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Helland Bridge

A Scheduled Monument in Helland, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.5113 / 50°30'40"N

Longitude: -4.7303 / 4°43'48"W

OS Eastings: 206517.023433

OS Northings: 71507.757583

OS Grid: SX065715

Mapcode National: GBR N2.K2RV

Mapcode Global: FRA 07ZQ.2YX

Entry Name: Helland Bridge

Scheduled Date: 26 November 1928

Last Amended: 6 December 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020812

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15578

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: Helland

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: St Mabyn

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes Helland Bridge which crosses the River Camel at the
hamlet named after the bridge, Hellandbridge, 4.5km north of Bodmin in
mid-Cornwall. The bridge retains extensive late medieval fabric with
several phases of post-medieval repair. An early 19th century arch extends
the north of the bridge over the former corn mill's tailrace. Helland
Bridge is a Listed Building Grade I.
The bridge crosses the River Camel in dissected terrain west of Bodmin
Moor, spanning the river north-south by four pointed arches, 5.18m to
5.49m across, linked by three piers. From the abutments at each end, a
short masonry-faced causeway carries the road over adjacent low ground.
The northern causeway was modified to add a fifth round arch, 3.25m
across, over the mill tailrace. The four pointed arches vary in form. The
southern two are similar, slightly flattened, with single rings of slate
voussoirs flush with the sides of the bridge. The northernmost of the four
arches is of similar profile but has a double ring of slate voussoirs, the
inner slightly recessed from the outer: that arch is clearly of a
different phase from the southern two but all three arches have a
typically 15th century form, construction and fabric.
Between those three arches is an unusual asymmetrical arch, near-
triangular with a double row of slate voussoirs, the inner row slightly
recessed. Detail of the masonry around the arch and in the adjacent piers
shows this arch is a later rebuild, considered to repair flood damage
occasioned in 1847, as described below. The level from which all four
arches spring is similar but deep silting fills the northern two almost to
that level while the main river channel is scoured more deeply beneath the
southern arches. Between these arches, the three piers have pointed
cutwaters at each end; the central pier's upstream cutwater has a stepped
width reduction on its south face indicating that the fabric above is of
later rebuild, also attributable to the rebuilding of the adjacent arch as
noted above.
Beyond the medieval northern abutment, the early 19th century extension
has a low rounded arch with a single ring of slate voussoirs over the
tailrace of a former corn mill nearby. The extension's width, at 12m,
reflects the 19th century carriageway width but greatly exceeds that of
the medieval bridge: the difference is accommodated by a substantial step
outwards to the west side of the extension from the rest of the bridge.
The masonry facing the bridge's sides, piers and causeways below parapet
level, whether medieval or of later build, is largely of random local
slate rubble but granite slabs face the exposed footings of the upstream
cutwater apex on the southern and central piers.
The bridge's sides and much of its causeways rise from the carriageway as
parapets in which the piers' cutwaters are carried up as refuges. The
parapets are excluded from the scheduling above the surface of the
adjacent modern metalled carriageway but remain part of the Listed
Building. The parapets are of 19th-20th century build, in slate masonry,
some non-local, finished with granite coping slabs mostly with a curved
upper profile, some retaining their iron securing cramps. The low parapet
over the early 19th century northern extension is furnished with iron
railings. The carriageway entering the bridge was widened, probably in the
late 18th or early 19th century, by moving its parapets outwards in two
sectors. Over the medieval northern abutment and pointed arch, the
re-aligned downstream parapet was underlain by three stepped granite slabs
supported by granite corbels bonded into the bridge. Two of those slabs
and their corbels over the arch were replaced by a single slab and corbels
in the late 20th century. Over the southern abutment, the re-aligned
upstream parapet is supported on rebuilt masonry across the splay from the
arch to the causeway. The carriageway defined by the parapets is 2.9m
wide near the centre of the bridge, widening gradually towards each end,
then more markedly so along each causeway, especially from the medieval
northern abutment to the extension over the mill tailrace as noted above.
Along the narrowest sector, the inner faces of the parapets are lined at
intervals by low granite slabs set on end, called kickstones, further
restricting the carriageway's usable width, as does modern kerbing
flanking the approaches to that sector.
Helland Bridge stands on an early route north out of Bodmin to the coastal
hinterland north east of the Camel estuary. A bridge is first mentioned
here in 1381, as `Helland Brigge', considered a predecessor to that now
standing. The present bridge, of 15th century origin, was named `Helham
Bridge' by John Leland, the King's Antiquary, in about 1535. The bridge
appears on several early post-medieval large-scale maps. The 1842 St Mabyn
tithe map confirms the northern extension over the mill tailrace had by
then been added to the bridge, but the 1881 Ordnance Survey map suggests a
far longer relationship between the bridge and the mill. It shows a
by-pass channel from the mill's headrace passing under the bridge's
northern medieval arch and cutting across an earlier such channel taken
off the headrace further east but abandoned before the 1842 or 1881
mapping. This early channel explains a deep indent in the floodplain which
the bridge's northern two medieval arches were designed to cross, thereby
dating that channel to the mill's 15th century predecessor. This link
between the northern two arches and an adjacent medieval corn mill
explains the bridge's unusual length and the phase difference of the
northern medieval arch as a response to the mill's requirements, probably
replacing an original causeway and floodwater arch over the floodplain.
On 16 July 1847, a flash flood swept down the River Camel, damaging
Helland Bridge and rising over its parapets, but not causing the total
destruction it wrought on most other bridges along the valley. The
bridge's rebuilt arch north of centre is believed to have repaired damage
from that episode. In the post-medieval period, the main route north from
Bodmin has transferred its crossing point of the River Camel downstream to
Dunmere Bridge, leaving Helland Bridge increasingly by-passed and carrying
an unclassified road intended to serve the local needs of this area's
dispersed hamlets.
Several features are excluded from the scheduling. These are: the parapets
and railings above the surface of the adjacent modern metalled
carriageway, the modern road surface metalling, kickstones and modern
width-restrictions added to the carriageway, all modern roadsigns and
their posts, the modern gate and its fittings, all electricity cables,
their markers and support pole, the water main north of the bridge, and
the wooden shed and stored materials. However, the ground beneath all
these features is 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.

Helland Bridge survives well. Despite limited recent repairs, it retains
extensive medieval fabric whose style and construction provide a good example
of late medieval bridge-building in south west England. In its extension to
four arches, it is one of the larger surviving late medieval bridges. Of
special interest are the alterations from its original design which provide
evidence for an interrelated development between the bridge and its
neighbouring corn mill both in the late medieval period and in the 19th
century. The differences in style and construction of those various phases of
late medieval and 19th century build illustrate some of the developments and
motivations in bridge-building and the differing levels of skill available for
it across these periods. In its geographical context, the presence of such a
substantial medieval bridge on a minor road so long by-passed in the region's
main route network shows clearly the considerable development of the highway
system since the medieval period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Henderson, C, Coates, H, Old Cornish Bridges and Streams, (1928)
Henderson, C, Coates, H, Old Cornish Bridges and Streams, (1928)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 17108 Helland Bridge, (2001)
CAU, Helland Bridge Cornwall Archaeological and Historical Assessment, (2000)
CCC Bridge Ref 20/065714, Cornwall CC, Cornwall County Council Maintenance File for Helland Bridge, (2001)
Min of Works, Listed Building Entry for SX 07 SE 1/39 Helland Bridge, (1969)
Shown to MPPA on 6/3/2002, Mrs R D Worth - see MMS for contact details, Info & photos held by Mrs R D Worth of the Old Mill Herbary, (2002)
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map SX 07 SE
Source Date: 2001

Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map Explorer 9 Bodmin Moor
Source Date: 1995

Title: 25": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Mapping for area around Helland Bridge
Source Date:
1881 & 1907 editions
Title: 25": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Mapping for area around Helland Bridge
Source Date: 1881

Source: Historic England

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