Ancient Monuments

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Packhorse bridge 75m south east of The Old Vicarage

A Scheduled Monument in Winsford, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.1053 / 51°6'18"N

Longitude: -3.5644 / 3°33'51"W

OS Eastings: 290570.045598

OS Northings: 135160.435816

OS Grid: SS905351

Mapcode National: GBR LD.BQTM

Mapcode Global: VH5KH.5HH1

Entry Name: Packhorse bridge 75m south east of The Old Vicarage

Scheduled Date: 24 April 1951

Last Amended: 11 August 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021123

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35594

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Winsford

Built-Up Area: Winsford

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes a packhorse bridge, believed to be of medieval date,
which crosses the River Exe on the north side of Winsford. The bridge
forms a footbridge on a public footpath which connects the Old Vicarage
located on the north side of Winsford to St Mary Magdalene's Church.
The bridge is stone built and has two segmental arches with a single
course of random rubble voussoirs which are separated by a low, pointed
cutwater on the upstream side. The pathway, which is ramped towards the
centre of the bridge, has a cobbled surface about 1.1m wide between stone
parapets walls. The walls are 0.9m high with rounded copings and each wall
end is set with a single large block. The ends of the parapet walls splay
outwards at both ends to a width of 5m and extend for 13.1m on the
downstream side and 11.3m on the upstream side. The cobbled surface of the
bridge extends on the north side of the bridge for 0.65 m and, on the
south side, for 1.7m. The bridge is a Listed Building Grade II*.
During the medieval period sheep farming played an important part in the
Exmoor economy. Wool was spun in rural areas and transported to centres
such as Dunster, located about 6km to the north east of Winsford, on pack
animals. Purposely designed `hump-backed' bridges were constructed in
order to allow movement during times of flood.

All wooden post and rail fences are excluded from the scheduling, although
the ground beneath 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.

Despite some modern superficial renovation, the bridge located 100m ESE of
The Old Vicarage is a good example of a medieval multi-span packhorse
bridge. It retains much of its original stonework preserved under later,
renewed masonry. The bridge has remained in use in its present form since
at least 1628 when it was reported to the Quarter Sessions as being
`re-edificed' after flood damage. The bridge is located on the line of an
old track between Dulverton and Porlock and once formed the main crossing
over the River Exe before the road bridge, located about 40m downstream,
was built in the early 19th century.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Jervoise, E, Ancient Bridges, (1930), 110
Exmoor National Park Authority, The History of Exmoor Education Leaflet, 2002,

Source: Historic England

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