Beckford Bridge

Devon & Cornwall Notes and Queries vol. VI, (January 1910 to October 1911), p. 257.


Julia E. Chapple

Prepared by Michael Steer

Medieval and early post-medieval single span bridges are structures designed to carry a road or track over a river by means of a single arch, typically 3m- 6m in span. They were constructed throughout the medieval period, most commonly using timber. Stone began to be used instead of timber in the 12th century and became increasingly common in the 14th and 15th centuries. Many medieval bridges were repaired, modified or extensively rebuilt in the post-medieval period, Beckford Bridge survives in an excellent state of preservation having been by-passed for vehicular traffic by the construction of a modern bridge across the ford just downstream. As a result it has not been subjected to any major modern strengthening works. It has the characteristic humped shape of a packhorse bridge and, although it has been the subject of some restoration, it will provide evidence of bridge construction and the way in which rivers were crossed in the medieval and early post-medieval periods where it was necessary to keep horse-drawn goods dry and above the river level. The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

Note 225. BECKFORD BRIDGE. - This interesting old pack horse bridge, which is built of stone in the shape of a bow, and is in a perfect state of preservation, having been restored, spans the river Yarty. In olden days, when the only means of conveying goods from one place to another was by means of panniers on horses, this bridge was in constant use. Situated about four miles from Axminster and two from Stockland, in a picturesque part of Devonshire, overshadowed by trees whose foliage affords a cool shade in summer, this bridge is a great attraction to antiquaries who visit the once famous carpet town of Axminster. There has been some idea lately of removing this old relic and replacing it by a modern bridge capable of carrying wheeled traffic, but the destruction of the last of these quaint structures to be found in the county would be deplorable, and it is hoped that by bringing this project to the notice of readers of D. & C. N. & Q. steps may be taken for the preservation of this old bridge.                     Julia E. Chapple.