Bridgwater History Day 2017 will be November 11

Bridgwater people have always been proud of their town’s history whether it’s the first town to petition against the slave trade or the last battle on English soil. For the second year running the Bridgwater Arts Centre will be playing host to a day brimming with Bridgwater history.

History Day has been sponsored by Bridgwater Town Council, Bridgwater & District Civic Society and Bridgwater & Taunton College.

The event will be held on Saturday 11th November at the Bridgwater Art Centre from 10am until 4pm. There will be seven different speakers, films, photos, and displays and the event is free so people can stay for the day or drop in and out as they wish

Bridgwater ‘ghost pictures’ by Jim Goddard.

Programme of events.

10.00 Doors open, teas and coffees available. All day display by the Blake Museum

1030 Welcome & Intro Cllr Kathy Pearce (Deputy Leader of Bridgwater Town Council)

1040 Chris Sidaway “Some Historic Buildings of Bridgwater”

1120 Matt Smith ‘A Brief History of Bridgwater College’

1200 Richard Filler “The Bridgwater Workhouse”

1240-1300 lunch

Bridgwater ‘in the olden days’.

1300-1340 Sandy MaberleyParrett’s Mouth” a film

1340 Brian Smedley  “Bridgwater’s 1785 petition against the Slave Trade”

1420 Dave ChappleBridgwater’s Poll Tax Rebellion 1990”

1500 Yvette StaelensDon’t go kissing the girls at Bridgwater Fair’” Who were the folk? Discovering Bridgwater’s folk singers.

1540 Summary session Glen Burrows (Bridgwater & District Civic Society)

1600 close

This years speakers;-

Chris Sidaway

Chris Sidaway  has spent most of his life working in the arts and creative industries, first as a design consultant and then as a local authority Arts Officer. He has a life-long interest in local history and archaeology and has served as Chairman of the Bridgwater and District Archaeological Society and was Chairman of Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society. His principal interest is Historic Buildings and managed a Grade 1 Listed Building, Castle House in Taunton.

Matt Smith

Matt Smith – Matt Smith will provide a whistle-stop tour through the history of Bridgwater College, from its nineteenth-century roots as Bridgwater School of Art to its current incarnation with campuses in Bridgwater, Taunton, Cannington and Yeovil. Matt is Course Leader for History and Religious Studies at the College. He is also a member of the Historical Association.


Richard Filler has been a resident of Bridgwater since 1983. Originally from London. He has been involved in Carnival, Bridgwater Operatic Society, Acts, Youngsters Theatre Group and has a great interest in local history,working as a Self Employed Artist, Local Youth Worker, Community Education Worker and for over 25 years until retirement, as manager of The Enterprise Resource Centre (Northgate) a Day Centre for Adults with Learning Disabilities. Richard’s talk will be, a brief introduction of Bridgwater ‘early years’ poor provision,the conception of the workhouse and some of the people/events connected to it.

Sandy Maberley

Sandy Maberley is the artistic director and CEO of Theatre Melange,a former member of the Arts Council’s drama advisory panel and a trustee of the South West Heritage Trust. In 2017 she organised a project called ‘Out of the Mouth of the Parrett which was a collaboration with Somerset libraries that gave a vibrant  portrait of the riverside landscape and its communities. She will talk about that project and show the film

Brian Smedley

Brian Smedley is a local historian, musician, author and songwriter and currently the leader of Bridgwater Town Council. He has written booklets, articles,plays and websites about local history. On this occasion he unearths the truth behind Bridgwater’s claim to be the first town to petition against the Slave Trade in 1785

Dave Chapple

Dave Chapple is a Clevedonian who has lived in Bridgwater since 1987. A delivery postman for 38 years, he is now retired and currently Chair of Bridgwater and District Civic Society and Secretary of the local Trades Union Council. Dave published the local history book “Bridgwater 1924-1927:Class conflict in a Somerset town’. Dave is in the process of archiving and documenting the history of Bridgwater’s working class and will be talking about the 1990 Poll Tax rebellion.

Yvette Staelens

Yvette Staelens is a Senior Teaching Fellow at Bournemouth University, a Natural Voice Practitioner and founder Bridgwater’s Voice of the People Choir and Halsway Choir. She lectures and teaches internationally and her collaborative research, with Dr C J Bearman, into English folk singers can be freely accessed via a series of Folk Maps for Somerset, Gloucestershire and Hampshire. London based musician and folk song collector Cecil Sharp visited Bridgwater in the early 1900s and amongst the hobblers, housewives, children and brickyard workers he discovered some of Somerset’s greatest folk singers. He wrote down their songs and sometimes took their photos.  Come and find out if you have a singing ancestor.

Kathy Pearce

Kathy Pearce is the Deputy Leader of Bridgwater Town Council and a Sedgemoor District Councillor for the Westover ward. Born and bred in the town she has worked at ROF and for Somerset County Council children’s services and is now a self employed gardener.

Glen Burrows

Glen Burrows is a member of the Civic Society, the Senior Citizens Forum, UNITE Community and Bridgwater Trades Union Council. She has worked in education and on the railways and has lived in Bridgwater since 1983.

For history addicts don’t forget the ‘Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich’ event at the Engine Room on Monday 30th October. Look here.