Bridport Town Hall (1786) by William Tyler RA
Bridport shown within Dorset
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||South West England|
|UK Parliament||West Dorset|
Bridport is a market town in Dorset, England. Located near the coast at the western end of Chesil Beach at the confluence of the River Brit and its Asker and Simene tributaries, it originally thrived as a fishing port and rope-making centre (the hangman's rope being made at Bridport gave birth to the saying "stabbed with a Bridport dagger"). The port is no longer in existence although the harbour at West Bay is a mile away.
In the 2011 Census the population of Bridport was recorded as 13,568. This figure is for the built-up area of the town, which extends into the neighbouring parishes of Allington, Bradpole and Bothenhampton.
One and a half miles from the town centre and within the town's boundary lies West Bay, a small fishing harbour known as Bridport Harbour until the arrival of the railway. At that time it was "rebranded" to its current name to make it sound more attractive. West Bay was also the scene for the opening shot of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, the 1950s film The Navy Lark and much of the filming of the crime drama Broadchurch.
- 1 Geography
- 2 History
- 3 Industry and commerce
- 4 Culture
- 5 Transport
- 6 Education
- 7 Churches
- 8 Sport
- 9 Notable people and places
- 10 Media
- 11 See also
- 12 Gallery
- 13 References
- 14 External links
A number of these districts were formerly small surrounding villages which have gradually coalesced with Bridport over the years (see below). Bothenhampton in particular is still regarded by locals as a separate village.
Allington, Askerswell, Bothenhampton, Bradpole, Burton Bradstock, Chideock, Dottery, Evershot, Eype, Loders, Powerstock, Pymore, Shipton Gorge, Skilling, Swyre, Symondsbury, Uploders, Walditch and West Bay
Bridport is situated on the world heritage Jurassic Coast and Chesil Beach. The loose clay cliffs in the area are abundant with fossils making the area popular with fossil hunters. Its most famous landmark is the view of the conical Colmers Hill with small clump of trees aligned with West Street.
Bridport's origins are Saxon. During the reign of King Alfred it became one of the four most important settlements in Dorset (the other three being Dorchester, Shaftesbury and Wareham), with the construction of fortifications and the establishment of a mint. In 1086 the Domesday Book recorded that the town had 120 houses during Edward the Confessor's reign. In 1253 the town was awarded its first Charter by Henry III.
Since the Middle Ages Bridport has been associated with the production of rope and nets. The raw materials for this industry, flax and hemp, used to be grown in the surrounding countryside, though they were superseded in modern times by artificial fibres such as nylon. Bridport's main street is particularly wide due to it having previously been used to dry the ropes, after they had been spun in long gardens behind the houses.
Many buildings in Bridport, particularly in the main street, date from the 18th century. The town hall was built in 1785-6, with its clock tower and cupola added about twenty years later. Older buildings can be found in South Street, and include the 13th-century St. Mary's parish church, the 14th-century chantry and the 16th-century Bridport Museum.
Industry and commerce
The town has some light industry, most notably Palmer's Brewery (JC & RH Palmer Ltd) which, under various aliases, owns other property in the town and which recently celebrated its bicentennial. Other established companies include AmSafe Bridport, successors to the old firm of Bridport-Gundry. AmSafe’s aviation products can be found on most commercial aircraft, including seat belts, restraints, cargo and barrier nets, tie-downs, and cabin interior textiles.
Other companies include Curtiss Wright and Edwards Sports. Amsafe and Edwards Sports are the main survivors of Bridport's 750-year-old rope and net making history. Even today, the goal nets of any major football championships are likely to have been made in Bridport as would be the tennis nets, the wooden posts and the umpire's chair at Wimbledon.
Bridport has a thriving commercial centre with a twice-weekly street market and monthly farmers' market. RJ Balson & Son, a butcher's shop on West Allington, is known as "England's Oldest Family Butchers", and claims a continuous line of family butchers back to the year 1535. According to the Institute for Family Business, it is the oldest continuously trading family business in the UK.
Bridport has an arts centre, theatre, library, cinema and museum. Bridport Arts Centre has a traditional, seasonal programme with events from poetry to music. The Lyric Theatre, which reopened in 2010, hosts quirky theatre, puppetry, comedy, clowning and music. It is also the base of the children's theatre company, Stuff and Nonsense, who perform there throughout the year. The Electric Palace Cinema, which reopened in 2007, hosts regular music gigs, monthly comedy nights and films. In March 2009 it hosted the world premiere of The Young Victoria. Bridport Museum, located in South Street, includes an extensive exhibition of the town's long history of rope-making.
Bridport Literary Festival
The Bridport Literary Festival has been running since 2005 and has played host to the biggest literary lions including Elizabeth Jane Howard, Victoria Glendinning, Claire Tomalin, Jonathan Dimbleby, Max Hastings, Julian Fellowes, Alexander Waugh, John Julius Norwich, Minette Walters, Fay Weldon, Bill Oddie, Robin Hanbury–Tenison, Katharine Whitehorn, Kate Summerscale, Michael Dobbs and Ann Leslie DBE.
Bridport Open Studios
The Bridport Art Scene has now gained a national profile, and over 100 artists now participate in the main Bridport Open Studios event that takes place over the three days of the August Bank Holiday weekend. The popularity of the event has led to three more open events in November, Easter and May. The biggest artist led venue is the St Michael's Studio complex on the St Michael's Trading Estate. It provides studios for 25 artists and attracted over 700 visitors to the 2009 Bridport Open Studios event.
West Bay Wallow
The Bridport Round Table organises the West Bay Wallow which takes place on Boxing Day. Anyone can participate in the swim which raises money for good causes. Many take the plunge in fancy dress and generally don't stay in the water for more than 10 minutes.
The Food Festival is held in late June at Asker Meadow. It showcases locally produced foods for which the area is well known. The Food Festival week concludes with the Round Table Beer Festival.
RNLI raft race
The raft race, organised by the RNLI, is held in July in the River Brit basin at West Bay. Participants build a 'floating vessel' and row it a few hundred yards up the River Brit before returning to the lake by the harbour sluice gates. The idea is to avoid sinking, capsizing or falling in.
The town holds its annual carnival on the third Saturday in August. The main feature is a carnival parade of floats, walking acts and majorettes. Other attractions on the day include carnival darts, carnival golf, a grand car boot sale, carnival fete and a fun fair. After the carnival South Street is closed for the night as live music is played while people dance in the street. Bridport's fun fair, which is situated on Asker Meadow, a local nature reserve next to Morrisons supermarket, is open late.
A torchlight procession takes place the following night where 1,500 torches are carried 2 miles from the town centre to a bonfire at West Bay. This is followed by live music and fireworks. West Bay's fun fair opens until late. The annual events raise money for local good causes and organisations.
Bridport Hat Festival
Since 2010 there has been an annual Hat Festival for a weekend every September
The main Honiton - Southampton road A35 passes around Bridport on a bypass and the A3066 to Crewkerne, via Beaminster starts in Bridport. There is also a direct road to Weymouth, the B3157 also known as the coast road, this take you through the coastal villages of Burton Bradstock and Abbotsbury.
There are regular buses to Weymouth and Axminster every hour weekdays, and the X53 Exeter - Poole coastal service stops at the main bus station every two hours most weekdays with some extra services during the school summer holidays. There are a few buses a day to Crewkerne and Yeovil, and minor buses serving surrounding villages as well.
Railway (until 1975)
Bridport railway station closed on 5 May 1975 - one of the last closures directly associated with the "Beeching cuts" of the 1960s. The Bridport branch line ran from the junction with the Weymouth-Yeovil-Bristol "Heart of Wessex" line at Maiden Newton railway station; it was usually operated in its final years by a single carriage "Class 122" diesel train.
The nearest railway stations to Bridport now are at Maiden Newton, Crewkerne, Dorchester or Axminster. There is an infrequent bus service to Maiden Newton (71) and a bus service linking Axminster station, Dorchester South and West stations, and Weymouth railway stations (31) and a bus service linking the majority of Exeter railway stations, and Weymouth, Wool, Wareham, Poole, and formerly Bournemouth railway stations (X53)
Primary schools in Bridport are Bridport Primary School, St Mary's CE VC Primary School, St Catherines RC Primary School, and Symondsbury CE VC Primary School.
The Sir John Colfox School, a specialist Language College, is the town's only secondary school. It located on the outskirts of the town and serves ages 11 to 18. The sixth form is combined with Beaminster School in nearby Beaminster. Children also attend Woodroffe School, Colyton Grammar School and the Thomas Hardye School. There are daily buses running to these schools from Bridport.
St Mary's Church was founded in the 13th century and a large proportion of the building dates from the 15th century. There is a 17th-century brass in St. Catherine's Chapel that commemorates Edward Coker who was killed in 1685 during the Monmouth Rebellion. The church was substantially restored and altered in the 19th century.
Opposite the church is a Society of Friends Meeting House.
The Unitarian "Chapel in the Garden" on the north side of East Street, next to the Literary and Scientific Institute, provides a neutral, personal development resource for an open faith community in which people are assisted in finding their own spiritual path.
The town's rugby union club is Bridport RFC.
Bridport & West Dorset Golf Club is situated atop of the east cliff at West Bay. The club has an 18 hole links course, driving range and pitch & putt course.
Bridport Barracudas Swimming Club is based at Bridport Leisure Centre. A thriving Water Polo section has junior and senior teams competing in the Dorset Water Polo League. Water Polo matches are held in summer in the outer harbour at West Bay, continuing a tradition dating back to 1898.
The area also hosts one of the last remaining real tennis courts that was recently renovated with the aid of a lottery grant.
Notable people and places
Local celebrities include singer P.J. Harvey, actor Martin Clunes, musician and Stackridge frontman Mutter Slater and socialist musician Billy Bragg. Former Plymouth Argyle and Torquay United footballer and manager Kevin Hodges was born in the town, as was Silicon Valley's Neil Trevett, VP of Mobile Content at NVIDIA.
Bridport and the surrounding area was used to film Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Channel 4 television programme River Cottage and the BBC dramas Harbour Lights starring Nick Berry and Rockliffe's Folly starring Ian Hogg.
Bridport has two local newspapers, The Bridport News owned by Newsquest, which is published weekly on a Thursday, and View from Bridport, a free newspaper published on a Wednesday. The Dorset Echo also serves Bridport and is published daily from Monday to Saturday.
Local television is served by BBC Spotlight based in Plymouth and ITV West Country based in Bristol. Terrestrial television is transmitted in digital from the Stockland Hill Transmitter and also a digital relay transmitter based at Highlands End.
Bridport is a Met Office coastal weather observation point and such it is often included as a place name on the BBC national weather map.
The town's local commercial radio station is Wessex FM which broadcasts at 96.0FM. Owned by The Local Radio Company it also serves Weymouth and Dorchester. BBC local Radio includes both BBC Radio Devon and BBC Radio Solent.
Bridport lies between boundaries of broadcasters of the South and those of the South West. Viewers in Bridport are more likely to receive news about Devon and Cornwall than they are about East and North Dorset. To bridge the gap in the county the BBC proposed launching BBC Radio Dorset but this was soon dropped following BBC cut backs. The Dorset Broadcasting Action Group campaigns for better coverage in the area.
Bridport has one community website, Bridport Radio, which is in the form of a newspaper format. It mixes local information with comedic made-up news stories. The site allows users to comment on local subjects.
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- Oscar-winner's love affair with Victoria Dorset Echo, 3 March 2009
- Wallow in and get out quick! Bridport News, 31 December 2008
- "Unitarians; many beliefs, one faith". Retrieved 28 January 2013.
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- Who dunnit TV drama stars West Bay Bridport News, 5 September 2012
- County station proposal dropped BBC News, 18 October 2007
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- Townies in the country The Times, 18 October 2009
- Welcome to Bridport, or Notting Hill on Sea The Telegraph, 17 March 2007.
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- Bridport: Notting Hill by Sea? BBC Dorset
- Brits love to be beside the seaside The Times, 29 April 2008.
- Postcode lottery: DT6 The Times, 2 May 2008.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Bridport.|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Bridport.|
- Bridport Town Council
- Bridport and West Bay Official Community website
- Bridport at the Open Directory Project