The Aim of the Bridgwater Heritage Group
A Community Heritage Resource Adapted from an article in the Museums in Somerset newsletter, Spring 2020
This website was founded by the late Dr Peter Cattermole in October 2012. It was re-founded in March 2016 as an informal research group and online platform for publishing materials and research on the history of Bridgwater and the surrounding villages. The group aims to promote and propagate the understanding and appreciation of the rich history of the town. These efforts are intended to complement the work and collections of the Blake Museum, the Bridgwater and District Archaeological Society, the Bridgwater and District Civic Society and the Friends of the Wembdon Road Cemetery.
When this Group began much emphasis was given to publishing illustrated accounts of the historic sites of Bridgwater, but since then the scope has broadened to cover historic texts about the town. These have been digitised from original sources and edited in A4 format, and are PDF documents so that readers can download and print them for further study. The goal has been to create an educational resource for the town, of value not only for local historians, but also for school pupils and college students.
The website has four main clusters. The first, 'Archives' primarily relates to the history and development of the Borough of Bridgwater, represented by its Mayors and Town Council. The second cluster deals with conservation, being architectural and historic exploration of the town's surviving built heritage, such as churches or buildings at risk. Third, 'Lost Bridgwater', is a series of articles and surveys of demolished buildings from over the centuries, from the town's medieval castle, through all that was so needlessly pulled down in the 1960s and beyond. The fourth, and currently largest cluster relates to historical research, with both published primary sources and with modern research. A subsection of this, 'Scientists', provides a series of biographies of the town's eminent researchers. We are hoping to modernise and re-order parts of the website over the coming months.
Aspects of the Town's history have been well covered in recent years with books appearing on Carnival, Railways and Pubs, but there are conspicuous gaps. These include the various cultural groups: choirs, dramatics and the arts generally. Bridgwater shops. Sport. Education. Dissenting churches. Manufacturing generally. There are certainly more topics that might be added.
The site welcomes contributions from other Bridgwater local historians.
Similar groups in other communities are very welcome to adapt this approach to recording their town's history.
Any interested in doing so are invited to make contact via the web-site to discuss methods.
We are keen to publish on almost all aspects of Bridgwater's history and contributions are very welcome.
These include, but are not limited to:
articles on aspects of the town's history, inhabitants, archaeology, businesses, institutions or buildings
the publication of digitised texts or transcribed records relating to the town, its inhabitants, businesses, buildings and institutions
photographic surveys of historic buildings and sites, or historic events
short notes, individual pictures or even memories of the town.
Feel free to get in contact with any ideas you might have for new pages. We can publish as either static webpages or downloadable .pdf files. The editors of the site can help with the writing process if needed. All we request is that any text be your own, any copied text to be properly credited to the original author, and the sources for information be given where appropriate. Have a look at the existing pages on the site to get some idea. Some good examples include
Images on the site need to either be the author's own, out of copyright, or with the prior consent of the owner. Text and images will remain the copyright of the authors after publication.
Amendments, additions and updates to existing pages are welcome. Either the original text will be edited or a note will be added. Notes on the wider district and villages are also welcome.
The technique of digitising texts by Tony Woolrich
This article includes material from: A. P. Woolrich, 'The General music articles in Rees's Cyclopaedia, by Dr Charles Burney, John Farey, Sr. & John Farey, Jr.', The Burney Letter, Vol. 25, No. 1, The Burney Society, Spring 2019.
The Burney Project is based at McGill University, Montréal, Québec, Canada, and concerns the editing and publication of the writings of the music historian Dr Charles Burney, 1726 - 1814, and his daughter Frances, 1752 - 1840, the novelist and diarist. The texts of some 2000 articles on music from Rees's Cyclopaedia (1802-1819) were prepared for the use of the project's editors.
Some people place JPEGs of historic book pages online, but these are not always easy to read where the image quality is indifferent. Proper edited texts allow the addition of an editorial commentary, and also the cutting of extraneous material.
It is now possible to easily produce a modern version of historic texts by using the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) facility of digitised editions. These may be found on the Internet Archive and the Hathi Trust Digital Library websites. Other sources can be identified from The Online Books Page. I tend to disregard Google Books as so much there is in snippet view only.
The online digital resources are of Public Domain material, in other words copyright free. They are all based in America, so adhere to American copyright law, where anything copyrighted prior to 1925 is in the public domain. So the great majority of texts likely to interest the local historian obtained from those sources are covered. Under American and EU law the copyright of more recent authors is the extent of their life plus 70 years, so from 2020 it is 1950. But this extends as time passes. For anything more recent the writer need to give permission.
The editing procedure is simple but time-consuming. It helps to have a wide computer screen, say at least 60cm diagonally, as working a regular laptop screen can be cramping. Proof-checking is vital. Writers are often blind to to their spelling idiosyncrasies, so it is wise to ask a second person to do it.
The texts are identified in the online sites and the OCRd version (sometimes noted as TEXT version), is copied and pasted into a text editor, which has the effect of stripping out all the hidden HTML coding of the web-page, leaving it in pure TEXT format. I use the NoteTab editor, but others are available. This in turn is copied and pasted into the word processor which enables the text to be properly formatted and edited, retaining such features like italics and bolds. I use the Atlantis word processor which is not part of an office suite, but designed for writers. This will not set mathematics, so I use the Formula feature on Writer component of the Libre Office Suite for this.
The resulting document will need careful editing against the original. Where an original text is to hand this is no problem, otherwise page images will need to be downloaded and printed so a comparison can be made. I use Paint Net for image manipulation.
A problem which can arise concerns the inclusion in original texts of ligatures, accents and foreign language characters, such as Greek, which are not recognised by OCR software. These need manual correction.
Where no digitised or OCR version exists online it is necessary to use an OCR program on the computer with a scanner. I use Abbey FineReader, in conjunction with a Plustek book scanner. The latter is designed to scan pages from a bound book, as it stops the gutter shadow that can arise from an opened bound book on a regular flat-bed scanner. Printed page images can also be scanned, of course. Once the text has been acquired, as before, I generally use Atlantis, a dedicated writer' programme, for the editing. The texts are saved at RTF (Rich Text Format) by FineReader, which Atlantis automatically picks up, so making a seamless editing process.
The following links are to resources I use for work on the Bridgwater Heritage Group website: www.brigwaterheritage.org.uk. There are alternatives, both for Windows and also Mac computers, of course. A web-search will locate them.
Text Digitisation sites Internet Archive: https://archive.org/
Hathi Trust Digital Library: https://www.hathitrust.org/
The Online Books Page: https://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/
NoteTab text editor: https://www.notetab.com/
Atlantis word processor: https://www.atlantiswordprocessor.com/en/
Libre Office suite: https: //www.libreoffice.org/