Ancient Monuments

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The Packhorse Bridge 100m north west of the Church of St Mary

A Scheduled Monument in Bruton, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.1118 / 51°6'42"N

Longitude: -2.4534 / 2°27'12"W

OS Eastings: 368357.88376

OS Northings: 134818.387844

OS Grid: ST683348

Mapcode National: GBR MX.BB6T

Mapcode Global: VH8BG.FBC1

Entry Name: The Packhorse Bridge 100m north west of the Church of St Mary

Scheduled Date: 3 October 1935

Last Amended: 20 July 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019894

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33719

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Bruton

Built-Up Area: Bruton

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes a medieval single span bridge, which crosses the River
Brue in Bruton connecting Silver Street on the lower, south side to the High
Street on the north side of the river via Elliott Barton, one of the numerous
Barton alleyways. The bridge, which is now known as The Packhorse Bridge, was
also known as Bow Bridge in earlier times, and it is considered to be of 15th
century date. It is constructed of local stone ashlar with a single two-order,
slightly pointed chamfered arch approximately 4.5m across. The walk-way over
the arch is paved with Keinton flagstones and is 0.95m wide between the coped
parapet walls which are 0.85m high, rising to a slight point above the apex of
the arch. The bridge is approached from the north side by a cobbled ramp with
coped walls either side. The upper courses of these walls are a later addition
to the underlying medieval masonry. The bridge is approximately 21m long in
A worn carved shield is set into the parapet wall on the west, downstream,
side. The crest is believed to be that of the Fitz-James family, founders of
King's School in 1520.
The bridge is Listed Grade I.
All iron railing posts and modern ground surfaces are excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included at both
ends of the span where this lies within the monument's area of protection.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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. During the medieval period the construction and maintenance
of bridges was frequently carried out by large estates and the Church,
especially monastic institutions which developed long distance packhorse
routes between their landholdings. Some stone built medieval bridges still
survive. These can be classified into three main types based on the profile of
the arch which is typically pointed, semi-circular or flattened. A common
medieval feature is the presence of stone ashlar ribs underneath the arch. The
bridge abutments and revetting of the river banks also form part of the
bridge. Where medieval bridges have been altered in later centuries, original
features are sometimes concealed behind later stonework, including remains of
earlier timber bridges. Bridges were common and important features of medieval
towns and the countryside and allowed easy access along a well developed road
and trackway system. However, only around 16 largely unaltered medieval single
span bridges have so far been recognised to survive in England. All these are
considered to be of national importance. A larger number retain significant
medieval or post-medieval remains, allowing the original form of the bridge to
be determined. These examples are also nationally important.

The Packhorse Bridge 100m north west of the Church of St Mary is a good
example of a medieval single span bridge retaining much of its original
stonework which is well-preserved under later, renewed masonry.
The bridge has remained in continuous use in its present form since the
medieval period and may have been founded on the site of an even earlier
ancient crossing.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Couzens, P, Bruton in Selwood, (1968)
Taylor, A, Bruton in 1897, (1999), 4

Source: Historic England

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