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HER Number:MDV10285
Name:Cowley Bridge, Exeter


Cowley bridge, a fine three-arched bridge over the Exe, designed by James Green and built in 1813 to replace an earlier bridge. Documentary evidence for a bridge at Cowley dates back to the 13th century.


Grid Reference:SX 907 955
Map Sheet:SX99NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishExeter
Civil ParishUpton Pyne
DistrictEast Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishST.DAVIDS

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX99NW/49
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II*)
  • Old SAM County Ref: 163
  • Old SAM Ref: 33044
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SX99NW23

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • BRIDGE (Unknown date)

Full description

Swete, R. J. (Revd), 1792-1801, 564M 'Picturesque Sketches of Devon' by Reverend John Swete, 1/207,209;12/175 (Record Office Collection). SDV337942.

Illustrations by Rev. Swete of Cowley Bridge.

Morris, G. T. W, 1924 - 1925, Will of Symon Slader, 323 (Article in Serial). SDV338970.

Bequest under the will of Symon Slader in 1536 for the building of the bridge.

Chope, R. P., 1926 - 1927, Early Bridges, 93-4 (Article in Serial). SDV2294.

Bequests made under the will of Bishop Stapledon, 1326 and Bishop Stafford, 1399 for the upkeep of the bridge.

Henderson, C. + Jervoise, E., 1938, Old Devon Bridges, 60-1 (Monograph). SDV2296.

Other details: Plate.

Department of Environment, 1952, St Thomas RD, 128 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV129122.

Designed by James Green, County Surveyor. 1813-14. Red stone with three segmental arches and niches to piers. Tablet on parapet.

Department of Environment, 1953, Exeter (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV340495.

Cowley Bridge. Road bridge across the River Exe. 1813-14. By James Green, Civil Engineer and Surveyor for the County of Devon. Ashlar span of 3 segmented arches; pilasters between arches with round-headed niches below parapet, and small recessed panels above. Dentilled band at road level, and coped parapet. Voussoirs are of Thorverton stone, as are the abutments to either end, and these contrast nicely with the red sandstone of the main structure. Low cutwaters. Cowley Bridge was built to replace a 12-arched bridge at the joint expense of the County of Devon and the Chamber of Exeter in the mayoralities of B W Johnson Burnes Pitch and John
Flour Esquires. This information, together with the date of the laying of the first stone (22nd June 1813) is recorded on 2 inscription panels facing each other on the parapet. The bridge cost £9,000 and is Green's most important bridge.
Sources: [1] NMR; typescript article, James Green, civil engineer, 1781-1849, County Bridge Surveyor of Devon, 1808-1841 by A B George. [2] Buildings of England, p. 410.
Cowley Bridge spans the River Exe and is partly in the City of Exeter and partly in Upton Pyne parish. Other details: LBS No 86110.

Minchinton, W. E., 1973, Industrial Archaeology in Devon, 4 (Monograph). SDV7016.

Cowley Bridge. Early 19th century, in main road.

Department of Environment, 1974, Exeter UD, 63 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV340492.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1982, SX99NW23 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV340490.

Replaced a bridge of four arches that was found to be too naroow. The earliest record of Cowley Bridge is 1286 and until at least 1340 it was built of timber. There were major repairs in 1536 and 1545 (citing Henderson and Jervoise). In good condition. On HHR St. Thomas RD (now superceded by Exeter list 1974), listed Grade II*. Other details: Photograph.

Department of Environment, 1984, Upton Pyne, 24 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV336959.

Stoyle, M. J., 1990, The Civil War Defences of Exeter and the Great Parliamentary Siege of 1645-46, 28 (Report - non-specific). SDV129126.

Weddell, P. J., 1991, An Archaeological Assessment of SWW Pynes to Dunsford Hill (Exeter) Water Main, 4 (Report - Assessment). SDV340493.

English Heritage, 2003, Cowley Bridge (Schedule Document). SDV340496.

Early 19th century stone bridge spanning the River Exe some 3 kilometres upstream from the city of Exeter. It is located on the site of a succession of bridges at the spot, the earliest of which to be recorded dates to 1286. The bridge carries the road which connexts Exeter with Crediton and North Devon and is listed Grade II*. Designed in a classical style by the civil engineer James Green, Cowley Bridge was built over the course of 1813-14 to replace and earlier bridge which was found to have been to narrow. It is constructed largely of local volcanic trap stone and comprises three segmental arches with a total span of 50m, these arches being supported by two piers whch also provide the cutwaters. There are pilasters above the cutwaters with large round-headed niches all fashioned in volcanic trap ashlar as is the detilled exterior string-course at road level. Granite coping stones. The total length of the bridge is about 74 metres and it is 11 metres wide. A tablet on the southern side of the bridge records the year of construction (1813-1814). A dwarf pillar on the northern side records the first stone laid on 22nd June 1813. Cowley was the site of a timber bridge known to have been in existence by 1286 and which stood until at least 1340. At some stage it was replaced by stone and major repairs are recorded in 1536 and 1545. A stone bridge at the site was destroyed by the Royalists in the Civil War around 1646. The bridge that was erected in its place after the end of hostilities may have been that reported by Green in 1809 to have been in good repair but too narrow. It so, it was this bridge that was replaced in 1813-14. See Schedule Document for full details.

Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2004, Untitled Source (Correspondence). SDV340494.

Scheduled Monument Consent granted for works concerning the excavation of three trial holes to determine the thickness of the arch barrels.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV129122List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1952. St Thomas RD. Historic Houses Register. Unknown. 128.
SDV129126Report - non-specific: Stoyle, M. J.. 1990. The Civil War Defences of Exeter and the Great Parliamentary Siege of 1645-46. Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit Report. 90.26. A4 Stapled + Digital. 28.
SDV2294Article in Serial: Chope, R. P.. 1926 - 1927. Early Bridges. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 14. Unknown. 93-4.
SDV2296Monograph: Henderson, C. + Jervoise, E.. 1938. Old Devon Bridges. Old Devon Bridges. Unknown. 60-1.
SDV336959List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1984. Upton Pyne. Historic Houses Register. A4 Comb Bound. 24.
SDV337942Record Office Collection: Swete, R. J. (Revd). 1792-1801. 564M 'Picturesque Sketches of Devon' by Reverend John Swete. Devon Record Office Collection. Unknown + Digital. 1/207,209;12/175.
SDV338970Article in Serial: Morris, G. T. W. 1924 - 1925. Will of Symon Slader. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 13. Unknown. 323.
SDV340490Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1982. SX99NW23. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV340492List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1974. Exeter UD. Historic Houses Register. A4 Spiral Bound. 63.
SDV340493Report - Assessment: Weddell, P. J.. 1991. An Archaeological Assessment of SWW Pynes to Dunsford Hill (Exeter) Water Main. Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit Report. 91.61. A4 Stapled + Digital. 4.
SDV340494Correspondence: Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 2004. Scheduled Monument Consent Letter. Letter.
SDV340495List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1953. Exeter. Historic Houses Register. Website.
SDV340496Schedule Document: English Heritage. 2003. Cowley Bridge. The Schedule of Monuments. A4 Stapled.
SDV7016Monograph: Minchinton, W. E.. 1973. Industrial Archaeology in Devon. Industrial Archaeology in Devon. Paperback Volume. 4.

Associated Monuments

MDV53874Related to: BRIDGE in the Parish of Exeter, Upton Pyne (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Aug 31 2018 10:06AM