Mary Allum SULLY came from a family who lived in Watchet, Somerset. She
married Reginald RAWLINGS and together with their family came to Auckland, New Zealand in 1885 aboard the
'Garonne'. Bridgwater is mentioned both in the Domesday Book and in earlier Anglo-Saxon Chronicles dating from
around 800, owing its origin as a trade centre to its position at the mouth of the chief river in Somerset.
Watchet is a pretty port town in north-western Somerset, built around a
picturesque medieval harbour. Watchet really came to prominence in the
Saxon period and was important enough to have its own mint. Coins
minted in Watchet have been found in Scandinavia, suggesting that they were used to buy off Viking
Watchet was first
recorded during the dark ages, when St Decuman arrived from South Wales and acted as a physician, arbitrator and
pastor to the local community. He arrived on a raft with a cow as a
companion! In the Iron ages Daws fort was built above Watchet to
protect the port and area. Its then natural harbour made it an
early trading centre and in the 10th century coins were minted here for Ethelred II and five more Saxon
kings. Watchet is unique in that it still retains the court leet
system of medieval administration albeit in name. Watchet gets its
name from the blue WACET dye found in the cliffs. Watchet became an
active port with a host of commodities being traded up and down the coast, to Ireland and Wales, while the
Mineral Line bought iron ore down for shipment to Wales.
Alfred the Great, burnt some cakes while hiding in the marshes of Athelney
near Bridgwater, after the Danish invasion in 875. Alfred later
transformed Watchet into a burh, or fortified town, one of just 10 burhs in Wessex by the year AD 919.
The town was based around the natural harbour, a haven for
shipping that was enhanced in the Tudor period when a breakwater was built west of the harbour. The breakwater was initially made of wood, but was later rebuilt in
William de Briwere was granted the lordship of the Manor of Bridgwater by
Henry II in 1201. Through William's influence, King John granted three
charters in 1200; for the construction of Bridgwater Castle, for the creation of a borough, and for a market.
Built on the only raised ground in the town, the castle controlled the
crossing of the town bridge.
Bridgwater's peasants under Nicholas Frampton took part in the Peasants'
Revolt of 1381, sacking Sydenham House, murdering the local tax collectors and destroying the records.
The 1605 Gunpowder Plot is thought to have been master-minded by Robert
Parsons, born in the nearby village of Nether Stowey. To this day Guy
Fawkes is celebrated as a local hero during the carnival season, including a grand illuminated procession through
Bridgwater town centre.
In the English Civil War, the town and the castle were held by the
Royalists under Colonel Sir Francis Wyndham, a personal acquaintance of the King. British history might have been very different had his wife, Lady (Crystabella)
Wyndham, been a little more accurate with a musket shot that missed Cromwell but killed his aide de camp.
Eventually, with many buildings destroyed in the town, the castle and
its valuable contents were surrendered to the Parliamentarians on July 22, 1645.
the scene of a bizarre battle during the Civil War, when a Royalist ship was sent to secure the town for King
Charles. The ship stood offshore while the tide ebbed away, leaving
only shallow water. A Parliamentary force of mounted soldiers took
advantage of the tide and galloped through the shallow water, their carbines firing volley after volley at the
men aboard ship. Though the horses were up to breast level by the
time they reached the ship, the carbine fire caused such a panic that the sailors surrendered. This rare encounter may be the only time a ship at sea was captured by men on
In the 1685 Monmouth Rebellion, the rebel James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth
was proclaimed King in various local towns including on the Cornhill in Bridgwater. He eventually led his troops on a night-time attack on the King's position near
Westonzoyland. Unfortunately, surprise was lost when a musket was
accidentally discharged, and the Battle of Sedgemoor resulted in defeat for the Duke. He later lost his head in the Tower of London, and nine locals were executed for
treason. Allegedly, until recently members of the Royal Family would
not pass through Bridgwater without drawing the blinds of the Royal Train as a result of this
Bridgwater became the first town in Britain to petition the government to
ban slavery in 1785.
In 1896, the trade unionists of Bridgwater's brick and tile industry were
involved in a number of strikes. The Salisbury government sent troops
to the town to clear the barricades by force. This was the first use
of the Riot Act in the UK in an industrial dispute, and not the UK miner's strikes of the 1980s as is commonly
of the local Wyndham family on the history of Watchet cannot be overstated. In 1708 Sir William Wyndham had a new harbour built, and in 1843 a later
Wyndham, the 4th Earl of Egremont, had the broad Esplanade built along the harbour. The celebrated maritime artist Thomas Chidgey, a native of Watchet, was
inspired by the busy port and the sailing ships he saw there. Several of Chidgey’s paintings are on view in the
Market House Museum.