Bridgwater, a Somerset market town, has a history dating back to "Domesday Book", and this long-awaited book traces the fascinating story of the settlement's development from those distant days to the Millennium. In 1200, a medieval feudal lord realised the value of Bridgwater's navigable river and bridge, and obtained licence to build a castle and a royal charter to create a borough. The compelling and entertaining narrative relates the histories of both castle and borough, along with that of the two religious houses, and the town's parish church. The growth and trade of the port, and use and maintenance of the bridge, are also detailed. By Tudor times Bridgwater had further charters, including one granting the town a mayor and corporation. The High Cross and Burgess Hall were also built at this time. Bridgwater was involved in many historic English conflicts: it was besieged during the Civil War, and both the Monmouth rebellion and the battle of Sedgemoor occurred just outside its boundaries. After 1685 the quays were rebuilt and enlarged, a new almshouse and assize hall were erected, and the Duke of Chandos built 'the finest Georgian street outside Bath'.
The Victorian era was one of progress: brick and tile manufacture replaced the wool and cloth trade, the railway arrived, a new town hall was built, the turnpikes were abolished and a floating harbour was created. However, the town was also beset by several scandals: a major cholera outbreak, criticism of the Dickensian care of workhouse inmates, and corrupt electoral practices, which led to Bridgwater being disfranchised. The last century, which saw advances in the public sector, ambitious house-building programmes implemented after both world wars, and continued advances in road transport, is covered in detail. The rapid decline of shipping and brick and tile manufacture after 1945 led to the local government changes of 1974 that resulted in Bridgwater becoming part of the Sedgemoor district and thereby losing some of its identity. This remarkably detailed book, enhanced by over 100 splendid illustrations, will appeal both to residents of Bridgwater, and local historians in general.