Bridgwater visits Glastonbury (with side-trip to hospital) …
Bridgwater and District Civic Society members came for a walking tour of
Glastonbury on May 9, hosted by the Conservation Society.
We started at the Rural Life Museum, where John Brunsdon gave a short
history of the museum and the ancient Abbey Barn which houses it. Then
we progressed to the grounds of the Abbey House, where the highlight was
the view from its back garden, down through the Abbey ruins to St
From there we studied the architecture of the High Street before
entering the Assembly Rooms for a very interesting history presented by
Paul Branson. Even the people who work there stayed to listen, and they
said they would like to have recorded it!
During the return along Bere Lane to the Rural Life Museum,
unfortunately one of the visitors fell and had to be taken first to West
Mendip Hospital and then to Yeovil. Our emergency services, including
the quick reaction of our first-aider, John Brunsdon, mean that Ian
Sampson is now recovering at home in Bridgwater.
The remainder of us enjoyed tea and cakes at the museum café and a
short tour of the museum before returning home. It is fair to say that
apart from the mishap it was a successful and enjoyable event.
"Some beautiful buildings and the very impressive shop facades
interested us all," wrote Bernice Lashbrook, the Bridgwater and District
Civic Society's secretary.
Mr Sampson, she wrote, had broken the bridge of his nose and woke up
the next day with two shiners and swollen lips. He was not kept in
hospital. He had no recollection of the event other than that he was
getting short of breath but wanted to keep up the pace rather than
lagging too far behind. He blacked out and saw faces around him when he
came to. "We are pleased it was nothing more serious."
… And we find Bridgwater more colourful than we thought
A dozen from Glastonbury met up with about the same number from
Bridgwater Civic Society for "a little toddle around our old town", led
by Dr Peter Cattermole on June 14. Bridgwater was granted borough status
in a charter from King John in 1200. It had a church, castle, hospital
and friary. Much of its medieval street pattern survives today.
The tall, hollow spire standing on the squat tower of St Mary's
Church was begun in 1367 just after the Black Death killed half of
A huge castle dominated the town until the Civil War. The Roundheads
destroyed it in reprisal for the town's supporting the wrong side.
Today's Court Street, off Fore Street near the bridge, is a filled moat,
rising to where the castle stood.
Castle Street leads from the river to King Square, lined by fine
early Georgian houses that were a speculative building enterprise at the
time. They stand on the ruins of the castle. Under a manhole a few paces
up Castle Street from the river is an extant section of the castle
The triple-arch Water Gate is the most ancient structure in Bridgwater.
Dr Cattermole deplored its present state — a cluttered alleyway
sporting a blue plaque beside a derelict pub in West Quay — and urged
everyone to email their dismay to Cllr Kerry Rickards at Sedgemoor
council. [Footnote: John Brunsdon wrote to him; Mr Rickards is suitably
concerned but awaits new ownership.]
In Clare Street, another of the blue plaques put up in 2006--07 by
the society tells the story of Isolda Parewastel. Her intrepid
pilgrimage from Bridgwater to Jerusalem in 1365, and her imprisonment
and torture in Crusade reprisals, is well documented. She returned home
The High Street is enormously wide because the former shambles that
stood in the middle of it was pulled down 150 years ago.
32 Friarn Street was once the house of a rich merchant. Typically,
the outer walls show layers from different periods: stone foundations,
later brick on top, and so on. Peter admitted to special expertise on
this building, because it is his own.
Bridgwater, in keeping with its history, has an unusually high number
of Nonconformist chapels, including Baptist, Quaker and Wesleyan. The
oldest is the Unitarian chapel in Dampiet Street, with its shell hood
over the door and box pews. It was built in 1688, rebuilt in 1788 and
restored in 1988.
Here our hosts served up a fine tea before we returned to
Glastonbury, knowing a lot more than we did before about Bridgwater's
Dr Peter Cattermole, 1950–2015
We are sorry to report that Dr Peter Cattermole, a tireless champion of
Bridgwater's heritage, died in March 2015 at the age of just 65.
His doctorate was from Exeter in chemistry. He taught at Millfield
1974–76 and then became head of science at Winchester College — the
"legendary" head of science, according to the Wykehamist magazine. His
retirement home was at Shapwick. Among his manifold interests was the
Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust.
"In the passing of Dr Peter Cattermole, Bridgwater has lost its greatest
defender and supporter," says an insightful tribute on the Bridgwater
Heritage website, one
of the copious websites he founded and maintained.
As another claim to fame, Peter was a longtime user of the British-made
Acorn computers — the BBC Micro, the Archimedes and its successors —
and a subscriber to Archive magazine, edited
and published for that niche of the infotech world by the editor of this
Glastonbury Conservation Society website [that is, Jim Nagel].
(A namesake, Dr Peter John Cattermole who lives in Sheffield, is a
geologist who worked with NASA and is famous for his books about Mars