I am always looking for new places to visit in Dorset and I had never even thought of Bridport until I noticed it in the postings of fellow blogger Sarah, who lives near there (see Down by the Sea).
So about a month ago, just after the schools had gone back after summer, we went there for a few hours – and were very impressed. It’s such a friendly place, and the streets are clean and full of quirky little shops – it was also very easy to find somewhere to park.
This town hall was built in 1786 after an earlier one was destroyed by fire. It has recently been refurbished, but as we were in a hurry (as always!) we didn’t realise you can go inside to see some permanent displays.
We did however spend some time in the lovely little museum.
The museum staff were very friendly and it was here we first learned that Bridport is famous for rope-making and net-making. According to Wikipedia in the year 1211 King John ordered Bridport to make ropes and cables for his ships from the flax and hemp that used to be grown in the surrounding countryside. In later times ropes for gallows were made here and “stabbed with a Bridport dagger” meant hanged.
Bridport’s three main streets are East, West and South Streets, with the smaller North Street being slightly offset. The main streets are wide – apparently because they were used to dry the ropes, which were spun in the long gardens behind the houses.
We watched a great little video in the museum, about the history of the town, including the rope and net making. There was lots of wonderful old black and white footage of life in the area, including interviews with old-timers. My ears pricked up every time I heard a surname that appears in my Dorset family tree, such as Symes.
You don’t see many hatters these days, whether mad or otherwise.
This hill is the main landmark in the village of Symondsbury. It’s called Colmer’s Hill, after a family who were tenants here in the 17th and 18th centuries, but the conical sandstone hill has legendary Viking connections and gave Symondsbury its name. This was originally “Simondesberge”, from the berg (hill or barrow) of Sigemund, a Viking invader who allegedly saw the Anglo-Saxons’ beacon burning on top of the hill and decided to name it after himself.
Those distinctive Scots pine trees on the summit were planted by Major W P Colfox MC in World War I, although I’m not sure why. They make a great view, though!
My bearded husband can’t resist a barber’s shop so popped in to a little place in South Street, where the friendly barber pointed out a couple of landmarks in the town that we might have missed.
Opposite the Friends’ Meeting Place is the Anglican parish church, St Mary’s, founded in the 13th century.
Bridport has had a history of nonconformist religion since a Dissenters’ Academy was built here in 1768. By 1865 there were seven non-conformist places of worship and just the one Anglican church.
We had a light lunch at the Woodman Inn in South Street and as with everywhere in Bridport, the service was very friendly and obliging.
Bridport has been voted the happiest place to live in Britain (see this Bridport News story) – and certainly this market town has a great deal of charm and interest.
We’ll go again!