Bridport: The Town History
The history of Bridport stretches back more than 1100 years to the time of King Athelstan’s reign of 924 to 939. The town had been licensed to mint coins, suggesting strong commercial, mercantile and trading interests, and the first signs of a ‘Market’ town.
The Domesday Book recorded the scale of damage to ‘Brideport’ between 1066 and 1086. “ ‘Before 1066 there were 120 houses, now there are 100 houses there, twenty have been so neglected that those who live in them are not able to pay tax’.”
Documentation indicates that in 1150, the keeper of Bridport Castle was taken prisoner by the future king of England, Henry II. The keeper’s loyalty would have been to King Stephen of England, following Stephen’s invasion of the town. At that time, the defended area of Bridport was probably a rectangular piece of land about 300 metres wide, straddling the current position of South Street – about 100 yards from the entrance to the St Michael’s Estate.
Records in 1272 indicate the River Brit was navigable as far as Bridport at high tide by small flat bottomed ships, suggesting that a small harbour existed a mile inland – probably close to the location today of the Palmer’s Brewery. Sometime in the 13th or 14th century a ‘new town’ of Bridport was established either side of the Dorchester to Exeter Road. Today we know these as East and West Streets and it was from that time the ‘T shaped’ layout of Bridport as we know it today was established. Around the same time, King Edward III granted a charter to Bridport enabling the establishment of a free borough. This charter was renewed by several monarchs and then in 1593, Elizabeth 1 granted additional rights for fairs and markets in the town.
Bridport-art Bridport’s history is chequered with visits from Royalty and significant military acts. For example In 1651, Charles II was almost captured by troops at the ‘Old George Inn’ in East Street after his defeat from Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester. He escaped in dramatic style, jumping on his horse and galloping off at speed. At the beginning of the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685, there was a skirmish in Bridport. Later, after Monmouth’s defeat at the Battle of Sedgmoor, a trial was held by the infamous Hanging Judge Jeffreys and it is reported that 12 men involved in the skirmish were executed in the town.
In 2014 the town has a population of just under 15,000 and every summer attracts tourists from across Europe and the UK boosted in recent years by the filming of the TV series Broadchurch in the area and at West Bay.