Bromham Bridge, Bedfordshire
A long medieval crossing of the Great Ouse substantially rebuilt in the 19th century.
Period of construction:
1000 - 1599
Transport Trust plaque:
Bromham Road, Bromham, Bedfordshire MK43 8LP
The bridge has 26 arches. although it looks at first glance to be of medieval origin, it is largely a product of the rebuilding of 1813 though a bridge had existed since the early Middle Ages. The first known reference to it is in the Pipe Rolls for 1224 and again in 1227/8 where a piece of land is noted as bounding "Wuluescroft towards the bridge of Biddenham", an adjoining cottage was occupied by Hugh de Ponte - Hugh Bridge. The Dunstable Chronicles state that after a long spell of freezing weather in 1281 the bridge collapsed, a woman falling into the river and being carried as far as Bedford Bridge "where she was seen no more".
A chantry chapel existed at the bridge where a priest prayed for the soul of the founder and collected alms to go towards keeping it in repair. This chantry was suppressed by Henry VIII in 1545 though it was not until the reign of his son Edward VI that it was assessed for value: its last incumbent had been a Frenchman named Peter Weyver. By this time the chantry owned a number of nearby cottages and strips of land as well as a more substantial farm in Kempston, Biddenham and Bromham. Quarry pits in Bromham were also owned from which, of course, the stone was taken to keep the bridge in repair. The chantry was finally closed in 1553 and Weyver was given a pension of Â£5 per year. The Willey Hundred states that at the time of publication, 1870, the remains of the chantry were still visible in the miller's house on the Bromham side of the river but the Victoria County History notes that this house was pulled down and replaced before publication of that volume in 1912.
Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has records indicating repairs to the bridge at various dates, the earliest being in 1651. The bridge was repaired again in 1685 as noted in the Assize records , the latter being borne out by an inscription on the bridge itself recording the fact; the cost was over Â£230, a very large sum indeed for that time. The bridge seems to have been repaired again in 1724 since the parish records speak of "gathering up the Coping Stones out of the river" and using nearly a hundred loads of stones. Minor repairs are recorded in 1738, 1742 and 1752. A thorough repair of the wider part of the bridge in 1791 included "Takeing Down all the Bad Places and Repairing Throuout". The next year it was presented at Quarter Sessions that "the Horseway and Footway Bridge" was in "great decay".
The bridge was widened in 1813, taking its present 26 arch form, the width being increased from 6ft over the flood plain and 11ft 6in over the river itself. The 6ft stretch was for horses and people on foot, the wider stretch, approached by a separate road from Biddenham, for carts. The main arches over the river were again widened and rebuilt in 1902.
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Open at all times
How To Find:
By Road: The bridge was by passed by the new A 428 from which it can be seen well. Bromham Road which was the original main road runs over the bridge and through Bromham.
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