A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 6, Andersfield, Cannington, and North Petherton Hundreds (Bridgwater and Neighbouring Parishes). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1992.
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King John's charter to William Brewer in 1200 declared Bridgwater to be a free borough, in which William might levy tolls of all kinds on outsiders and whose burgesses were to be free of tolls beyond the borough except in London. The charter was confirmed in 1318, 1371, 1381, and 1400. (fn. 1) The lordship of the borough descended with the chief manor in two shares, (fn. 2) and from the 15th century was represented by a rent or fee farm. (fn. 3)
Bridgwater appeared as a borough before the justices in eyre by 1225. (fn. 4) In the later 14th century the borough paid its lords rents for burgages and stalls, tolls from port, markets, and fairs, and perquisites of courts. (fn. 5)
In 1468, allegedly because of the town's decline, the Crown granted a charter which incorporated the borough with a mayor, two bailiffs, and an unspecified number of burgesses. The charter confirmed to the mayor and bailiffs the right to pay a reduced rent to the lord of one third of the borough as a fee farm. During her lifetime they were to pay £3 each year to Cecily, duchess of York, and after her death £10 to the Crown. (fn. 6) The fee farm was paid at the Exchequer until 1630, when it was part of the jointure of the queen, Henrietta Maria, and was still being claimed in 1646-7. (fn. 7)
The rent of the remaining two thirds of the borough, occasionally called a fee farm, (fn. 8) belonged to the Zouche share of Haygrove manor until 1485. (fn. 9) Giles Daubeney, Baron Daubeney (d. 1508), was succeeded by his son Henry (cr. earl of Bridgwater 1538, d. 1548). Henry retained the rent from the borough until 1544 or later, but by 1547 it was being paid to Richard Zouche (succ. as Baron Zouche in 1550, d. 1552). (fn. 10) Richard settled the rent, then amounting to £10 16s. 8d., on his two younger sons, Richard and Charles. Richard conveyed his share in 1558 to his eldest brother George, Lord Zouche (d. 1569). (fn. 11) George's share was paid to his widow Margaret 1572-7 and in 1578 to his son Edward, Lord Zouche (d. 1625). (fn. 12) Charles Zouche in 1566-7 received his share, which by 1572 had passed to John Byflete. (fn. 13) Byflete was succeeded in 1621 by his son Robert, and Robert in 1641 by his son Thomas. Thomas's heirs were paid in arrears in 1652 (fn. 14) but no further payments have been traced.
The borough received a new charter in 1587, modified in 1628, and another in 1683. The corporation established under the Act of 1835 was dissolved in 1974, though the town retained a titular mayor. (fn. 15)