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Street Names around West Street

West Street dates to the foundation of Bridgwater in 1200 and was simply known as 'without the Westgate' - the Westgate being the boundary of the town, which stood roughly in the middle of the Broadway junction. The first recorded mentions of occupation outside of the gate occurs within the next century. It is called West Street simply because it carries the main route out of the town heading West. It was first called this in c.1335.

North Street dates to a similar time, although it was initially known as 'the Road to Kidsbury' (by c.1300), Kidsbury being a prosperous settlement that seems to have died out in the fourteenth century, possibly because of the Black Death. As Kidsbury declined and the main route over the marshes changed from Victoria Road to Wembdon Road, it became 'the road to Wembdon' (by c.1373). It eventually became North Street (first mentioned in 1355), not because it was the main route out of town heading north - it isn't - but as a reference to West Street. It adjoins West Street, but faces north, hence North Street. In the Middle Ages 'North Street' was usually the name for the north portion of the High Street (at least in the 1260s), which was divided from the south portion (South Street) by a small row of shops, the Shambles, which was removed in the eighteenth century.

Moat Lane marked the edge of the town ditch, which ran to its east. This ditch defended the Westgate. For a time Moat Lane was referred to as Bell Lane, in reference to the adjoining inn. The lane was destroyed to make way for the Broadway. Although this section of the town ditch has not been excavated, part of it was discovered under Mount Street in 1973, revealing it to have been about 16 feet wide.

Albert Street dates to sometime in the thirteenth century, not long after West Street, and was laid out when that street was divided into burgage property plots. The name Albert Street dates to the 1850s, in honour of Prince Albert. Before this it was called Roper's Lane, although before that in the middle ages it was called Blind Lane (because it terminated in a dead end, presumably before Halswell Lane joined it up to West Street).

Halswell Lane [more research needed, presumably named after the pub, in turn named after the nearby estate]

St Matthew's Field (or 'Fairfield') takes its name from the medieval fair held there, which was held on St Matthew's day on 21 September. This particular fair was first mentioned in 1249 and was the second annual fair allowed to the town. It was principally for the sale of sheep and originally held inside the town, probably on the Cornhill. Outgrowing its original home, the fair moved to the Fairfield by 1404 and has been held there ever since.

Sources
Thomas Bruce Dilks, Bridgwater Borough Archives, 1200-1377, (Somerset Record Society, 1933)
Bob Dunning, Bridgwater History and Guide, (Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1992)
Jack and Chris Lawrence, A History of Bridgwater, (Chichester: Philimore, 2005)
David Williams, Bridgwater Inns Past and Present, (Abbey Press, 2nd edn. 1997)

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