Stopham Bridge, 178m ENE of Stopham House
Reasons for Designation
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. 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 later alterations and repair work, Stopham Bridge is a well preserved medieval multi-span bridge. It is a good example of its type and will retain evidence relating to medieval bridge construction and masonry techniques. Deposits buried underneath the bridge will preserve valuable artefactual, ecofactual and environmental evidence, shedding a light on the human and natural history of the site prior to the construction of the bridge.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 17/10/14. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
The monument includes a medieval multi-span stone bridge situated over the River Arun, a short distance from the confluence with the River Rother, south-east of Stopham. It carried the main Fittleworth-Pulborough road (now the A283) across the River Arun until the late 20th century when a modern bridge was built to the north.
Stopham Bridge includes a span of seven arches over the river, and another in the causeway leading to Petworth. It is built of ironstone with round-headed arches except for a high segmental arch in the centre to facilitate river navigation. There are blunt cutwaters on each side; those to the south are continued above the water line as half-hexagonal buttresses and those to the north are triangular rising the full height of the bridge. They form recesses in the parapet on each side providing refuge for pedestrians. There is a bend at the west end apparently to avoid the parkland of Stopham House.
Documentary sources provide a range of dates for the construction of the bridge but it is likely to have its origins in 1422-3. One span was destroyed during the Civil War. The centre arch was raised in 1822 and has this date on it. The bridge suffered damage from army lorries during the Second World War and vehicular traffic in the late 20th century but was restored in 1991, a fact which is commemorated by a plaque on the river side.
The upstanding stone remains are Grade I listed.