The cliff line at Westbay

The Cliff Line at West Bay (Credit: Mike Coats)

A pleasant little market town just inland from the Dorset coast. It boasts a wealth of fine 17th and 18th century buildings, including a very elegant Georgian Town Hall.

In early Saxon times Bridport was a busy port on the River Brit, from which it took its name. However, as the river began to silt-up in the 18th-c the townspeople were compelled to build a new harbour near the mouth of the river. The seafront area around the harbour was later renamed West Bay; a marketing ploy to improve its popularity with visitors, who now regularly come to enjoy its excellent beaches. The 19th-c Customs House near the harbour has been converted into an emporium and cafe.

Hemp has been been grown in this area of Dorset for over 2000 years, and it is this particular crop that provided the town with its primary industry of rope making. Local rope works have produced cables and hawsers for the Royal Navy and nets for fishermen as far back at the 11th-c. Ropes for gallows were also made there, which led to the colloquial saying "stabbed by a Bridport dagger". The factories that remain still produce top quality rope and netting, now mainly used for tennis courts, fishing trawlers and submarines; although the traditional hemp has been substituted by modern nylon. The town's unusually long wide pavements and alleyways are a legacy from the time when the hemp ropes were twisted and stretched out to dry.

Today the town is a key market centre with a lively street market that takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays. South street, one of the towns original thoroughfares, is lined with some of the oldest properties, including many traditional fishermen's cottages. West Street is a fine Georgian Street that continues into East Street, backed by many imposing houses built for rich merchants and professional people. A number of former coaching inns and Georgian shops can also be found here. An fine 18th-c stone built rope and net factory building can be seen towards the end of West Street.

Bridport Town Hall

Bridport Town Hall © TAB

The handsome arcaded Town Hall (circa 1785) is topped by a cupola covered clock tower. Not far from the Town Hall on South Street, is the town's museum. Located in a fine Tudor building with a 16th-c stone frontage. It reiterates the history of the town and the surrounding area, including the local rope making industry.

The town has many buildings linked with non-conformist religions, including an old Unitarian Chapel (1794) a Methodist Chapel (1838) and an old Quaker Meeting House. The 13th-c parish church of Saint Mary has many 19th-c additions.

Places of Interest to Visit in Bridport

Bridport Museum

Bridport Museum

The town museum is housed in an early 16th-c stone building, known locally as the Castle. Exhibits cover local history, archaeology, geology and natural history, including finds from a 1st-century Roman army camp near Stoke Abbot. The rope making trade is featured in a permanent exhibition.

Opening times: daily from 10am (closed Sunday)
Free Admission Charge
Location: 25 South St, Bridport DT6 3NR
Tel: 01308 458703
Website: bridportmuseum.co.uk

Millennium Green

Mountfield House

Millennium green is a large green open space provided in the heart of Bridport. Originally the grounds of Downe Hall and Mountfield House, it provides a mix of gardens, open meadow and attractive woodland. There is a circular path that leads from the front entrance to the top of Coneygar Hill and back, where you may be lucky enough to observe roe deer and squirrels.

Website: bridportmillenniumgreen.co.uk


Map of Bridport

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