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Name:Old Bridge (site of), Bewdley
HER Reference:WSM08161
Type of record:Monument
Grid Reference:SO 787 753
Map Sheet:SO77NE
Parish:Bewdley, Wyre Forest, Worcestershire

Monument Types

  • BRIDGE (15TH CENTURY AD to 18TH CENTURY AD - 1447 AD to 1795 AD)

Associated Events

  • Watching Brief in 1991, Severnside South, Bewdley Bridge, Bewdley (Ref: WSM11173)

Full description

History of the succession of bridges built at Bewdley given in Worcestershire Archaeology Newsletter article: Bridges were constructed in 1447, 1460, 1483, and 1798. A stone bridge was needed in place of a ford, and was begun c.1447. One authority thinks it may have only been a footbridge. During the Wars of the Roses this bridge was broken down by the Lancastrians. In the Patent Rolls 1459 there is a statement that stones from Bewdley Bridge were granted to the Bailiffs of Worcester. The 1460 bridge was built of timber, standing on the stone abutments and piers of the old bridge. In 1483 Richard III gave 200 Marks for the erection of a stone bridge. His successor Edward IV gave further grants for the completion of the work. It was a five arch bridge, with a strong wooden gatehouse on the third pier on the Bewdley side. The northern end of the gatehouse was the Toll Collector's dwelling. The other structure, known as Bridge House, was in fact a prison. To complete the bridge a small timber chapel was built on the northern side. In severe storms in 1574, snow and ice floes carried part of the bridge away. It was quickly repaired. The bridge needed further repairs, following actions in Bewdley during the Civil War. The winter of 1794-5 was particularly severe in the Midlands and it damaged or destroyed a number of local bridges. Bewdley's was badly damaged and large parts of it were washed away in a sudden thaw in February 1795. The end finally came in October 1800 when the abutments were finally demolished and stonework was salvaged from the river bed. By this time the town of Bewdley was very prosperous and it had been decided to call in the distinguished engineer Thomas Telford to design a new bridge. At first a single span iron bridge was suggested, but the Coalbrookdale Iron Company refused to undertake the work as they could not supply stone for the abutments. After a number of other setbacks the Bridge Commissioners decided on a three arched stone bridge. The stone was to come from Lord Valencia's estate at Arley. When that supply ran out further stone was ordered from Thomas Hazelwood at Billingsley Colliery. A further 2,000 tons were supplied by Highley Colliery. The new bridge was built in line with Load Street and a number of properties were purchased and demolished to make way. Work commenced in the late spring of 1798 and was completed in about four months at a cost of £11,000. The bridge was officially opened on 28th September 1798 by Mr. Miles Andrews MP. An integral part of the bridge was the Toll House on the Wribbenhall side. Tolls were taken until the bridge became free in 1834. Sadly, after the Second World War, serious cracks in the walls owing to heavy wartime traffic and undermining by floods. Efforts were taken to try and save the building, but it ended up being demolished in 1960. [1]

VCH: The first bridge between Wribbenhall and Bewdley was probably begun about 1447, when John Carpenter, Bishop of Worcester, granted an indulgence of forty days to all who contributed to the work. It was at least partly built of stone, and must have been destroyed about 1459, when the town was taken by the Lancastrians, for the stones were then granted to her old enemy Worcester for the repair of walls, gates and bridge there. The men of Bewdley, however, undeterred by this disaster, seem to have set to work at once to build a new bridge of the timber fortunately so easy to obtain, and though both this and the ferry were put under the care of a Lancastrian warden in May 1460, it was not long before the Earl of March enjoyed his own again and the king's too. The timber bridge lasted until 1483, when a third bridge was built, towards the expenses of which King Richard III gave 20 marks. As there is no further record of bridge-building in Bewdley till 1795, when an Act was passed for rebuilding the bridge, it may perhaps be assumed that this was the stone bridge which was still standing at the end of the 18th century, a curious patchwork of much damage and many repairs. There are two sketches of this bridge preserved in the council chamber of Bewdley Town Hall. It was of five arches, and on the third pier from Bewdley stood a timbered gate-house with strong gates on the Wribbenhall side. The north end of this gate-house served as a dwelling for the toll-gatherer, and the other, called the Bridge House, was used as a corporation prison. [2][3]

In 1973 the British Sub-aqua Club located the remains of two central piers of a bridge. [4]

In 2002 an archaeological evaluation at Seven Side South failed to reveal any intact structural remains of the 1483 bridge, although it was concluded that the lower part of a bridge pier had been preserved through being encased by riverside walls. [5]

Further investigations were carried out in 2006, prior to construction of flood defences. In addition to the first pier of the 1483 bridge, its abutment of the 1483 bridge was located and recorded, as were parts of contemporary and later quay walls, and the remains of several 18th century buildings. A timber structure in the river bed was dated to the late 16th or early 17th century and interpreted as a jetty. [6]

Other source, Bewdley- Archaeological Implications of Development, Draft. [8]

Watching brief on pipe trench below extreme SW pedestrian archway of bridge, by G. Taylor. [9]

See also sketch of the bridge in 1707 [10]

Engraving of Bewdley bridge, presumably from the 15th century. [11]

General historic outline of Bewdley's 15th century bridge, with several engravings. [12]

See also [13]

Sources and further reading

<1*>Bibliographic reference: Various. 1985. Worcestershire Archaeology and Local History Newsletter No 35. Worcestershire Archaeological Society. 35. 16.
<2*>Bibliographic reference: Page, W. 1924. A History of the County of Worcestershire; Volume IV. Victoria County History. 303.
<3*>Unpublished document: Buteux, V. 1996. CMHTS Archaeological Assessment of Bewdley & Wribbenhall. Archaeological Service - Worcestershire County Council. Archaeological Service - Worcestershire County Council. 298.
<4*>Record card: Not known . Undated. SMR card: Bewdley Old Bridge. WHEAS.
<5*>Bibliographic reference: Miller, D, and Darch, E. 2002. Archaeological evaluation and watching brief at Severn Side South, Bewdley. Archaeological Service - Worcestershire County Council. Archaeological Service - Worcestershire County Council. 1115.
<6*>Bibliographic reference: Miller, D. 2006. Archaeological investigations along Severn Side South, Bewdley. Archaeological Service - Worcestershire County Council. Archaeological Service - Worcestershire County Council. 1427.
<7>Bibliographic reference: Noake, J. 1851. The Rambler in Worcestershire or Stray Notes on Churches and Congregations Volume II. . II.
<8*>Bibliographic reference: James Bond. . Bewdley- Archaeological Implications of Development, Draft. . 5.
<9*>Record card: G. Taylor. 1991. Watching brief on pipe trench below extreme SW pedestrian archway of bridge.
<10*>Graphic material: 1707. Sketch of Bewdley Bridge and surrounds in 1707.
<11*>Illustration: Unknown. Unknown. Engraving of Bewdley Bridge .
<12*>Bibliographic reference: Gwilliam, H W. Undated. Coach Travel and Turnpike Roads in Worcestershire.
<13>Unpublished document: Guyatt, D A. 1996. The Fisheries of the Worcestershire Severn (with notes on the fords and ferries). Archaeological Service - Worcestershire County Council. Archaeological Service - Hereford And Worcester County Council. 439. p.13.