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19th Century

Political Corruption

In 1754, George Bubb Doddington spent £3,400 trying to buy the Bridgwater electorate and described his experience as follows:All this trouble and vexation and expense flows from a set of low, worthless fellows….Spent these three days in an infamous an...
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Disenfranchised

In the May 1837 bye-election, the Tory candidate, Henry Broadwood, won by 279 to 221. Such was the national interest in this bye-election that the editor of the London Times chartered 15 relay horses, one at each end of a ten-mile stretch on the road...
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Advent of the Railway

As trade from the town increased, the traffic between Bridgwater and Bristol increased dramatically. The only way to Bristol at the start of the nineteenth century was via Bath Road, over Puriton Hill to Pawlett. Bristol Road didn’t exist but was i...
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Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway

In 1854 the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway company opened a line between Highbridge and Glastonbury. This line was extended to Burnham-on-Sea in 1858 and with a spur line down to Bridgwater from the newly created Edington Junction in 1890. The terminus...
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Utilities

By an Act of Parliament of 1834, Bridgwater was permitted to introduce gas lighting to the streets replacing the previous oil lamps which were lit by John Gillingham and his son.  The introduction of gas for street lighting brought the added benefit ...
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Bridgwater’s Regiment

Bridgwater was well served with the instruments of law and order. It had its own police force and regiment. During the years when Napoleon posed a threat, it was necessary for each district to have its own militia. In 1803, 20,000 men enrolled in the...
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The Borough Constabulary 1834-1940

It is hard to imagine that the town once had its own police force.  The old police station and gaol, established in 1834, were in Fore Street. The gaol had separate accommodation for men and women, overseen by James Bussell.  The town police force consisted o...
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The Bridgwater Workhouses

From 1770 to 1833 there had been a continuous programme of land improvement; draining the moors, raising river banks, improving navigation and enclosing agricultural land. It was land enclosure that led to thousands of agricultural workers being unemployed...
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The Brick and Tile Trade

For much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the brick and tile industry provided the financial backbone to the town. Local clay had long been used for making bricks as far back as mediaeval times, but it wasn’t until the end of the seventeenth c...
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The Brickyard Strike of 1896

In 1896, the industrial action came to a head when the entire workforce walked out in a prolonged strike which began when the union leader handed in a claim for an extra sixpence per day to Henry James Major. He refused to negotiate, adopting a position...
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Bath Brick

Despite its name, Bath Brick was a Bridgwater product. Anywhere the British army went, the Bath Brick went likewise. It started in 1820 when it was discovered that using silt from the river bank, bricks could be made which when scraped would produce...
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Wicker Products

Another one-time Bridgwater industry was basket-making using the local willows, or withies.  The industry was active throughout the nineteenth and well into the twentieth centuries.  There were many small basket-making cottages, based in private homes.  Fi...
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