The Town Bridge , Bradford on Avon
|"to those who visit our town during the summer months, especially after a long drought. Indeed, to a comparatively modern date, the Ford was used for all carriages, the bridge having originally been much narrower than now, and probably only intended for foot passengers. By looking at the two sides of the bridge you will perceive that they are of very different date, and it is said that after the road is somewhat worn, you may distinctly trace the point at which the newer is joined to the older work".-extract from Rev. Jones History of Bradford on Avon|
|The town bridge is placed upon or immediately above, the "broad
ford," and was originally perhaps only a footbridge, the ford sufficing
for carts, which, continued to pass through it until the northern end was
blocked by the erection of a quay, a few years ago. Two of its "nine
fair arches" are pointed and ribbed, and indicate, good authorities
say, the thirteenth century as the date of the eastern side. The western
side is a comparatively late addition, probably of the seventeenth century,
and its round arches look modern and commonplace, especially since the stone
tables projecting from the piers, once used for washing wool, have disappeared.
An interesting letter is extant, which connects the chapel, or blind house with the labours and difficulties of John Wesley. It was addressed to him by a Mr. Wm. Hitchens, and runs as follows :-
28th February, 1757.
Reverend and Dear Sir,
When I was at Freshford on the 30th of January in the morning, I scrupled singing these words " Ye now afflicted are and hated for His name, And in your bodies bear the tokens of the Lamb." I thought I was not afflicted nor hated for the name of Christ. But this scruple was soon removed.
For at Bradford in the evening I was pressed for a soldier, and carried to an inn where the gentlemen were.Mr. Pearce, hearing of it, came and offered bail for my appearance the day. They said they would take his word for ten thousand pounds but not for me; I must go to the Round House the Little stone room on the side of the Bridge: so thither I was conveyed by five soldiers. There I found nothing to sit on but a stone and nothing to lie on but a little straw : but soon after a friend sent me a chair on which I sat all night. I had a double guard 12 soldiers in all, two without, one in the door and the rest within. I passed the night without sleep, but not without rest o for, blessed be God, my peace was not broken a moment. MY body was in prison, but I was Christ's freeman; my soul was at liberty; and even there I found some work to do for God; I had a fair opportunity of speaking to them who durst -not lease me and I hope it was not in vain.
In the morning I had leave to go to a private house with only one soldier to guard me. About three in the afternoon I was carried before the Commissioners, and part of the Act was read which empowered them to take such able bodied men as followed no business and had no lawful or sufficient maintenance.
Then I said, "If these are the men you are to take, I am not a proper person; for I do follow a lawful calling in partnership with my brother, and have also an estate." The Justice said, "If you will make oath of that, I think we must let you go!" but the Commissioners said, "no man could swear for himself." I said, "Gentlemen, give me time and you, shall have full proof! After a long debate, they took a fifty pound bond for my appearance on that day three weeks.
All the time I could bless God that he counted me worthy to suffer for His name's sake. The next day I set out for Cornwall. I tarried at home four days, and then, setting out with my brother James, came to Bradford last Saturday. On Monday in the afternoon I appeared before the Commissioners, with the writings of my estate. When the Justice had perused them, and my brother had taken his oath, I was set at liberty.So the fierceness of man turns to God's praise, and all this is furtherance of the Gospel. I hope you will return God thanks deliverance out of the hands of unreasonable and wicked men.William Hitchens.
The building was also at times used as a toll-house; and tolls token on beasts going to the Saturday market.-extract from Rev. Jones History of Bradford on Avon
|The Chapel on our bridge. Leland, who visited our town in 1540, speaks
of the bridge, which he says, had "nine fair arches of stone,"
but does not allude to the chapel. There have been some who have thought
that this was merely a toll-house for the collection of pontagium-a contribution
for the maintaining or re-edifying a bridge. Aubrey, however, (who wrote
more than 200 years ago, in the latter part of the 17th century) says expressly,
"Here is a strong and handsome bridge, in the midst of which is a little
chapel, as at Bath, for masse." So that no doubt its object was to
contain the image of the patron saint, and to receive at once the devotions
and alms of passers-by, the latter being probably given to the support of
the Hospital at the Bridge-foot. The chapel itself is built on the centre
pier on the eastern side of the bridge. It is almost square in plan, and
rests on some good and bold graduated corbelling overhanging the ' cut-water'
of the pier. The eastern end appears to have projected still farther into
the stream so as to form a recess, for the figure, perhaps of the patron
saint. [There can be no doubt that the presently existing building, though
commonly called a chapel, was, (as the Bucklers surmised), so far at least
as is above the level of the floor, erected since Aubrey's time, and used
as a tollhouse or as a look-up, before the town hall was built. Another
name for it is " The Blind-house," perhaps from its want of light.
There is a similar building at the east end of the bridge over the Biss
at Trowbridge.. The original chapel may very likely have been coeval with
the original bridge, two ribbed arches of which probably go back to the
13th century, and which was widened so as to admit of the passage of vehicles
at a much later date.} Concerning the dedication of the Bridge Chapel we
have no authentic information at present. The "fish" which forms
the vane at the top of the chapel is, probably, the old ecclesiastical emblem
of our Blessed Lord-the ichthus,1-the letters of which are the initial letters
of other Greek words, signifying " JESUS CHRIST, the SON OF GOD, OUR
SAVIOUR." [There was formerly a saying used describe euphemistically
a man who had been " in trouble "- "He has been under the
fish and above the water," i.e., in prison. It is of copper gilt, good
sixteenth century work, and is known as the " Bradford Gudgeon."}
In the deeds, which have been already alluded to, we meet with the names of some of the Chaplain Priests. Adam Attewell and John Middleton were two of them. By a deed dated 7 Henry V. (A.D. 1420), Reginald Halle provides for the endowment of a chaplain to serve at the altar of St. Nicholas m the Church of the Holy Trinity at Bradford.3 A few years later we find Thomas Horton. founding a Chantry, and probably
1 Of this chapel on the bridge, J. C. and C. Buckler in their "
Remarks on Wayside Chapels " say, (p. 25)-" This little room,
which still retains its doorway on the footpath, and is domed over with
ribbed stone-work, appears to have been partially altered or wholly rebuilt
from the level of the floor. The supporting corbels which spring from
the faces of one of the angular piers, and overspread each other, finally
terminating in a square platform, present perhaps an almost unequalled
specimen of ingenious construction."-extract from Rev. Jones History
of Bradford on Avon