Mediaeval Bridges which cross the River Thames.
Wriggling it's way out of Gloucestershire and passing through the beautiful English countryside, The River Thames is crossed by some lovely mediaeval stone bridges.
Starting from it's source on Kemble, Gloucestershire the River Thames winds and wanders it's way for more than 200 miles across England into London and then the Thames Estuary near Southend-on-Sea and ultimately into the North Sea. As the river crosses the English countryside there are a variety of crossing points which date back to mediaeval times - originally these were in effect places
where the river was shallow enough to be a ford or where a weir had been constructed.
The more frequently used method of crossing the river in the olden days was by local ferry - in some parts of the Thames it was not unusual to find 2 or 3 ferry crossings within half a mile
of each other. Although you can often find old landing stages along the Thames bank the majority of these ferries no longer operate however there are plenty of other signs of where they used to be not least being lanes going towards the river which are named Ferry Lane.
Names of various towns and villages situated or developed alongside the Thames were often derived from the use of a ford - for instance Oxford which was first settled during Saxon times was once known as "Oxenaforda" which meant "ford of the oxen" i.e. took it's name from where oxen once crossed The
Thames (The Isis).
Originally wooden structures most of the bridges have been reconstructed several times especially during the 1780s resulting in today's beautiful brick and stone bridges quite often built with the use of Portland Stone such as the bridge which crosses The River Thames at Maidenhead (see a photo of this bridge a little way below).
Some of the bridges are very long with quite a few arches and do not necessarily reflect the actual width of the river since they often had to not only provide a means of crossing the main course but also accommodate wet boggy areas either side of the river - for example the multi arched bridge at Wallingford. Adding to this some bridges additionally had raised walkways or causeways built where there were extensive wet areas - for instance at one end of the (three
joined-up) bridges which make up Abingdon Bridge (see further below). This raised walkway extends for 100s of yards along what is now the A415 as far as Culham Bridge [note Culham Bridge is not the bridge beside Culham Lock
] and Toll House which is where (probably) the original navigable route of The Thames (map showing Swift Ditch)
was used before a second part of the river was made navigable via Abingdon courtesy of Abingdon Priory monks.
The sequence of photos show some of our favourite River Thames bridges starting from Lechlade's Halfpenny Bridge in the Midlands and heading west towards London. In addition there are pictures of several of Brunel's beautifully bricked Great Western Railway bridges which either cross the river or can be seen alongside it plus a couple of particularly nice girder railway bridges.[ Clicking the thumbnails will open a much larger picture - use the back button to return to this page. ]
Halfpenny Bridge Lechlade
Radcot Old Bridge
Radcot Old Bridge
Three particularly old River Thames Bridges: Radcot Old Bridge at Radcot, Newbridge Bridge and Halfpenny Bridge at Lechlade.
beautiful River Thames bridges pictured above, below and left are the oldest which cross the River and their construction dates back to the 14th century although much of Halfpenny Bridge was replaced during the 19th century. Radcot Old Bridge is probably around 50 years older than Newbridge however technically it no longer crosses the River Thames main stream as the river was slightly
diverted - therefore Newbridge is the oldest and justifiably is a Grade II listed building. Newbridge has twelve beautiful arches most of which can be clearly seen - originally the bridge had 51 arches the majority of which were much smaller arches going over the flood plain i.e. a grander version of a raised causeway.
Swinford Toll Bridge
Wolvercote's lovely little bridge which is shown above does not actually cross over the River Thames main stream but crosses one of several nearbye cuts (Wolvercote Mill Stream) off the river which were used by mill owners and so on some years ago. There is a quite large and as of May 2015 free car park (near to reference OX2 8PH) beside the Bridge which carries Godstow Road, the area is adjacent to Port Meadow which is good for a bit of walking.
The beautiful River Thames bridges at Abingdon in Oxfordshire, England. Abingdon's stone arched Town Bridge was originally built by the Fraternity of the Holy Cross in 1422 and had 14 arches - it was partly re-constructed in 1927 with improved foundations and had several of it's arches heightened and is a lovely example of a Thames bridge. The whole span could be considered to be three connected bridges - Abingdon Bridge is on the built up
side of the town and crosses the Mill stream. Then comes Burford Bridge which actually crosses the River Thames main stream - the name "Burford" has nothing to do with the town of Burford but is a
ancronym of "Borough Ford Bridge". Finally there is (Maud) Hales Bridge which was attached to Burford Bridge in the 15th Century to accommodate flooding on the adjacent marshland and was itself connected to an extensive raised walkway.
Abingdon Town Bridge
Old Culham Bridge
Culham Bridge near to Culham Lock
Appleton Girder railway bridge near Culham
Appleton railway bridge over The River Thames
Appleton Girder Railway Bridge, Little Wittenham Bridge and Clifton Hampden Bridge - Oxfordshire, England. Crossing the River Thames around halfway between Culham Lock and Clifton Hampden, by late Spring Appleton Girder Bridge is virtually invisible amongst the trees and shrubs - as is the River Thames itself. The bridge carries twin tracks on the Oxford to Reading railway line.
Made of cast iron, Little Wittenham's footbridge connects Little Wittenham (and therefore Wittenham Clumps) with
Dorchester-on-Thames. The bridge, from 1984 until 2014, hosted the annual annual World Poohsticks Championships.
further along the River Thames the red-brick built and multi-arched Clifton Hampden Bridge is also a beautiful site as you walk towards it on the Thames Path. The bridge was opened as a single lane toll-bridge in 1867 and replaced a ferry-crossing and the cattle-crossing ford - the tolls were eventually removed in 1946.
Little Wittenham Bridge
Wallingford Bridge in Oxfordshire.
Above and below are several photos of Wallingford's beautiful old bridge. The first shows the bridge - just about - with a photo taken in the Summer - the bridge from this side is all but invisible amongst the trees. The other photos were taken in the Winter when it is visible. Wallingford Bridge actually has 17 arches although apart from flooding periods the River Thames only uses 5 of them. There has been a bridge across The River Thames here since medieval times and the present version was built in 1809 when the
balustrade was added.
Moulsford Railway Bridge
Whitchurch Toll Bridge - Berkshire, England.
This Grade II listed tollbridge which was opened in 1902 is one of the remaining two River Thames Bridges which still levy toll charges for motorised vehicles - the other one is Swinford Bridge near Eynsham in Oxfordshire. The bridge shown above was the third version
which has now been heavily re-furbished - the first was built during the 1790s and the second opened in the Spring of 1853. The photo on the right is Whitchurch Toll Bridge version four - this opened towards the end of 2014. Apart from motor vehicles the bridge also carries The Thames Path. There is good information about the history of the bridge at the Whitchurch Bridge
Via our Site Resources
find links to more items about England - canals include The Oxford Canal, The Grand Union Canal, The Kennet and Avon Canal, The Regents Canal, the River Lee Navigation and The River Stort and The Stratford-upon-Avon Canal. Also there is an item showing British Wild Flowers.
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