Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Bridgewater

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Arms of Bridgewater.

BRIDGEWATER, a municipal (and formerly a parliamentary) borough and seaport in Somersetshire, on the Great Western Railway, 29 miles S,S.W. of Bristol. It is pleasantly situated in a level and well-wooded country, having on the east the Mendip range and on the west the Quantock hills. The town, which is well built, lies along both sides of the River Parret, here crossed by a handsome iron bridge. It has an ancient Gothic church with a spire 174 feet in height, a town-hall, court-rooms, a jail, a market-place, an infirm ary, a free grammar school, and some alms-houses. The river, which is subject to a bore, often two fathoms -deep at the mouth, is navigable for vessels of 700 tons up to the town. The customs duties in 1874 were 7227. The chief imports are grain, coals, wine, hemp, tallow, and timber ; the exports, agricultural produce, earthenware, cement, plaster of Paris, and bath- bricks, which last constitute the staple trade of the town. The value of the imports in 1874 was 118,509, and of the exports 5011. The town returned two members to parliament till 1870, when the borough was disfranchised. Population in 1871, 10,259. Bridgewater is said to derive its name, which appears in earlier times as Brugge Walter, from a certain Walter de Douay, to whom the manor was presented at the Conquest. In the reign of Henry II. a splendid castle was built and a harbour constructed by William deBriwere; and in 1230 a Grey-Friars monastery was founded by his son. The castle was taken by the Royalists in 1643, and was almost completely demolished after its capture by the Parliamentary forces in 1645. Admiral Blake was a native of Bridgewater.