Universal British Directory 1791
Transcription from a copy of the original book, kindly donated to the OPC Project by Alan Bartlett, 2003
Bridport is of great antiquity. It took its name from the river Birt or Bride. It has a large neat church, by the name of St. Mary’s, are situated in the South-street. There were formerly several other chapels; but since the reformation they were alienated. There are two meeting-houses for dissenters and one for the Quakers. The town consists of three wide open spacious streets, and greatly improved in buildings of late years. It is very much lake the latter T. viz. the East West, and South streets, and several back lanes and passages, and very populous. It has a handsome market-house in the center, lately erected at the expense of three thousand pounds. The markets are Wednesdays and Saturdays, and have a great supply of flesh-meat. The harbour is very much improved of late years, and is still improving; it will admit of vessels of upwards of 300 tons: it is about one mile and a quarter from town, which is of great service to the neighborhood. The trade of the town is principally in the twine and hat manufactories; also, in the sail-cloth manufactory. The soil is very deep and rich, and productive of hemp and flax. It is a free and open borough, sends two members to parliament in the 23d of Edward the first. The present members are Charles Sturt, Esq. And James Watson, Esq. Serjeant at Law. It is a town corporate, consisting of two bailiffs, recorder, fifteen capital burgesses, whereof the bailiffs are two, two serjeants at mace, and several other inferior officers. Here are two schools, one of them is maintained out of the salary arising from the Bull Inn; the other is from different persons. There are three fairs, viz. on Old Lady-day, Holy Thursday, and Old Michaelmas.
Post-office opens every morning at 7 o’clock and shuts at 10 o’clock for London; and opens every morning at 11 o’clock, and shuts at two in the afternoon for the West. The mail goes through here every day, as this is the great Western post-road from London to Execter and Plymouth.
Bridport is 135 miles from London, 37 from Exeter, 80 from Plymouth, 6 from Lyme, and 17 from Dorchester. It is not far from he shore of the channel, where it has a harbour, abounding with copperous stones, cornu animonis, and many curious fossils. In the time of the Saxons it had a mint, was created a borough by Kin Henry III. The corporation, under the King, are entire Lords of all. It had once a good harbour and trade, and manufactured so much hemp in ropes, cables, &c. that, in the reign of Henry VIII, it was ordered the the cordage for the English navy should, for a limited time, be made here, or within 5 miles of it, and nowhere else; which act was confirmed by almost every parliament for near 60 years after. Yet this trade is sunk to little or nothing, though the soil, between this place and Beaminster, is so fruitful in hemp, that, when a man was hanged, it was proverbially said, he was stabbed with a Bridport dagger. The situation of the town is low. It was incorporated b Henry VII, and afterwards by Queen Elizabeth and king James I and Charles II, by whole charter two bailiffs were to be chosen yearly out of 15 capital burgesses; and the corporation was empowered to choose a recorder and town-clerk, &c. The buildings are chiefly stone, and rather mean, but some are of brick and neatly built, in all about 250. The quarter-sessions for the county are held in the town-hall once a year. Here was formerly a priory which stood near the bridge at the East-end of the town, now a dwelling house, called St. John’s. At the West-end of the town was an hospital, now no more. Also a chapel dedicated to St. Leonard was formerly here; and near the entrance of the South –street is an ancient building said to have been the prior’s house. At the meeting of the three streets, near the middle of the town are the remains of St. Andrew’s chapel, part of which is converted into a dwelling-house; part the sessions house, over which is the free-school & another part is made a goal for criminals; and part is in ruins. It has a low tower remaining. Part of the chancel is left, and serves for a clock-house. There was a chapel dedicated to St. James, in Wyke’s-court-lane, now a dwelling house. A chapel dedicated to St. Michael stood at the West-end of the town, of which there are no remains. Mackerel are here in such prodigious plenty, that there has been a watch set to present farmers from dunging their land with them, which, it was thought, might be apt to infect the air. In the year 1722, an act passed for restoring the haven and piers of Bridport, in order to bring it to its ancient flourishing state; for heretofore it was a place of great trade and commerce; but, by reason of a general sickness, which swept away the greatest part of its most wealthy inhabitants, and by other accidents, the haven became neglected, and choked with sands & the piers fell to ruin, and the town, of consequence, to decay; so that there was no security for ships that happened to be driven by perils of weather into the deep and dangerous bay wherein the haven formerly was, which occasioned frequent shipwrecks. The act therefore authorizes the bailiffs and burgesses of Bridport to levy certain tolls on divers merchandizes, &c. in order to restore the said piers and harbour. However, the act has never been fully executed.
There are two London and Exeter coaches up and down every day, besides the mail coach. The London and Exeter wagons pass Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, both ways. The Bristol wagons every Saturday. The principal inns are the Bull, and the Golden Lion.
|ANSTIS||Rev. Matthew||Dissenting Minister, Boarding school for young girls|
|HOWE||Rev. Tho.||Dissenting Minister|
|SALTREN||Rev. John||Dissenting Minister|
|ACKERMAN||Joseph||Bookseller and Agent to the Sun Fire-office|
|BALL & KENWAY||Twine merchants|
|COPPOCK||J. jun.||Twine merchants|
|GUMMER||Robert, jun.||Twine merchants|
|GUNDRY & SYMES||Twine merchants|
|HOOD & CO.||Bag & Sailclothmakers|
|SEYMOUR & CO.||Merchants|
|SYMES & DODGE||Fishmongers|
|TUCKER||G. & Co.||Twine merchants|
|TUCKER||T & Co.||Twine & Bag-makers|
|TUCKER||Richard & Co.||Sail-makers|
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