A Westover Rhapsody

Scenes from the ‘Congress of Westover’ 2009

It was like the Treaty of Versailles, the Congress of Vienna and ‘It’s a Knockout’ all rolled into one. Thinking back to those difficult negotiations back in 2009 when I faced the Duchess of Durleigh across the drawing boards of the late and unlamented Sedgemoor District Council while we arm wrestled over the boundaries of the new electoral wards for the town. This was how Westover was created. The Boundaries Commission was changing everything..again…to reflect population changes and community and none of us was going to get everything we wanted. So Westover was my idea. It was about time we reflected some of Bridgwater’s history in our warding system. Westover was the historical name for ‘this side of the river’ to balance Eastover on ‘the other side’. Basically it would be the town centre and the areas just off it. So, the Docks – but the boundary ran through the middle, the canal..but we overlapped to Lyndale and off along the A39 for a bit and then down the A38 and along Taunton road (until it became Hamp). However, the crucial area of dispute was West Street…and here it almost came to blows…

Kathy Pearce and Brian Smedley

Westover was created, not in the white hot smelting plants of industry. Or with any logic for that matter. But by pushing pens, drawing lines, shouting ‘quick look that way!’ then drawing more lines and  then finally seeing which of us the Boundaries Commission eventually agreed with. I think I won. Well, we have a geographically almost sensible area….and of course militarily sound should we be attacked from..say..Wyndham. And let’s face it…Wyndham was my idea too…That part of town should have been called Durleigh..because that’s what we know it as..but they called it ‘Quantock’ which was confusing because there’s another ward called Quantock..well, in the ‘Quantocks’. So I came up with Wyndham.  The ‘house’ name for that end of town at the old Doctor Morgans (now Haygrove). Yes, my old house. The ‘red’ house. As opposed to the ‘Blue House’ of Fairfax (Sir Thomas) oddly comprising Hamp and Sydenham. But the Duchess said she knew ‘the Wyndhams’ and so she was happy with that…but not so happy that she’d lost most of West Street. Isandhlwana all over again….

A ‘Raleigh’ good new candidate for Westover…

Tim Mander and his famous ancestor

Westover was created in time for the 2011 elections. Myself and Kathy Pearce have represented it ever since. And it’s been solidly Labour. However, for Town elections we have an extra seat. That has changed each year and we’re very happy that for his first venture into politics, Tim Mander will be our running mate this time round.

Tim is well known for his work as a senior officer with Sedgemoor, but not many people know that he is related to the really rather  famous  Sir Walter Raleigh until this was picked up recently by Westover resident Roger Gently who wrote to us “I was struck by the uncanny similarity between prospective Member Sir Walter Raleigh and noted 16th century sailor and scourge of the Irish Tim Mander.  I enclose a picture which I hope will further confirm the uncanny likeness.”

Westover and out

So for Town vote Mander, Pearce, Smedley and for Unitary it’s just the 2 of us..and therefore  for the new ‘Bridgwater South’ Unitary ward please vote Pearce & Smedley on May 5th..or..if you can’t control yourself, as soon as your postal ballots come through in a week or so from now.

The sun comes out, the people come out and Castle street comes alive.

Westover is where I live and of course it’s all of Bridgwater rolled into one. The history, the culture the people, the river, the canal, the docks and of course the town centre. I’m especially happy to have been part of the original creation of Westover and to have shaped its appearance as we’ve worked to make it a better place to live.

I’m particularly pleased with the West Quay pedestrianisation and cafe-bar scene there that we came up with after the collapse of the wall. And we weren’t sure we would even have a quayside after that. I remember going back up to my old flat on West Quay and feeling the building slightly swaying like boarding a ship….

But mainly….I’ve written a piece of music for Westover. And here it is…

The Westover Rhapsody.

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