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Sidford packhorse bridge, Church Street

A Scheduled Monument in Sidmouth, Devon

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Latitude: 50.703 / 50°42'10"N

Longitude: -3.2229 / 3°13'22"W

OS Eastings: 313738.041237

OS Northings: 89971.137444

OS Grid: SY137899

Mapcode National: GBR P8.WC9B

Mapcode Global: FRA 4747.26N

Entry Name: Sidford packhorse bridge, Church Street

Scheduled Date: 2 October 1952

Last Amended: 24 April 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020417

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33040

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Sidmouth

Built-Up Area: Sidmouth

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Sidbury with Sidford

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


The monument includes Sidford packhorse bridge, a narrow double-arched bridge
situated at the point where the Snod Brook joins the River Sid on the eastern
side of the village of Sidford. It is Listed Grade II. In earlier times the
bridge would have carried packhorse traffic over the river as part of the
coastal routeway between Exeter and Lyme Regis; carted traffic would have
crossed at the ford which has given Sidford its name.
The fabric of the bridge is considered to be medieval although it has had some
repair in the form of reinforced banking at the base of the arches in 1930;
this was carried out at the same time as the widening of the adjacent
roadbridge which lies immediately alongside the packhorse bridge on its
southern side. The packhorse bridge is rubble built, largely of local stone
but with triangular shaped coping stones of Dartmoor granite topping the
parapet walls and ashlar blocks for the arches. It comprises two segmental
arches, a higher and wider arch bridging the River Sid which has a span of
about 6.3m and a height of about 3.2m above the river level, and a smaller
arch across the Snod Brook which has a span of about 4.7m and a height of
2.55m. The two arches are connected by masonry across the 6m wide spit of
land where the two waterways come together. Short additional causeways at
either end of the bridge account for its maximum length being approximately
30m. The parapets have a maximum height of 1.45m, whilst the actual
carriageway over the bridge is no more than about 1.25m wide within a
maximum bridge width of about 2m.
Located on the south side of the bridge, more or less centrally, is a brass
plaque which asserts that the bridge dates from c.1100, and that it was
preserved in its original shape and condition during the bridge widening
works in 1930. The dating to c.1100 may be fanciful and too early for the
packhorse bridge but it does confirm that it has been considered to be of
great antiquity in past times.
The modern tarmac surfacing of the carriageway across the packhorse bridge is
excluded from the scheduling, although the bridge fabric below this is

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Multi-span bridges are structures of two or more arches supported on
piers. They were constructed throughout the medieval period for the use
of pedestrians and packhorse or vehicular traffic, crossing rivers or
streams, often replacing or supplementing earlier fords. During the early
medieval period timber was used, but from the 12th century stone (and
later brick) bridges became more common, with the piers sometimes
supported by a timber raft. Most stone or brick bridges were constructed
with pointed arches, although semicircular and segmental examples are also
known. 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. The roadway was
often originally cobbled or gravelled. The building and maintenance of
bridges was frequently carried out by the church and by guilds, although
landowners were also required to maintain bridges. From the mid-13th
century the right to collect tolls, known as pontage, was granted to many
bridges, usually for repairs; for this purpose many urban bridges had
houses or chapels on them, and some were fortified with a defensive
gateway. Medieval multi-span bridges must have been numerous throughout
England, but most have been rebuilt or replaced and less than 200 examples
are now known to survive. As a rare monument type largely unaltered,
surviving examples and examples that retain significant medieval and post-
medieval fabric are considered to be of national importance.

Sidford packhorse bridge survives exceptionally well due largely to its
incorporation into the later bridging system at Sidford where it provides the
pedestrian walkway alongside the 20th century roadbridge. The packhorse bridge
retains the characteristic humped shape of this type of bridge although,
unusually for a packhorse bridge, it has two arches rather than one. The
bridge provides evidence of the way in which some goods would have been
transported by pack animal in the medieval period and its position immediately
alongside the later vehicle roadbridge offers a visual testimony to the
transport changes which have taken place over the centuries.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: South Devon, (1952), 261

Source: Historic England

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