|Encyclopaedia Britannica 11th Edition||Public Domain via Project Gutenberg|
a market town and municipal borough in the Western parliamentary division of Dorsetshire, England, 18 m. N.W. of Dorchester, on a branch of the Great Western railway. Pop. (1901) 5710. It is pleasantly situated in a hilly district on the river Brit, from which it takes its name. The main part of the town is about a mile from the sea, with which it is connected by a winding street, ending at a quay surrounded by the fishing village of West Bay, where the railway terminates. The church of St Mary is a handsome cruciform Perpendicular building. The harbour is accessible only to small vessels. There is some import trade in flax, timber and coal. The principal articles of manufacture have long been sailcloth, cordage, linen and fishing-nets. The municipal borough is under a mayor, 6 aldermen and 18 councillors. Area, 593 acres.
Bridport was evidently of some importance before the Conquest, when it consisted of 120 houses rated for all the king's services and paying geld for five hides. By 1086 the number of houses had decreased to 100, and of these 20 were in such a wretched condition that they could not pay geld. The town is first mentioned as a borough in the Pipe Roll of 1189, which states that William de Bendenges owed £9: 10s. for the ancient farm of Bridport, and that the men of the town owed tallage to the amount of 53s. 10d. Henry III. granted the first charter in 1252-1253, making the town a free borough and granting the burgesses the right to hold it at the ancient fee farm with an increase of 40s., and to choose two bailiffs to answer at the exchequer for the farm. A deed of 1381 shows that Henry III. also granted the burgesses freedom from toll. Bridport was incorporated by James I. in 1619, but Charles II. granted a new charter in 1667, and by this the town was governed until 1835. The first existing grant of a market and fairs to Bridport is dated 1593, but it appears from the Quo Warranto Rolls that Edward I. possessed a market there. The town was noted for the manufacture of ropes and cables as early as 1213, and an act of parliament (21 Henry VIII.) shows that the inhabitants had "from time out of mind" made the cables, ropes and hawsers for the royal navy and for most of the other ships. Bridport was represented in parliament by two members from 1395 to 1867. In the latter year the number was reduced to one, and in 1885 the town was disfranchised.