The historic Bridgwater Arts Centre in historic Castle Street will be the scene once again for Bridgwater’s popular annual ‘History Day’ where several local historians will pick a topic from the town’s history and present it to an audience who not only get free entry but get a free lunch. Organiser, Town Council Leader Cllr Brian Smedley, says “Bridgwater people are justifiably proud of their history. This will be seventh history day we’ve run and with 7 speakers a year that’s 42 talks on Bridgwater History we’ve got through and always with a packed room. As usual there’ll be some historic food done for us by Purplespoon and this year there’s an additional ‘cider’ theme to the event. The Day runs from 1030 to 4pm and it’s free. Everyone’s welcome, our history belongs to all of us.”
Bridgwater History Day is organised by Bridgwater Town Council in conjunction with Bridgwater & Taunton College. This year the joint comperes of the event will be town council leader Brian Smedley .
1030 The event will be opened by Mayor of Bridgwater Cllr Liz Leavy
1035-1100 Marie Emmerson from Somerset Brick and Tile Museum will talk about ‘a year in the life of the Brick and Tile Museum’. Marie says “I’ll talk about what’s changed with regard to the running of it, what we’re aiming to achieve and what the future holds. I’ve got a few anecdotes to keep it light-hearted”
1105-1135 Jean Marriott – ‘My Tattooed Highwayman Ancestor’ . ‘Jean Marriot was born in Bridgwater, she is retired and has returned here after some years away. One of her interests is in family History and this talk is the result of some of her research.
1140-1210 Miles Kerr-Peterson will show a film ’The street names of Bridgwater’ These are the streets we walk down every day…but who knows why they’re called what they are?? Miles does.! His talk explores 800 years of the town’s history through its street names: from Horsepond Lane to Northgate Yard, via Penel Orlieu,, Horn Alley, Danger’s Ope and ‘Kiss Arse Causeway’. Miles Kerr-Peterson manages and co-edits the Bridgwater Heritage Group Website and is chair of the Friends of the Wembdon Road Cemetery. He is based in Glasgow and teaches for the University of Dundee.
1215-13.00 James Crowden will bring us an insight into the history of cider with his talk “Sparkling Cider and the evolution of Methode champenoise and the Cider Riots of 1763”. James was born and brought up in Devon but has lived in Somerset since 1986 and worked for 20 years as a casual farm worker, sheep shearing. lambing, forestry and cidermaking. He has written many books about the county including one on Bridgwater, one on the Somerset Levels and Moors and three books on Cider. The latest being Cider Country which charts the history of cider.
1300-1400 There will be a Medieval lunch provided by Lesley Gates from Purplespoon and at the same time a cider producer from Nettlecombe will be offering liquid refreshment.
1400-1425 Val Bannister will be talking about ‘Dr Jonathan Toogood (and Bridgwater Infirmary)’. Val Bannister is a lifelong education enthusiast. Her working life split between working with delinquent teenage lads and, after taking a law degree at University of Kent in her mid-50s, editing a Liability Law journal for Lloyds (working with real “delinquents”, lawyers and insurance brokers!). After retirement she took a clutch of A-levels, then a History, Heritage and Archaeology degree.
1430-1450 A film by Tony Woolrich “The Painted windows of St Mary’s Church’ . Tony is website co-ordinator for the Bridgwater Heritage Group and a Wikipedia moderator.
1455-1525 Matthew Smith, college history lecturer, will present ‘Guess Who Came to Dinner? The CIAM Conference of 1947’ . Matt will tell us about the time Bridgwater Arts Centre played host to some most unexpected guests, in the form of the world’s leading architects. Matthew is Course Leader for History, Religious Studies, and Geography at Bridgwater and Taunton College, as well as a member of the Historical Association. He has previously given talks on the history of the College, and the unusual life and strange death of Donald Crowhurst.
1530-1600 Chris Sidaway will finish the day with his talk “THE OLD VICARAGE – The story of a Medieval Vicarage “. Chris had a career as design consultant and then local government arts administrator but has had a parallel amateur career as a local historian and archaeologist. During his time as an Arts Officer, he contributed to setting up the River Parrett Trail and came up with the concept of the Coleridge Way both of which are promoted heritage walking trails.
Cllr Smedley adds “2022 was another historic year for Bridgwater as the Town Council also produced a history themed ‘visitors guide’ and we have hung out flags throughout the town depicting historical characters and events from our past. You can use the guidebook to follow them and get a further insight into the towns fascinating story. The guidebooks are free and available from Town Hall reception and of course at History Day”
Also, in the historic rooms of the historic Bridgwater Arts Centre on Historic History Day will be a stall by the Blake Museum, another by the civic society and one by local historian Dave Chapple.