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Higher New Bridge

A Scheduled Monument in St. Giles on the Heath, Devon

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Latitude: 50.6564 / 50°39'23"N

Longitude: -4.3372 / 4°20'14"W

OS Eastings: 234888.216139

OS Northings: 86689.493436

OS Grid: SX348866

Mapcode National: GBR NM.7V2H

Mapcode Global: FRA 17TB.L3R

Entry Name: Higher New Bridge

Scheduled Date: 26 November 1928

Last Amended: 24 July 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020635

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15572

County: Devon

Civil Parish: St. Giles on the Heath

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Werrington

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes Higher New Bridge across the River Tamar, on the
boundary between Cornwall and Devon at a point 2.5km north east of Launceston
in east Cornwall. The bridge is largely of late medieval date with some later
modification. The monument also includes a post-medieval milestone and a
boundary marker stone. Higher New Bridge is Listed Grade I.
Higher New Bridge spans the River Tamar north east-south west by three
substantial arches, to which a masonry faced causeway rises at each end. The
south western causeway includes a small floodwater arch, part of the bridge's
original design. The arches are each very slightly pointed, almost rounded in
form. The three main arches range from 7.8m to 8.5m in span, each with double
arch-rings: the inner rings have granite voussoirs and are slightly recessed,
separated by a granite string-course from outer rings largely of local
metamorphic stone. The floodwater arch, 5.3m in span, has only a single ring
of granite voussoirs on each face. Between the large arches, the two piers
have pointed cutwaters to each side and are faced mostly by dressed granite
slabs, called ashlar, as are the masonry abuments, though some later
rebuilding is shown by local stone facing the upstream cutwaters above the
level of the arch springing. Similar differences occur in the facing of the
sides of the bridge above the arches: largely of granite ashlar downstream but
of local stone upstream. The exposed base of the north eastern abutment
reveals its stepped foundation courses.
The line, called the impost, along which each arch springs is marked by a
granite string-course; immediately above this under the three large arches
(though not the floodwater arch) is a row of spaced rectangular slots
considered to have held the posts of a timber structure, possibly a
sluice-gate, included in the bridge's original design.
The causeways approaching the bridge from each side are unequal: short and
steep on the north east but long with a more gentle slope on the south
west side. Both causeways are faced by local slate masonry and both are
steeply buttressed along much of their length. Much of their visible
masonry facing is clearly of post-medieval build but their core will
preserve remains of the bridge's original causeways and an area of earlier
masonry facing survives around the floodwater arch.
The parapets rise along the sides of the bridge from a granite string-course
above the two outer main arches, though this is absent from the later fabric
along the causeways. Above the central arch, the string course is replicated
by the edge of a concrete raft inserted to stregthen the bridge during the
20th century. All of the piers' cutwaters are carried up into the parapets as
refuges. The parapets, of local stone, are generally 0.3m wide and 1m-1.15m
high though slightly wider over the causeways where they are of most recent
build. Where the bridge crosses the river, the parapets are capped largely by
a chamfered granite coping, with a coping of local stone on the south western
refuges. Along the causeways the parapets have a varied coping, mostly of
mortared edge-set slabs but also including concrete capping and rows of small
projecting end-set slabs cemented in place along each face of some recent
The parapets define the bridge's carriageway as 75.5m long overall
including the causeways and ranging in width from 3.65m in the section
over the river, to 3.95m wide at the north east end and 5m wide at the
south west end. Over the centre of the river, the bridge's downstream
parapet contains a 20th century granite boundary stone, set flush into the
parapet facing the highway and incised with a short vertical line on
Cornwall and Devon county boundary, from which two short lines project to
the Cornish side. Situated within the upstream refuge on the Cornish side
is a late 18th century milestone that served the Launceston to Holsworthy
turnpike road. The milestone is visible as an upright granite slab, 1.01m
high, 0.31m wide and 0.16m thick, with a rounded upper edge. The upper end
of the face towards the highway is incised `L' (for Launceston), below
which is incised `2' (miles). Beneath that is an incised Ordnance Survey
height bench-mark. The milestone is painted white, apart from its face
towards the refuge, with the incisions highlighted in black.
Higher New Bridge has been identified with the `pons novus juxta
Launceston' for whose construction Bishop Oldham of Exeter granted an
Indulgence on 21st August 1504. This may have replaced an earlier bridge,
known as `Nether Bridge', which crossed the river upstream, beyond this
scheduling. The actual building and maintenance of Higher New Bridge was
attributed to Tavistock Abbey by John Leland who crossed it in the 1530s,
travelling to Launceston from Holsworthy. Leland described it as a `bridge
of stone having 3 arches and a smaul, caullid New Bridge, thorough the
which the ryver of Tamar rennith'. In the latter half of the 18th century
the route over the bridge became the turnpike road from Launceston to
Holsworthy, Bideford and beyond, mapped as a coaching road by 1771. In the
20th century this route remained part of the main road network, becoming
classified as the A388; reflecting this and the greatly increased quantity
and weight of traffic it had to carry, the bridge was strengthened by the
insertion of a concrete raft under the carriageway and parapets of the
central main arch. However the bridge's narrow width, steep profile and
sharply curving approach roads became increasingly inappropriate on such a
major road. Consequently in 1986 Higher New Bridge was taken out of the
route network on completion of a new concrete bridge which carries the
main road across the river 60m upstream, beyond this scheduling. During
construction of that concrete bridge, intact masonry was revealed below
water level on the Devon side and dressed blocks of granite and slate were
found on the riverbed, including a fragment of arch string-course: these
are considered the probable remains of the Nether Bridge, predecessor to
Higher New Bridge.
The modern road metalling, all post-and-wire and post-and-rail fences, the
modern materials blocking the floodwater arch and the modern notices and
their plinths are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath them is included

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

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.

Higher New Bridge survives well. It retains much of its original form and
structure despite some limited rebuilding and strengthening, providing a
good example of late medieval bridge-building in south west England. Its
near-contemporary description by Leland is valuable and unusual in its
detail, confirming the substantial originality of the bridge's surviving
design and its links with Tavistock Abbey; a good illustration of the role
of medieval religious houses in bridge-building and maintenance. The
physical presence on the bridge of the turnpike milestone and the concrete
raft by which the bridge was later strengthened, together with the
documented development of the late medieval route to a turnpiked coaching
road, then a 20th century `A' class road and the bridge's eventual
replacement by a nearby concrete bridge, all serve to illustrate the
considerable development of the highway system and its river crossings
since the medieval period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Addison, W, The Old Roads of England, (1980)
Addison, W, The Old Roads of England, (1980)
Henderson, C, Coates, H, Old Cornish Bridges and Streams, (1928)
Henderson, C, Coates, H, Old Cornish Bridges and Streams, (1928)
Pearse Chope, R (ed), Early Tours in Devon and Cornwall, (1918)
Todd, , Laws, , Industrial Archaeology of Cornwall, (1972)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 2587,
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 2588,
DCMS, Listed Building Entry for SX 38 NW 9/132,
DCMS, Listed Building Entry for SX 38 NW 9/132, (2001)
Reports to 30/10/1997, Various FMWs, FMW AM 107 reports for CO 68 Higher New Bridge,
Title: 1": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Map sheet 186 Bodmin and Launceston
Source Date: 1946

Title: 1": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Map sheet 25 Tavistock
Source Date: 1860

Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map SX 38 NW
Source Date: 2001

Source: Historic England

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