Tuesday, 24 April 2012


"So now what do we do with it??"
At last weeks meeting of Bridgwater Town Council the 19th century banner of the Bridgwater Independent Equitable Druids was accepted by members as a gift to the people of the town from the Bridgwater Labour Party and £500 was voted to investigate immediate works to repair it with a view to putting in on public display. 
Today, CONSTANZE ZIMMER a textile conservator from 'Textile Conservation Studios' (Ashley parade ,Bristol) visited the Town hall to assess the banner. Also present was Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour Group secretary & Town councillor) , Dr Peter Cattermole (Blake Museum curator), Alan Hurford (town clerk) and Cllr John Turner (leader of town council).

"Nice bit of silk that.."

Constanze, who was very impressed by the banner, but said that it was in less than excellent condition, will write a full report within the week.

Cllr Brian Smedley said "There has  been no definite decision made by the town council yet on where to display the banner. It was originally proposed to hang it in the members room/council chamber-to remind members as to why we were elected in the first place.There was some concern that this would be problematic due to the light from the windows - however Constanze said this could be over come by..er...'closing the curtains'...but she also suggested  a form of anti UV covering for the nearest window."

"More damage from 2 legged creatures than 4 legged ones..."

Another issue facing the Council was how to display it so that both sides were viewable. Cllr Smedley said "The basic proposal was to attach it to its original poles and lean it against the wall and should people wish to see both sides to manually move it-otherwise the aim would be to have it as a backdrop to meetings and public events in the room. However, it was also considered that it may in the future be a feature of a restored Bridgwater Room (the former council chamber which is currently un-used and somewhat dilapidated with remnants of false ceilings). The group visited this room and concurred. However, although the Town Council has now assumed ownership of the entire building from the District Council, there are no immediate plans for restoration of this room.."

Constanze has suggested that the banner  should be taken as soon as possible to their studio in Bristol where work could commence on it mid June.

"Right, back in it's box then!"
Cllr Smedley added "The total funding required could be in the region of £10,000 for restoration and display-which we would seek by establishing a Friends of the Banner group and bidding for grant aid and public subscription."

The Town Council's current position is
1. To keep the banner in safe storage for the immediate future
2. To await the report by Constanze before any further action
3. At that stage a decision should be taken which might have extra consequences regarding funding.
4. This could then include the establishment of a 'Friends of the Banner' group to investigate further funding suggested  by the report and also to consider extra future costs such as display.
5. Should the above be achieved we could then take the banner to Bristol by mid June.

At which point Councillor Smedley hoovered up the frass and put the banner back in it's box to await developments.

Thursday, 19 April 2012


To celebrate International Workers' Day on Tuesday 1st May, Bridgwater Trades Council has arranged a guided walk through scenes from Bridgwater's radical past. Walkers will meet at the Fountain Inn, West Quay, at 6.30pm, and the pace will be leisurely!

Starting at Bridgwater Arts Centre, and calling at the Magistrates Court, Market Street, Town Hall, Dockers' Hall, Unity House, and a host of other locations, local historians Brian Smedley and Dave Chapple will describe Bridgwater's rich and rebellious past along the way. Commentary includes the Brickyard Strike of 1896, the General Strike of 1926, housing conditions in the 1920s, and the Poll Tax protests in the 1990s.

The walk will finish at 9pm at the Fountain Inn, and all are welcome.

For further details phone 01278 450562

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Bridgwater Druids Friendly Society silk banner rescued from oblivion!

Those of you who are interested in Bridgwater's history may be interested in these photos of the wonderful silk banner of the Bridgwater Independent Druids' Friendly Society-made by George Tutill in East London in about 1890-which has been rescued from a local loft and is now in the care of Bridgwater Town Council at the Town Hall with a real chance it can be displayed for local people to see, if some basic conservation work can be completed.

 Friendly Societies-still existing today-were in some ways the 18th and 19th century precursors of trade unions and looked after working-class people with sick out of work and funeral benefits.