The second half of the twentieth century has seen a more rapid change in the manufacturing base than any other period. The wicker works have gone, the brickyards have closed, Barham’s firing the kiln for the last time in 1965. The Somerset and Dorset Railway closed its Bridgwater link in 1952.
Starkey, Knight and Ford closed their Northgate brewery in 1964, which was also the year that traffic wardens arrived. In 1971, the docks closed. It was also in this period that, in 1974, the old Bridgwater Borough Council disappeared under local government reorganisation.
It was a period during which the Cellophane plant went into decline, especially in the 1980s and 1990s during which time the workforce declined from 2,500 to 250. At the same time new businesses arrived; Bonded Fibre Fabrics opened in 1951 and the Quantock Preserving Company, now Gerber Foods, has seen huge growth. Undoubtedly there were many businesses which stayed away from the town, taking their manufacturing bases elsewhere, because of the “Bridgwater smell”. Hopefully the recent closure of the Cellophane plant will bring its own silver lining as businesses prove less reluctant to base themselves here.
Text Copyright © 2008 Roger Evans