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Somerset Historic Environment Record

12419

Site Name: Bridgwater Castle, Bridgwater
Civil Parish: Bridgwater
Comprises:
PRN 11839Castle Watergate, Bridgwater
PRN 12471Castle Wall, King Square, Bridgwater
PRN 12472Castle Wall and undercroft, West Quay, Bridgwater
PRN 12473NE corner tower of castle and adjacent walls, West Quay, Bridgwater
PRN 12474Excavation (1972), Castle wall and moat, King Square, Bridgwater
PRN 12475Watching brief (1991-1994), Queen Street, Bridgwater
PRN 15615Evaluation (2002), Castle Moat, Bridgwater
PRN 15822Remains of Castle Wall, Bridgwater
PRN 16997Possible remains of castle wall, 10-14 Queen Street, Bridgwater
PRN 28154Watching brief (2008), Castle Street, Bridgwater
PRN 29690Early 18th century sewer, Castle Street, Bridgwater
PRN 30185Excavation (c. 1964), Post Office Yard, 27-28 Cornhill, Bridgwater
PRN 31463Early eighteenth-century brick making site, King Square, Bridgwater
PRN 32394Watching brief (2013), King's Place, Queen Street, Bridgwater
PRN 44995Watching brief and excavation (1988), King Square, Bridgwater
Grid Ref: ST 298 371 (ST 23 NE)
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Public access:

The public accessibility of this site is unknown but it should be visible from a public right of way. Please assume that the site is private property. (Only visible parts are along West Quay). [Information last updated on 16 December 2002]

Details:

The castle was built by William de Briwere (or Brewer) in AD 1202, It passed to the King in 1233 and in 1242 or 1245 repairs were ordered to its motte and towers. The site is centred in the area of Chandos St and Castle St. King Square is on the site of the bailey. There was a moat on three sides and the river Parrett on the east. Traces of the moat occur in the cellars of the buildings in Fore Street, and to the N in the garden of The Lions Club. See PRN 11839 for The Water Gate. Various excavations have taken place which have revealed the line of the castle wall, particularly on the northern side. See 12471 12472 12473 12474 15822. {1}

In 1972, the castle moat was located during building operations at ST 298 371. {6}

In 1972, excavations (PRN 12474) revealed the castle moat to have been 20m wide on the north side of the castle at ST 298 372 and to have followed the line of the small ditch shown on C18 maps. It was estimated that the base of the moat was at about 2.6m AOD and would have filled with water at high tide. An occupation level dating to the C12-14 was cut by the ditch on the north and to the south a cobbled floor, wall footings and post holes were sealed by the construction of the bank. The bank makeup contained pottery of C13 date. The ditch appeared to have been filled deliberately in three episodes. The first, dating to the late C17-early C18 comprised red clay and building debris. The second comprised more clay, building debris and household rubbish was tipped from the south in the mid to late C18. Finally the small ditch shown on C18 plans was filled with rubbish, glass slag and pottery wasters, probably in the late C18-early C19 when the King Square houses were built. {7}

The castle was sold by the crown in 1626 becoming owned 4 years later by Henry Harvey. He is reported to have converted an old gatehouse in to a mansion shortly after. Collinson says that this was in 1638 but this may be confusion with another house built by Harvey in that year as there was demolition work going on in 1634. The building is know from several maps and three late C18 illustrations, which show it in various stages of collapse and reveal medieval features within the stucture. Harvey's mansion faced the river and was probably entered via what is now Court Street. The castle's role in the Civil War, again appears to be a confusion by Collinsion who seems to apply contemporary descriptions of the town defences to the castle. The C17 descriptions describe the castle as being weak and having indifferent strength. Following the end of the war, the defences were slighted - specifically the new works - again suggesting that the castle was not seen as a significant defensive feature. Following purchase in 1721 by the Duke of Chandos the greater part was reported to have been demolished, probably associated with the construction of Castle Street in the 1720s which appears to have been designed to lead to Harvey's mansion, although later Chandos considered continuing the street through to the west. The final demolition preceded the construction of King Square from 1807. {8}

References:

1 Detailed records - Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division record card. Record ID: ST 23 NE 9 (1979) Location: HER files. HER digital source: 430.
2 Mention - Journal of the British Archaeological Association  12 (1856) (page 377)
3 Mention - Colvin, HM. The History of King's Works.  (1963), 576.
4 Mention - Dilks, TB. Bridgwater Castle and demesne towards the end of the fourteenth century. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History  86 (1940), 86-113 (page 100-101)
5 Mention - Parker, G. Bridgwater Castle. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History  23 (1877), 46-47
6 Mention - Anon. Bridgwater and District Archaeological Society Activities 1962 to Date.  (1972) Typescript list. Location: HER files under PRN 30214.
7 Excavation report - Langdon, M and Richardson, F. Castle Moat, King Square, Bridgwater: Excavation report. Bridgwater and District Archaeological Society Report  (1981), 23-48
8 Description - Kerr-Peterson, M. The end of Bridgwater castle. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History  156 (2012), 127-134. Copy available in Local Studies collection at Somerset Heritage Centre.

Record created in December 1982

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