Northgate memorial dedicated

A new memorial reflecting the history of the Northgate site was dedicated to the people of Bridgwater this weekend.

A seating area has been created close to the nearly completed primary school, built in part from bricks recovered from the hospital that used to stand on the Northgate site.

Before becoming a hospital in the 1980s, the building was the Bridgwater Workhouse dating back to the 1840s. The County Council was keen to make sure a suitable memorial was in place to mark the history of the site and had the seating area built as part of wider Northgate development.

As well as the seating area, there are three colourful information boards which retell the history of the site as well as the town’s brick-making past which saw its wares sold as far afield as New Zealand.

On Saturday Chairman of the County Council, Councillor William Wallace, formally dedicated it to Bridgwater Town Council as part of the Bridgwater Quayside Festival. Sedgemoor District Council, which owns part of the wider Northgate site, has agreed to take on the maintenance of the area.

Cllr Wallace said: “It’s remarkable that there are still people alive today who may have lived in the workhouse during their childhood. Those who went there would have already been facing extreme poverty and deprivation.

“The September opening of the new primary school will see the start of a bright new chapter for this part of the site, but it’s right that we don’t forget the past. I’m delighted we have been able to create this space which I hope will be a reminder, particularly for the young people of the town, of what went before”.

Mayor of Bridgwater, Graham Granter, and Leader of Bridgwater Town Council, Councillor Brian Smedley, said: “The workhouse system was an evil perpetrated on the poor and should never be forgotten. That it’s gone and remembered for what it was can only be a good thing. That it’s been replaced by a school for future generations can only be a good thing. And good will come out of this site.

“Through the co-operation of the Town, District and County Councils, Northgate will soon blossom forth with a celebration mile, a major leisure facility, enhanced green spaces, and a school all complementing the historic town centre. The best thing we can say about the workhouse is that it’s gone and future generations will benefit from what is built on its historic footprint.”

Councillor Peter Downing, Sedgemoor District Council’s portfolio holder for Infrastructure, with special responsibility for Northgate, said “These are exciting times for what has become unexcitingly known as the Northgate site. A new primary school is on the point of opening and clearer proposals for the development of a new leisure and retail area are now emerging and moving towards reality.

“But the site as a historical value, some of it from harsher times, which the local community wishes to recognize. The Victorian Hospital Memorial seems to strike that balance between old and new in a sensitive way and I welcome it”.