Barford Bridge March 2010
Barford Bridge was listed by the former Department of Environment in July 1964 as Grade I, of exceptional interest. The department dated the bridge and causeway to the 15th century, with rebuilding in the 19th century. It is built of coursed rubble, some of it dark sandstone and some limestone. The upper part was widened and rebuilt in red brick in 1874. It has seventeen irregular pointed arches, spanning approximately 140 metres, being approximately 5 metres wide. It is a scheduled ancient monument.
The second volume published by Bedfordshire Historical Records Society in 1914 includes the will of Sir Gerard Braybroke of Colmworth of 1427, proved in 1429. One clause, in the original English shows why the Department of Environment dated the structure to the 15th century. It reads: “I wol that the briyge of Berford in Bedfordshyr be perfourmed and finished with my goods”.
In their Bridges of Bedfordshire, published by Bedfordshire Archaeology in 1997, Angela Simco and Peter McKeague note that John Leland described Barford Bridge in the 1530s as: “a great stone bridge of eight stone arches near the uplandisch towne of Berford”. These are the third to tenth arches running from north to south. The join with the later northern and southern extensions can be seen in the stonework.
It was fashionable to leave part of one’s estate for public works and Bedfordshire Historical Records Society volumes contain early 16th century wills doing just that. In 1501 John Canon of Great Barford left an angel (a coin worth 6 shillings and 8 pence) for repairs [Volume 58] and Edward Cowper of Blunham left two shillings [Volume 45]. In 1506 Richard Manley left an angel [Volume 57].
In 1534 Richard Wylshire left a quarter of malt [ABP/R4f34d] and the following year the Lord of the Manor of Creakers, John Fitzgeffery, left ten quarters of barley [ABP/R4f3d]. In 1539 Jone Bysshoppe (Joan Bishop) of Great Barford, a widow, left two bushels of barley for the upkeep of the bridge [ABP/R6/1d]. The next year John Fyssher of Great Barford left eight pence [ABP/R6/36] and in 1548 William Samwell of Blunham left twenty pence for maintenance of the bridge and a similar sum for Blunham Bridge [ABP/R12/11d].
The Cranfield family of Great Barford left 16th century accounts for repairs of the bridge [X80/97], a transcription of which (complete with the old spellings) is as follows, the original Roman numerals have been changed to Arabic numerals for ease of reading, s. means shillings and d. pence:
- Owinge to Beamont of Elstowe for 14 load of Carriadges from Biddenhams at 4 s. a load - 61 s.
- To Robert Gardiner of Blonham for 5 load from thence at 4 s. likewise – 20 s.
- Item to Hanscombe and his brother for 9 loads from Sandey at 2 s. the load – 18 s.
- To [?] Hancett in full of his bill besides other Carryadges since - £3 14 s. 2d.
- To Walker in full for his Wages besides worke done by the daye this weeke to lay the Creast stones which was taken owt of the Water being 24 feete and mending the toppe of the bridge with the lyme and stome that was left - £3 and thother all 40 s.
- To my Cosen Bromhalles pittes for 24 loades of Stone at 2 s. the load – 48 s.
- To diverse other labres since to the labor of some – 20 s.
- Rec’ by Wm Fage of Biddenham on Sunday for 22 loades of Stone from Biddenham pittes viz 18 by Beamont 3 by Rochell and 5 by Robt Gardiner of Blonham at 12 d. the loade – 22 s.
- Item paid to Rich Walker 24 Julii - £5
- Item paid to H. Wilshur 24 Julii predict for 8 dayes workes digging gravel and earth about the arches and bottome of the bridge at 9 d. a day – 6 s.
- Item to Hughes for the like for 10 dayes – 7 s. 6 d.
- Item to Rich Wilsher a daye helping about diging earth – 9 d.
- Item to Bonfeild for 3 dayes digging Gravill and earth to dame [?] whell at 8 d. a daye – 2 s.
- Item paid to Robert Huncott in parte of his bill of £6 19 s. 2 d. 21 Junii - £3
Worke done by Rich walker and his workmen
[?] besides the reper of the bridge upon Chistmas
- 18 s. 4 d. Item for 11 dayes worke of Rich Walker about the top of the bridge & seling … the Creast stones & harbringe or roughcasting the toppe of the bridge at 20 d. the daye 18 s. 4d.
- 8 s. Item for 6 dayes of Henry Shearman about the stoneworke at 16 d. the daye
- 7 s. Item for 6 dayes of Tho: Graunte about the same work at 19 d. the daye
- 9 s. Item for 9 dayes of John Dyes Rich Wakers apprentice about the same work at 12 d. the daye.
- 7 s. 6 d. Item for 9 dayes of Wm Sonds labourer to make mortar and other necessarys about the same work at 10 d. a daye
- 5 s. Item for 6 dayes of Wm Ruffe labrer all the same workes at 10 d. a daye 5 s.
- [this entry was struck through] Robert Chamberlyn alias Godfrey of St. Ives [deleted for] Godmanchester of whome the [?] lyme was brought for [?] drynckes
- Item to Rich Waker for his paynes gooinge to eaton to see whether the lyme were accordinge to [?] larginge and to see the Cartes loadin 2 s. givn him
Worke done since the 14 of June by labrers as followeth till lamas
- Pd 9 d. H. Wilshur half a daye digging gravill
- Pd 9 d. Hughes a daye and half att the like
- Pd by Nyses 21 Octob 2 s. qd. Robert 4 dayes throing downe the earth for Damboote to staye the passage of the water
- Pd 10 d. and 6 d. Easte 2 days about the like and digging gravill
- To Huncott for 3 dates workes besides 6 loades of gravill from then and on Carte to Blenhem for 10 ls of earth gravill for the [?betheendes] of the bridge with the lyme to the bridge and other necessarys as occasin shewed.
- Item to Cater of Benham for 3 quarters 2 lbs of [?heame] to bring the mortar withal to [?harle] the upper parte of the bridge at the buz
- Item to Pippett for thuse of a t.. and their necessarye uses 18 d.
In 1672 and 1673 the bridge was out of repair. In the former year the constable for the parish reported this fact at the Assizes [HSA1672/S/7] and in the following year the parishioners were indicted for not repairing it [HSA1673/S/21]. A bill for work on the bridge from 1724 survives in the Quarter Sessions rolls [QSR1724/92].
Five arches were added to the southern part of the bridge in the early 18th century. These lie on the flood plain. Angela Simco and Peter McKeague in their book note that a date stone gives the date 1704 and the initials W S.
The archive of the Francklin family, Lords of the Manor of Veseys, include notes of money spent on the bridge including the need for a new arch following a partial collapse in 1753, which cost £70 [FN1253]. The date is still just visible on the fifth arch from the south. Repairs were also carried out in 1748, 1757, 1761, 1764, 1766 and 1771. A letter in the estate correspondence of the Dukes of Bedford [R3/335] noted that in 1767 Barford Bridge was “down, as is Shefford; & at Felmersham great damage is done to the new enclosure, the flood having levelled their ditches & fences. It is the greatest flood in the memory of man in this country”.
During the 18th century another arch was added at the north end and two more at the south end. The road crossing the bridge was made into a turnpike in 1772. This meant that tolls were charged for using the road and some of the money thus raised was used to repair the road, its bridges and culverts. At this time a new road to Roxton [New Road] was laid out and the sharp turn was a nuisance to traffic [QBM1, 22]. Quarter Sessions rolls give bills for repairs in 1776, in 1815 and in 1819. In 1781 architect John Wing altered two of the arches, receiving £85/12/10 remuneration [QSR1781/161].
In 1818 the bridge was widened using timber beams [QSR1817/474 and QSR1819/406]. This also involved replacing the stone parapet on the west side with an open railing. The same thing happened to the east side some years later. Thomas Orlebar Marsh recorded that a flood damaged the bridge in 1823 and this was recorded at the Quarter Sessions [QSR1824/496]; the south-east corner gave way.
The timber beams were found to be rotten in 1874 and were replaced by brick along the west side of the bridge. This was not well done and in 1897 iron ties were used to tie the brickwork to the stone behind as it had begun to pull away. Between 1971 and 1974 the inverts of two arches were lowered to allow navigation [PCGreatBarford15/1/3]