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Medieval bridge at Starabridge

A Scheduled Monument in Linkinhorne, Cornwall

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.539 / 50°32'20"N

Longitude: -4.4153 / 4°24'54"W

OS Eastings: 228948.679286

OS Northings: 73815.304744

OS Grid: SX289738

Mapcode National: GBR NH.HKPZ

Mapcode Global: FRA 17MM.ZMX

Entry Name: Medieval bridge at Starabridge

Scheduled Date: 1 May 1952

Last Amended: 24 July 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020637

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15574

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: Linkinhorne

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Linkinhorne

Church of England Diocese: Truro

Details

The monument includes a largely medieval bridge with some later
modification, which crosses the River Lynher 0.9km north west of the
village of Rilla Mill in east Cornwall. The monument also includes a
post-medieval floodwater tunnel under the bridge's eastern causeway and
two late 19th-early 20th century cast iron plaques on the parapets which
derive from an early weight restriction.
The bridge crosses the River Lynher east-west in three spans, beyond which
a short causeway on each side carries the road up to the bridge over the
riverbanks. The road over the bridge's spans is supported by massive flat
granite slabs called clappers which rest on the piers and abutments,
giving square openings ranging from 2.3m to 2.45m wide.
The two piers differ quite markedly, reflecting differing phases of build and
repair. The western pier is 2m-2.1m wide, narrower than the eastern at
2.7m-2.85m wide. Both were provided with pointed cutwaters at each end, as
still survive on the western pier, but much of its downstream cutwater of the
eastern pier has been truncated to leave a stump of its lower eastern masonry
and a waterworn slab on which it was founded. Both piers are faced largely by
granite blocks. On the western pier these are roughly dressed and highly
weathered, especially on the upstream cutwater. On the eastern pier, the
upstream cutwater is faced by neatly dressed and squared granite slabs, with
less regular granite masonry along the sides; the modified face truncating the
downstream cutwater has a heavily pointed combination of granite and local
stone rubble.
The bridge abutments are faced towards the river by masonry mostly of
roughly dressed granite slabs with some local rubble. Behind the
abutments, causeways take the carriageway across the riverbanks to rejoin
the levels of the approach roads beyond. The western causeway extends
11.6m, built out from the south easterly slope and revetted along the
south by a wall of granite and local stone edged by granite slabs. The
eastern causeway forms a broad rise to the bridge over 8m beyond the
riverbank. The core of these causeways will contain any surviving evidence
for the nature of the bridge's original approaches.
The bridge has a very low parapet on each side which varies along the
bridge. Over the central and western spans this comprises large edge-set
granite slabs whose splitting method confirms their pre-1800 date. These
slabs rest on others supported by the piers and abutments, flanking and
rising above the clappers. The parapet is extended along the south of the
western causeway by a line of granite posts with a safety rail, and on the
north by a post-medieval wall and storage building immediately beyond this
scheduling. The parapet over the bridge's eastern span is a 19th century
low rubble wall with a flat-topped granite coping which also extends
across the truncated southern side of the eastern pier and onto part of
the eastern causeway. The piers' three surviving cutwaters are carried up
outside the parapets and are faced variously by granite and local rubble.
Both western cutwaters are capped off level with the top of the parapets.
Only the eastern upstream cutwater forms a refuge opening to the
carriageway, its low parapet of edge-set local stone contrasting with the
parapets to each side.
Between its abutments the bridge measures 12m, with an overall length of
31.6m including its causeways. The parapets define a carriageway 2.8m wide
at the centre of the bridge, rising to 3.8m wide at the east end of the
parapets and 6.2m wide at the end of the western causeway. Under the
eastern causeway, a modification considered to date from the 18th century
is the insertion of a tunnel to take floodwater from the narrow floodplain
upstream, emptying it into the river close downstream from the bridge's
eastern span. The tunnel, 13.5m long, north east-south west, by 0.95m wide
and 1.2m high, is roofed by granite slabs laid across the rubble walls.
Its north east end opens to a sump hollow against the north east of the
roadside hedgebank; on the other side of the hedgebank a small opening
broken into the tunnel carries water from the roadside ditch.
No historical documentation bears directly on the construction of the
bridge but the stimulus for its building lies well within the medieval
period. The bridge gave access over the River Lynher to Rillaton, now a
small hamlet 0.75km east of the bridge but formerly a very important
medieval administrative centre. It housed the court of Manor of Rillaton
and was the focus for a larger Hundred of Rillaton named in the Domesday
Book, later becoming the Hundred of East Wivelshire. The Manor of Rillaton
was part of the Earldom of Cornwall and later one of the original manors
granted to the Duchy of Cornwall in 1337. A similar clapper-built bridge
crossed the River Lynher 0.9km downstream to provide access to the
manorial mill sited in the village now called Rilla Mill; that bridge,
demolished and replaced in the 1890s, has been described as `very ancient'
and possibly the `stone bridge' mentioned in a land grant of 1155-1165.
Whether or not the former bridge at Rilla Mill was of such age, it was the
medieval importance of Rillaton and the need to give access to it and its
manorial mill which motivated the building of these two similar
clapper-built bridges of which this bridge is the only survivor. That
importance, along with the manorial system which provided it, had long
been in decline by the end of the medieval period and could not by then
have supported the creation of a new bridging point at the site of Stara
Bridge which could serve only the hamlet of Rillaton. As the post-medieval
road network developed, the bridge at Starabridge was effectively
duplicated and superseded by the bridge at Rilla Mill. By the First
Edition Ordnance Survey map of 1809, the road over the bridge leads only
to the roads along each side of the Lynher valley while that over Rilla
Mill bridge formed part of a continuous route south west from Launceston
to Liskeard and Cornwall's southern coast, a route already recognised when
King Charles I followed part of it with his army on 2nd August 1644. That
disparity between the bridges still prevails in the modern road network:
the bridge at Starabridge now carries a narrow unclassified road serving
local needs and from which heavy goods vehicles are prohibited. Weight
restrictions here date from the 1890s-1900s when cast-iron plaques were
secured to the parapet at each end of the bridge, and still remain in
place, advising those `in charge of locomotives' that the `bridge is
insufficient to carry weights beyond the ordinary traffic of the district'
and that they must obtain the consent of the County Surveyor before
attempting to pass over it.
The surface of the modern metalled road, the modern granite posts and
safety rail on the western causeway, the public footpath sign and its
post, the concrete drainage gully on the west, and all modern drains, are
excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is
included.

MAP EXTRACT
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.

The medieval bridge at Starabridge survives reasonably well. Despite some
later modifications it retains extensive parts of its original form and
structure, providing a rare survival of a late medieval bridge of clapper
construction. The cores of its piers and causeways will also retain any
survivals from the bridge's earliest development. Its intimate association
with the medieval administrative focus at Rillaton, which provided the
need for this bridging point, illustrates well one of the important
stimuli for medieval bridge-building. The survival of this bridge and the
road it carries so long after that medieval focus has declined to the
present small hamlet gives a good example of the persistent influence of
medieval patterns in the contemporary landscape despite the considerable
development of the highway system and its river crossings since that
period. The 18th century floodwater tunnel and the early 20th century
weight-restriction plaques provide early examples of attempts to alleviate
factors which still pose serious problems at bridging points for our
modern society.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Bishop, G, A Pictorial View of the East Cornwall Parish of Linkinhorne, (1987)
Bishop, G, A Pictorial View of the East Cornwall Parish of Linkinhorne, (1987)
Henderson, C, Coates, H, Old Cornish Bridges and Streams, (1928)
Henderson, C, Coates, H, Old Cornish Bridges and Streams, (1928)
Henderson, C, Coates, H, Old Cornish Bridges and Streams, (1928)
Institute of Cornish Studies, , Cornwall County Council 1889-1989, (1989)
Thorn, C, F, , Doomsday Book; 10: Cornwall, (1979)
Burnett, D, 'Duchy Review' in The Origins of the Duchy, , Vol. 9, (1999), 8-11
Hull, P L , 'D and C Record Soc Volumes New Series' in The Cartulary of Launceston Priory (Lambeth Palace MS 719), , Vol. 30, (1987)
Other
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 17421, (2001)
Descrip from visit on 30/10/1988, Preston-Jones A, AM 107 documentation for SAM CO 337 Stara Bridge, (1988)
Title: 1": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Map sheet 25 Tavistock
Source Date: 1809
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 1": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Mapping of the area around Stara Bridge
Source Date:
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
1880 and 1907 Editions
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map SX 27 SE
Source Date: 2001
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: 25": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Mapping for the area around Stara Bridge
Source Date:
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
1880 and 1907 Editions

Source: Historic England

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