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Axmouth Bridge

A Scheduled Monument in Axmouth, Devon

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Latitude: 50.7047 / 50°42'16"N

Longitude: -3.0592 / 3°3'32"W

OS Eastings: 325302.085357

OS Northings: 89983.338992

OS Grid: SY253899

Mapcode National: GBR PF.J1LK

Mapcode Global: FRA 47H6.S1V

Entry Name: Axmouth Bridge

Scheduled Date: 19 December 1977

Last Amended: 24 April 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020419

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33042

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Axmouth

Built-Up Area: Seaton

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Axmouth St Michael

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


The monument includes Axmouth Bridge, a Victorian bridge constructed of
concrete and spanning the River Axe on the eastern side of Seaton at Axmouth
Harbour. It is Listed Grade II*. Axmouth Bridge, which is sometimes known as
Seaton Road Bridge and, more rarely, as Brannon's Bridge, originally opened
as a toll bridge. However, the toll was abolished in 1907 after which the
bridge remained in use for vehicle traffic until the mid-1980s when it was
superseded by a modern bridge located just to its north.
Designed by the civil engineer Philip Brannon and constructed in massed
concrete, the bridge comprises three segmental arches supported on four brick
and concrete supports. The central arch has a span of 17m whilst the outer two
have a span of 10m. Mass concrete construction involved the pre-fabrication of
the concrete sections, the whole then being laid so as to form radial yet
interlocking masses. Although of concrete construction, much was done to give
the impression of a stone structure including the provision of simulated
joints, and the employment of false ashlar, imitation voussoirs, and
rusticated piers. The parapet is decorated with latticework, again in
concrete, whilst the twin cutwaters of the bridge are of brick construction.
The total length of the bridge inclusive of its abutments is 53m, and it is
about 9m wide.
A considerable amount of information is known about Philip Brannon who was
born on the Isle of Wight in 1817 and who died in 1890. He was a pioneer in
the use of concrete and details of his principles of construction, including
an account of the bridge at Axmouth Harbour, were published in the
architectural journal, The Arcustat in 1879.
During the early years of World War II Axmouth Bridge was defended as part of
the anti-invasion defences of the Taunton Stop Line. A pillbox located above
the east bank of the river covered its approaches. The bridge itself was
prepared for demolition in the event of an enemy landing further to the west.
The Taunton Stop Line comprised a series of defensive positions, including
lines of pillboxes and anti-tank emplacements, which were strung across the
countryside from the mouth of the Axe to the Bristol Channel. The Stop Line
was designed to frustrate and delay any German invasion force from making a
rapid advance on London assuming a landing somewhere in the far South West.
The modern brick paving of the foot carriageway across the bridge, the modern
anti-vehicle bollards, and the mounted lamp posts are excluded from the
scheduling, although the bridge fabric below all of these features 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 are more arches supported on piers.
Such bridges were constructed by carpenters or stone masons throughout the
medieval period but increasingly, from the beginning of the 18th century,
professional engineers were involved in bridge design and by 1800 bridge
building was almost exclusively the work of the engineer. These engineers
developed techniques for bridge construction using different designs and
materials. Cast iron became popular for bridges in Britain in the early 19th
century, a time which also saw the development of mass concrete construction
pioneered in France by Cointeraux and later, by Lebrun. Mass concrete does
not employ the metal rods of reinforced or prestressed concrete and, when
used for bridges, relies on radial compression, the weight being distributed
outwards to the piers and abutments. In England the technique was not as well
favoured as in France but in 1835 mass concrete was used in the foundations
of bridges on the Greenwich railway and in sea walls and dry docks in Chatham
and Woolwich.
Philip Bannon, who designed Axmouth Bridge, was an innovative engineer who was
familiar with both massed and reinforced methods of construction in concrete.
Axmouth Bridge is believed to have been the third concrete bridge to have been
built in England and, as the two earlier examples have been demolished, it now
stands as the earliest and best example of a mass concrete bridge to survive
in the country. The bridge displays extensive outward signs of the rustication
which was employed to give it the appearance of a stone bridge and it retains
design elements which are informative about a technique, that of building in
mass concrete, which only rarely survives in bridge construction.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Dobinson, C, 'Anti-invasion Defences of WWII' in Twentieth Century Fortifications in England, , Vol. II, (1996), 100
Markwick, A T, 'Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society' in Brannon's Bridge at Axmouth, (1988), 153-56
Markwick, A T, 'Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society' in Brannon's Bridge at Axmouth, (1988), 155

Source: Historic England

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