Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Packhorse bridge 60m north east of Royal Oak Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Winsford, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.1028 / 51°6'10"N

Longitude: -3.5646 / 3°33'52"W

OS Eastings: 290550.649019

OS Northings: 134885.048018

OS Grid: SS905348

Mapcode National: GBR LD.BYJY

Mapcode Global: VH5KH.5JDY

Entry Name: Packhorse bridge 60m north east of Royal Oak Farm

Scheduled Date: 11 August 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021124

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35595

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
over Winn Brook in the centre of Winsford village. The brook rises
approximately 4km to the west at the head of Little Ash Combe and joins
the River Exe about 150m downstream at Exe Bridge. The packhorse bridge,
sometimes referred to as Winsford Smithy Bridge, is constructed from red
sandstone random rubble throughout. It has a single segmental arch with a
3m span and a single course of rubble voussoirs which springs from water
level. The pathway over the arch of the bridge has a cobbled surface for
about 2m along its length and is 1.4m wide between the parapet walls. The
walls are constructed of random rubble with up-ended rubble coping. The
dimensions of the parapet walls are an average of 0.6m high and 8m long on
the downstream side and an average of 0.65m high and 5.9m long on the
upstream side. The bridge is a Listed Building Grade II.
During the medieval period sheep farming and the woollen industry played
an important part in the Exmoor economy. Wool was spun in rural areas and
transported to centres, such as Dunster about 6km to the north east of
Winsford, on pack animals; purposely designed `humped-backed' bridges were
constructed in order to allow movement during times of flood.

All wooden fencing, and fence posts, 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

Medieval and early post-medieval single span bridges are structures designed
to carry a road or track over a river by means of a single arch, typically 3m-
6m in span. They were constructed throughout the medieval period, most
commonly using timber. Stone began to be used instead of timber in the 12th
century and became increasingly common in the 14th and 15th centuries. Many
medieval bridges were repaired, modified or extensively rebuilt in the post-
medieval period. During the medieval period the construction and maintenance
of bridges was frequently carried out by large estates and the Church,
especially monastic institutions which developed long distance packhorse
routes between their landholdings. Some stone built medieval bridges still
survive. These can be classified into three main types based on the profile of
the arch which is typically pointed, semi-circular or flattened. 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. Bridges were common and important features of medieval
towns and the countryside and allowed easy access along a well developed road
and trackway system. However, only around 16 largely unaltered medieval single
span bridges have so far been recognised to survive in England. All these are
considered to be of national importance. A larger number retain significant
medieval or post-medieval remains, allowing the original form of the bridge to
be determined. These examples are also nationally important.

The packhorse bridge 60m north east of Royal Oak Farm is a good example of a
medieval single span bridge which survives in its original form and position
without any known major refurbishments. Limited activity immediately
surrounding the bridge indicate that archaeological deposits relating to
the monument's construction and use are likely to survive intact. The
importance of the bridge is enhanced by its continued use as a public
amenity from the medieval period to the present day.

Source: Historic England


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

Source: Historic England

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