Bridgwater Heritage Group

St Mary's Church
Bridgwater Archives Bridgwater Scientists Lost Bridgwater Friarn Research


Bridgwater St Mary's Church spire

west.jpg - 76Kb
The west elevation.
Work on constructing the spire began on 28 June 1367.
The two strong butresses at the corners of the tower may have been added in 1383-5.
The tower is 60 foot high; the spire 114 foot.


cock.jpg - 18Kb
Detail of the capstone and weather cock.


S G Jarman, in Handbook of St Mary's Church Bridgwater (Bridgwater Gazette 1855) notes that: "In a terrific thunderstorm in the year 1814, the spire was split by lightning, and in the following year it was repaired with great difficulty, the work being done by a Mr Thos. Hitchings, builder, of the town. A series of poles were lashed to the steeple, and the top was ultimately reached, and rope ladders affixed." "A long rod and lightning conductor were fastened to the top of the spire, inside, and bolted to the centre of the tower in the bell-chamber, and a huge weight was also affixed to it, as may still be seen."
In 1836, William Stradling had custody of "the top stone but one of Bridgwater Spire which, having braved the blasts of nearly six centuries, was so much injured by lightning (probably in 1813) as to be rendered dangerous". A photograph by Robert Gillo taken from 32 Friarn Street shows the top section of the spire in scaffolding in 1878.

interior.jpg - 60Kb
The interior of the spire is a void, unlike that at Salisbury which contains a timber scaffold. Note the wrought iron cramp which has been used to hold two stones together at the botton right of the picture. The light-coloured structure running across the top left is a wrought iron rod which appears to be suspended from the weather vane. The stone is said to be a fawn-coloured variant of Ham Hill stone, brought by barge along the R. Parrett from Langport to Bridgwater.

bob.jpg - 52Kb
At the base of the rod there is a conical iron mass. The mass is located approximately at the height of the parapet of the tower. The mass is shackled by a chain to the elm cross beam. A copper lightning conductor is clamped to the rod above the mass, and passes out through a window in the tower. The tower walling is seen to be a rubble mixture of local red Wembdon sandstone (Permo-Trias) and a little grey Limestone (Lias), with yellow Hamstone around and above the relieving arches at each corner of the tower.

I would very much value opinions on the following.
30 August 2004 P. Cattermole. All Content © Bridgwater Heritage Group, unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, do not reproduce material without permission.

Comments on the site? Queries on Bridgwater history or heritage? Contributions to the site?
Contact us here.