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Bridgwater Bridge

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

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

OS Map Grid Reference: ST30043710
Latitude 51.12897° Longitude -3.00134°

Bridgwater Bridge has been described as a probable Fortified Bridge.

There are no visible remains.


Though there may have been an earlier bridge, the Town Bridge (SMR 12392), known as the Great Bridge by 1286, was built after 1200 at the behest of William Brewer, and may have lain slightly to the north of the present bridge (Anon, 1973). It was probably stone built. There was a bridge maintenance fund in the town in the 14th century, and extensive work was undertaken on it at the end of that century (Dunning & Siraut, 1992): it may have been entirely rebuilt, with the resulting three-arched bridge being the one which appears in engravings. The medieval bridges had houses on them, but these were removed by the end of the 18th century. The bridge was damaged several times in the medieval and post-medieval by the passage of military convoys and it was again repaired in 1532 and 1678. The Town Bridge was partially demolished in 1795 to make way for the cast-iron Coalbrookdale Bridge, but the piers remained. The iron bridge was itself replaced in 1883 by the heavy-duty cast-iron bridge still in use today. This modern bridge may lie slightly to the south of the original bridge line (Dunning & Siraut, 1992). (Gathercole 2001)

The first element of Bridgwater, commonly thought to refer to a bridge built by the Domesday lord Walter of Douai, is more likely to be derived either from the Old Norse bryggja, meaning a quay or jetty, or from the Old English brycg, a gang plank between ship and shore. The grant of pontage to William Brewer in 1200 indicates that a bridge either already existed or was planned. Brewer was later remembered as the builder of the bridge. In the later 13th century there was apparently a common fund to maintain the bridge, known by 1286 as the great bridge. Sir John Trivet gave 300 marks to rebuild the bridge in the 1390s, and work on it was in progress in 1399-1400. There were houses on both the old and the new bridge. In the 1480s tides and military vehicles damaged the bridge, which was repaired in 1532 and 1678. It was of stone, with three arches and cutwaters. By the end of the 18th century all the houses on it had been removed It proved difficult to demolish and its piers were still standing when the new bridge was constructed (VCH).
Charter granted by King Henry VII, 1486: "Furthermore we have granted that the said Mayor Bayliffs and Burgesses {of Bridgwater} and their Successors shall forever have and Receive for every Plough or Cart drawen or passing with Merchandizes or Gross wood over the Bridge of the Town or Burrough aforesaid One penny And the Money thereby arising to be applyed for and about the amending and fortefying the Bridge there from time to time and that it shall be Lawfull to them the said Mayor Bayliffs and Burgesses and their Successors to Cleanse Secure and amend the Banks and Walls of the Water within the Town or Burrough aforesaid Liberties and precincts thereof and the Rocks and Stones lying and being in the Bottom of the same water to draw from thence as often as it shall be necessary for the safe bringing and lying of Ships and other Vessells there and the same Stones to have and retain for the amending and repairing of the Bridge aforesaid and for paving the said Town or Burrough without any let molestation hindrance or Impediment of us our Heirs or Successors or of any other our Ministers whatsoever..." (Charters, Minutes etc., Record Keeping; (early C19) Available at Archives and Records at Somerset Heritage Centre. Reference: D/B/bw/2418). (Somerset HER)

The original bridge, according to William Worcestre had three arches and was 122ft long with a chapel on it. Surviving drawings indicate it was hump-backed but with no building present. In 1795 it was replaced by a single span iron bridge made at Coalbrookdale which was also replaced in 1883. (PastScape ref. Aston and Leech 1977)

The ryver of Ivel there joynith with the salt creeke, and arme of the se rennith crosse thorough this strete from south to north; and to passe over this arme there is a right auncient stronge and high bridge of stone of 3. arches begon of William Bruer, the first lord of that towne, yn King Richard the first and King John's dayes. (Leland)

The arms of the town show a 'castle' with three towers standing on a bridge; this probably does represent the castle rather than a lost gatehouse on the bridge. The evidence for the bridge being fortified are the suggestion the medieval had houses on it and these may have included a gatehouse.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:52

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