Heritage Locations

Wye Bridge, Hereford


A six span masonry bridge over the Wye, substantially as it was  when rebuilt in 1490, and listed Grade I.

Constructor:
Unclassified

Period of construction:
1000 - 1599

Transport Trust plaque:
No

Transport Mode:
Road

Address:
St. Martins Street, Hereford HR2 7RE

Postcode:
HR2 7RE

Nearest Town:
Hereford

Heritage Centre:
No

The first bridges were probably of felled trees lain across the river (Stockbridge and Trowbridge both refer to tree trunk bridges) and then of worked timber.

The Romans built bridges in wood, and probably stone, but none remain in Britain. The oldest surviving timber bridge is over the River Ouse at Selby and dates from 1790.

The first simple stone bridges - clapper bridges comprise large slabs of stone rested on stone piers to span a stream or small river. Tarr Steps, which crosses the River Barle in Somerset, is the longest with 17 spans supporting stone slabs 5 feet wide. It is too narrow for carts but Pont Sarnddu in Carnarvonshire is ten feet across and wide enough for vehicles.

Packhorse bridges, small arched bridges, with very low parapets so as not to get in the way of the horse's panniers, can still be found for example at Wycoller in Lancashire, Moulton in Suffolk, and Fifehead Neville, Dorset.

More sophisticated stone bridges were built abundantly in the 13th century, the use of timber continued into the 16th century. The river Skell at Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire, is crossed by probably the oldest arched bridge in England. Thirteenth to fourteenth century bridges can be recognised by their pointed arches and by the V-shaped extensions over the cutwaters for pedestrian refuges. These were superseded by bridges which were ribbed under the arches (14/15century), and those with semi-circular arches.

But all of these styles are modified by the needs and knowledge of the locality. In the early eighteenth century Daniel Defoe observed "...the Nyd, smaller then the Wharfe, but furiously rapid, and very dangerous to pass in many places, especially upon sudden rains. Notwithstanding, such lofty high built bridges are as not to be seen over such small rivers in any other place".

Masonry arch and cast iron bridges derive from the late 18th and 19th centuries. Bridges were usually made from local materials. In the eastern counties they were first built with timber and then brick.

The Wye Bridge in Hereford, built in 1490, replaced an earlier structure of around 1125. For 200 years it was the only bridge that crossed the River Wye into Hereford. In 1645, when the city was under siege, local people destroyed one of the arches in an effort to keep out the invading Scots; it was later rebuilt but in a different style from the rest. The bridge has five piers and six spans which vary in width from 28-31 feet. Originally there was a gatehouse, demolished in 1782.


Bibliography:
Addison, Sir William, The Old Roads of England, Batsford, ISBN 0 7134 1714 5 (1980)

Albert, W., The Turnpike Road System in England 1663-1840, Cambridge University Press, ISBN O 5210 3391 8 (1972)

Barker, Theo, The Rise and Rise of Road Transport, 1700-1990, Cambridge University Press, ISBN-10 0521557739 (1995)

Codrington, Thomas, Roman Roads in Britain: Early Britain, Kessinger Publishing, ISBN-10 0548240310 (2007)

Davies, Hugh,
Roads in Roman Britain, History Press, ISBN-10 0752425030 (2008)

Davies, Hugh, Roman Roads, Shire, ISBN-10 074780690X (2008)

Harrison, David, The Bridges of Medieval England: Transport and Society 400-1800, Oxford University Press, ISBN-10: 0199226857 (2007)

Hindle, P.,
Roads and Tracks for Historians, Phillimore & Co, ISBN-10: 1860771823 (2001)

Hindley, G.
, History of the Roads, Peter Davies, ISBN 0 8065 0290 8 (1971)

Jackson, Gibbard, From Track to Highway, Nicholson and Watson, ASIN B00085R4D8 (1935)

Jervoise, E., Ancient Bridges of England, Architectural Press, ASIN B00085PLDI (1932)

Johnston, David, An Illustrated History of Roman Roads in Britain, Spur Books, ISBN-10 0904978338 (1979)

Peel, J. H. B., Along the Roman Roads of Britain, Macmillan, ISBN-10: 0330239309 (1976)

Sheldon, G., From Trackway to Turnpike, Oxford University Press, ASIN B001N2GS2S (1928)

Smiles, Samuel, The Life of Thomas Telford Civil Engineer with an Introductory History of Roads and Travelling in Great Britain (1867), The Echo Library, ISBN-10: 1406805866 (2006)

Taylor, C., Roads and Tracks of Britain, Littlehampton Books, ISBN 0 460 04329 3 (1979)

Opening Times:
Open at all times

How To Find:
In the centre of Hereford just east of the the main crossing from the south which carries the A 49. The Left Bank Restaurant is nearby.

Facilities:


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