The Town Square was once the focal point of the town’s activities, a gathering place and central area where the community would come together to celebrate special occasions, or meet to take part in a social function. People new to the area will no longer see any sign of the large open space that was once looked upon with pride by the local populace.
Where was the square was situated? In Market Street adjacent to where the new Community Hall now is. The entrance to the original Town Hall (which is covered later) was on the right of the building and looked out over this large open space, with buildings to the left and Market Street passing to the right, towards the “Cooper’s Arms” and Walrow Bridge. “Alpha House” now covers part of the area that was once the Town Square.
Looking to the left from the Town Hall entrance was the “Constitution Club”, a small building between the Hall and the “Railway Hotel”. This had a long frontage onto the square. At the end of the hotel the square widened further to include, at its rear, buildings which housed the “Bridgwater & Highbridge Cab & Postings Co.”
On the opposite side of the square there was a line of open fronted stables and the “Railway Vaults”, a drinking house that was approximately opposite the chemists shop in Market Street. This completed the square; it was of a considerable size.
The “Central Somerset Railway Inn”, later known as the “Railway Hotel”, was a large building dominating the square. In the early days, up to the 1930’s, its main business was overnight stays, for
not only ‘holiday’ visitors to the town, but also agents arriving and departing by rail, having come to the town to attend the market. Buyers for national company’s attended the well-known cheese market that was held on a regular basis; next to the “Cooper’s Arms”. The hotel had two large function rooms for weddings and other such functions, parties, etc., a skittle alley and a large ground floor bar area. It was described as a ‘Family and Commercial Hotel.
Between the 1920’s and the late 1930’s there also existed a “Cab & Posting Co”; it would supply horse drawn carriages, to meet trains arriving at the railway station or for other special occasions. Horses were trained to harness at the rear of the buildings, and this is where the horses, used by the company, were stabled around a paddock. Horse drawn carriages for funerals and weddings would be supplied and in later years charabancs and brakes could be charted for pleasure parties. On the far side of the square, was the “Railway Vaults”
Many celebrations and other activities have taken place on the square. An open-air market, unlike those of today, would be set out to sell mainly vegetables and fruit, also poultry and dairy produce, brought in by farmers. It was held in a quadrangle under the Town Hall.
Parades for all occasions either started or finished in the square. The early days would have seen the hunt assemble on the square, prior to heading out into the local countryside. Even in the 1950’s and 1960’s car rallies would use the area as their starting and finishing point. Moving into the late 1950’s and 1960’s the square was being used less and less. Community celebrations did not have the same pulling power as in the early days, but the square was still available and probably still held its place as the core of the town.
In the mid 1970’s a decision was made to remove the square and the building, but not the Town Hall (this was demolished in the mid 1980’s) and build “Alpha House”, the ground floor becoming the doctor’s surgery. The surgery later moved to Pepperall Road and was replaced by the library. Unfortunately “Alpha House” was built where the ‘Railway Hotel’ had stood and thus it eliminated the Town Square.