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Bridgwater: Personality, Place and the Built Environment

From its Anglo-Saxon origins to the 17th century

David Sivier
Publication Year:
228pp. Illustrated throughout in black and white with four colour plates
ISBN 10:
BAR number:


Bridgwater: Personality, Place and the Built Environment traces the history and development of the town of Bridgwater as a physical entity from its origins to 1700. This includes not only the physical layout of the town as a whole, but also the plan and structure of its individual plots and buildings. These have been reconstructed through the hundreds of leases from the medieval period and sixteenth and seventeenth centuries preserved in the town's archives. Although the area around Bridgwater was settled in prehistory and Roman times, Bridgwater itself first appeared in the early eleventh century. In contrast to previous histories of the town, the book shows that rather than being the village depicted in the Domesday survey, Bridgwaterwas founded as a bridgehead burh by its Anglo-Saxon lord, Maerleswein. It was later promoted to Anglo-Norman borough c. 1200 by the Devon magnate, William de Brewer, who added the castle and parks as part of a planned aristocratic landscape. The book places the settlement and development of the town within the context of the wider changes in the landscape of Somerset, such as the colonisation and drainage of the Levels, the expansion of road and river communications and the urbanisation of Europe from the tenth century onwards. It also examines the effect of the late medieval urban crisis and the Reformation on the physical structure of the town.