Bridgwater Castle Trail

Few visitors to Bridgwater are aware that the town once had a fine medieval castle.

The physical remains of the castle are now largely destroyed but careful examination of recent building works and the study of property boundaries and wall lines has revealed the line of the castle. The purpose of this guide is to show residents and visitors where the line of the castle walls and moat can be followed in the modern town.

The picture to the right is reproduced by kind permission of Chris Sidaway.

Bridgwater Castle circa 1400

1. King Square

The first of the present-day terraced buildings in King Square were erected between 1810 and 1814 on the east and south sides in the Regency style. A third terrace on the north side was started but never completed. Some of these buildings had lead canopies and iron balconies (some of which still survive) on the front elevations. Within the square was a garden area for these houses (typical of a residential London square of the period) with access via an iron gateway at Northgate. The original square had four gated entrances with a circular internal footpath and was rebuilt in 1924 with diagonal footpaths centered on the war memorial (designed by John Angel). The garden area you see today was rebuilt in 1994 by the Local Authorities and English Heritage with new stone paving, brick walls, railings and street lighting.

2. Castle Moat

Archaeological excavations have shown that the moat was up to 20 metres wide with fixed and draw bridges. By the eighteenth century the moat was reduced to a small ditch on the north side. The place name Castle Moat survives and follows the line of the western moat.

3. Medieval Wall in Queen Street

On the south side of Queen Street a red sandstone rubble wall was exposed during construction work in 1993. This wall was built on a medieval ditch and may be associated with medieval buildings within the castle bailey. The size and character of the wall is not thought to be massive enough to represent the main curtain wall of the castle. The exact position of the curtain wall remains to be confirmed, but the line of the wall may well follow the break in slope in Court Street where it falls from the Castle area to the moat. The buildings in Fore Street follow the line of the filled moat. more...>

4. Town Bridge

The present bridge was constructed in 1883 and supersedes an iron bridge of 1795-98 (one of the earliest examples in Britain). Documentary records and drawings show that an earlier three arched stone bridge crossed the river a short distance to the north. more...>

5. The Castle Water Gate

The stone arch, almost hidden away between the buildings, is the medieval water gate of the castle which allowed people and merchandise to enter the castle bailey from the adjoining river. This part of the castle wall is scheduled as an ancient monument. more...>

6. Castle Wall

The large stone wall which runs parallel to the river is part of the remains of the castle wall. It is approximately 3.5m thick at the base. It is likely that some form of timber quay would have existed in this area on the bank of the River Parrett. The line of the medieval river bank was identified during excavations on the north side of Chandos Street. more...>

7. Castle Bastion, West Quay

Excavation of this site in 1984 revealed the foundations of the castle's north eastern stone tower. The foundations are still intact below Homecastle House. This stone tower dates from the first quarter of the thirteenth century and it is possible that  similar towers would have existed on the other corners of the castle defences.

8. The Lions Building

This is regarded as the best historic building in Bridgwater. It was constructed in the 'Provincial Baroque' style about 1730 by Benjamin Holloway the architect who also built Castle Street. This is probably the finest architect designed building in Bridgwater.

9. Castle Street

This was built for the Duke of Chandos between 1723 and 1728 and is one of the finest Georgian Streets in the south west and pre-dates many of the grand buildings of Bath. The north side of the street was finished first and the south side was completed by 1734. The buildings have notable architectural details, particularly the door surrounds and the swept parapets as the street rises. more..>

 

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