gatekeeper. Behind the wall, parallel to it, is a barrel-vaulted brick-lined C18 undercroft over 40m long and 10m wide formerly used as a bonded warehouse, giving the name to Bond Street. The rear wall of Nos 12-14 West Quay (qv) includes part of the castle wall. (Listed Building Report)

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. (Leland)

Occupied a large portion of the northen part of Bridgwater. If there was a motte, as reported in HKW, then presumable a castle stood here in the C12 before it was obtained by Brewer. The licence to crenellate granted in 1200 probably marks a period of major building by Brewer which may have included a great tower of some form. A possibly Tonbridge style gatehouse within the castle must be somewhat later in date though. The castle was described as ruinous in the C16 but may well have retained a fair amount of curtain wall. A new house was built within the walls in 1566, possibly incorporating older structures and possibly the older bailey building were removed. The castle was besieged in the C17 Civil War when additional defences were added, probably in the form of earthworks and these were removed after the Civil War but the medieval castle remains were more gradually dismantled over the next few centuries

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1200 June 6 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).

Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER       Listing   I. O. E.
Maps >
OS getamap   Streetmap   Old-Maps   Where's the path      
Data/Maps > 
Magic   V. O. B.   Geology   EarthTools   GeoHack  
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated on Saturday, March 29, 2014

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