The market town of Bridgwater has a colourful past that is reflected in its many historic buildings and brought brilliantly to life through the tradition of its extraordinary annual illuminated carnival procession – the largest in Europe.
Sitting on the tidal river Parrett - between the Mendip and Quantock Hills and on the edge of the Somerset Levels - the earliest evidence of human activity here was the discovery of thousands of worked flints indicating a ‘factory’ site from around 6800 BC. This vein of productivity has run through the town ever since and it retains a reputation for manufacturing even today.
In the 11th century it was a modest farming and fishing settlement called Bruge. Given by William the Conqueror to Walter de Douai it became known as Bruge de Walter and later Bridgwater. Large parts of the centre and the docks now form a Conservation Area.
Alfred the Great, whose defeat of the Vikings we commemorate on May 11th Somerset Day, is said to have burnt cakes while hiding in the marshes outside Bridgwater and the last battle to be fought on English soil – the Battle of Sedgemoor - took place at nearby Westonzoyland.
As would be expected in a town with so much history there are plenty of places to visit including the unusually shaped St Mary’s Church; the Blake Museum; Bridgwater Arts Centre – the first in the country; Somerset Brick and Tile Museum; the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal and the Docks. With its fiercely independent character, it is also no surprise to find the town has a number of individual shops and cafes in which to while away the time.
As the dominance of water transport has given way to road, Bridgwater continues to be well placed as it is between two junctions of the M5 motorway and on a main rail link.
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