Bridport

Street Map

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.

Bridport is a gateway town to the Devon and East Dorset Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.

In 2006 West Dorset district was named 10th best place to live in the UK. The town is twinned with Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, France.

According to the 2001 Census, the population of Bridport stands at 12,977. 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 Life and Times of Reginald Perrin and the 1950s film of The Navy Lark was also shot there. Bridport has been subject of articles where it was nicknamed “Notting Hill on Sea” but is also known to locals as “Bridders”. The town attracts a large numbers of second home owners.

Bridport is composed of several small suburban districts, namely Allington, Skilling, Coneygar, Bothenhampton, Bradpole, Court Orchard and St Andrew’s Well.

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.

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 Steet.

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. A butcher’s shop on West Allington (RJ Balson & Son) is known as “England’s Oldest Family Butchers”, and claims a continuous line of family butchers back to the year 1535.

Bridport has an arts centre, cinema, library and museum. The museum, located in South Street, includes an extensive exhibition of the town’s long history of rope-making.

The Bridport Literary Festival has been running since 2005 and has played host to the biggest literary figures. 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.

The Food Festival is held in late June at Asker Meadow. It showcases locally produced foods for which the area is well known. The Beer Festival is also held in the same field which is run by the Bridport Round Table and opens till late.

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,  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.

On the Thursday before the August bank holiday weekend each year Bridport hosts the Melplash Show at the West Bay Showgrounds. One of Dorset’s three biggest agricultural shows.

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 routes through the coastal villages of Burton Bradstock and Abbotsbury.

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.

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.

The town boasts three theatres: Bridport Arts Centre, the “Electric Palace Cinema” (opened in 2007) and The Lyric Theatre, reopened in September 2010. Each offers a different type of entertainment: The Bridport Art Centre holding a more traditional, seasonal programme with events from poetry to music; The Electric Palace promoting regular music gigs, monthly comedy nights and films and The Lyric offering quirky theatre, puppetry, comedy, clowning and music.

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