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Ruthern Bridge with adjacent ford

A Scheduled Monument in Lanivet, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.4675 / 50°28'3"N

Longitude: -4.8013 / 4°48'4"W

OS Eastings: 201296.97038

OS Northings: 66827.677107

OS Grid: SX012668

Mapcode National: GBR ZX.1N4P

Mapcode Global: FRA 07TT.K9B

Entry Name: Ruthern Bridge with adjacent ford

Scheduled Date: 26 November 1926

Last Amended: 6 December 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020810

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15576

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: Lanivet

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Bodmin

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes Ruthern Bridge, which crosses the Ruthen River, a
major tributary of the River Camel, at a hamlet named Ruthernbridge after
this bridge, 5.5km west of Bodmin in mid-Cornwall. The bridge is largely
of mid-15th century date with some later modification. The scheduling also
includes surviving remains of a ford adjacent to the south side of the
bridge and two cast-iron plaques recording an unusually early weight
restriction imposed on the bridge. Ruthern Bridge is a Listed Building
Grade II*.
Ruthern Bridge spans the Ruthen River east-west by two arches linked by a
central pier. From the abutments at each end, a short causeway carries the
road over the adjacent low ground. The arches are slightly pointed: the
western has a span of 3.66m while the span of the eastern is 3.43m. Each
arch has a single arch ring with slate voussoirs, slightly recessed below
a projecting string-course. Above the arches, the sides of the bridge are
faced with random local rubble. The central pier, 2.36m wide, has pointed
cutwaters at each end faced with coursed and neatly dressed granite slabs,
called ashlar. Smaller and slightly asymmetrical cutwaters, also faced
with granite ashlar, flank the abutments at each end of the bridge on both
sides. From these, the bridge's causeways, faced with random rubble, carry
the highway over the riverbank slopes. Beyond the bridge's eastern faced
causeway, and beyond this scheduling, the modern road extends for about
25m over a low embankment of uncertain date above the river's narrow
floodplain. The sides of the bridge and its masonry-faced causeways rise
above the carriageway as parapets 0.3m wide and up to 0.75m high, finished
with granite coping slabs of various profiles, though most are chamfered
along each edge. The central pier's cutwaters are carried up into the
parapets as refuges on each side, as also are the southern (upstream)
abutment cutwaters, but the northern abutment cutwaters are capped off at
the level of the parapet base. The parapet fabric facing the highway is of
random rubble but towards the river it reflects that of the bridge sides
below, generally of local random rubble but of granite ashlar where the
cutwaters rise as refuges. Some relatively minor repairs and areas of
repointing are apparent along the parapets.
The eastern end of the southern parapet, and the raised causeway it
defines, curves to the south in short straight lengths to accommodate a
minor road approaching along the riverside. This eastern curve in the
parapet crosses the line of a former ford across the river adjacent to the
south side the bridge. On the west side of the river and within this
scheduling, the unmetalled track down to the ford still survives,
separated from the bridge itself by an open channel carrying a stream to
the river.
The carriageway defined by the parapets reduces to 3.1m wide over the
bridge's arches. Immediately beneath its modern surface, the carriageway
is supported on reinforced concrete slabs laid across the bridge's arches
as a strengthening measure in 1938.
Ruthern Bridge was described by the historian Charles Henderson as `one of
the best preserved of Cornish bridges' for whose construction style he
suggested a date of about 1430 to 1450, probably on the initiative of
Bodmin Priory as the bridge greatly improved access to their lands at
Padstow. Although no historical record survives to fix its date of
construction, a bridge is mentioned here in 1412, perhaps a predecessor to
the visible bridge which receives its earliest surviving record, as
`Rothyn Brygge', in 1494.
The bridge carried the former main route from Bodmin to Padstow by way of
the high downs behind the north coast. In the post-medieval period, that
route became extinguished by enclosure of the formerly open higher ground,
but it was also superseded by another route to the north east, crossing
the River Camel at Dunmere Bridge and Wadebridge: the line of the present
A389 route from Bodmin to Padstow.These developments left Ruthern Bridge
carrying only a minor unclassified road in a network of such roads serving
only the local needs of the dispersed hamlets west of Bodmin.
The bridge still bears plaques imposing an unusually early weight
restriction on traffic using it. Dating from the 1890s-1900s, these
cast-iron plaques are affixed near the west end of the northern parapet
and the east of the southern parapet, 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.
All electricity and telephone cables, all modern signposts and guideposts
and the silts in the open stream channels across the ford, and the modern
metalled road surface and its underlying reinforced concrete slabs are
excluded from the scheduling, although the ground and the structure of the
bridge beneath and beside them are included.

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.

Ruthern Bridge survives reasonably well. Despite its early 20th century
strengthening and some parapet repairs, much of its original fabric
remains intact as a good example of 15th century bridge building in south
west England. The minor status of the road carried by the bridge in the
present highway network, along with the extinguishing and major revision
of the route which the bridge originally carried, and the survival in part
of the adjacent ford all demonstrate clearly the development of river
crossings, the highway system and their landscape setting since the
medieval period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Henderson, C, Coates, H, Old Cornish Bridges and Streams, (1928)
Institute of Cornish Studies, , Cornwall County Council 1889-1989, (1989)
Padel, O, A Popular Dictionary of Cornish Place Names, (1988)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 26032, (2001)
Contents copied to MPPA in 12/2001, Cornwall County Council, Cornwall County Council maintenance file for Ruthern Bridge,
Entry dated 6/6/1969, DCMS, Listed Building Entry for SX 06 NW 4/137, (2001)
MoW, AM7 Scheduling documentation for CO 76 Ruthern Bridge, 1928,
Repts of 1980 1984 & works in 1997-8, Various FMWs & G Bird, AM 107 FMW reports & works file for CO 76 Ruthern Bridge,
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map SX 06 NW
Source Date: 2001

Title: 25": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Mapping for the area around Ruthern Bridge
Source Date:
1880 and 1907 editions

Source: Historic England

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