Medieval bridge at Starabridge


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Medieval bridge at Starabridge
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1020637 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 19-Aug-2019 at 19:13:02.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SX 28950 73816

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. 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.

The medieval bridge at Starabridge survives reasonably well. Despite some later modifications it retains extensive parts of its original form and structure, providing a rare survival of a late medieval bridge of clapper construction. The cores of its piers and causeways will also retain any survivals from the bridge's earliest development. Its intimate association with the medieval administrative focus at Rillaton, which provided the need for this bridging point, illustrates well one of the important stimuli for medieval bridge-building. The survival of this bridge and the road it carries so long after that medieval focus has declined to the present small hamlet gives a good example of the persistent influence of medieval patterns in the contemporary landscape despite the considerable development of the highway system and its river crossings since that period. The 18th century floodwater tunnel and the early 20th century weight-restriction plaques provide early examples of attempts to alleviate factors which still pose serious problems at bridging points for our modern society.


The monument includes a largely medieval bridge with some later modification, which crosses the River Lynher 0.9km north west of the village of Rilla Mill in east Cornwall. The monument also includes a post-medieval floodwater tunnel under the bridge's eastern causeway and two late 19th-early 20th century cast iron plaques on the parapets which derive from an early weight restriction. The bridge crosses the River Lynher east-west in three spans, beyond which a short causeway on each side carries the road up to the bridge over the riverbanks. The road over the bridge's spans is supported by massive flat granite slabs called clappers which rest on the piers and abutments, giving square openings ranging from 2.3m to 2.45m wide. The two piers differ quite markedly, reflecting differing phases of build and repair. The western pier is 2m-2.1m wide, narrower than the eastern at 2.7m-2.85m wide. Both were provided with pointed cutwaters at each end, as still survive on the western pier, but much of its downstream cutwater of the eastern pier has been truncated to leave a stump of its lower eastern masonry and a waterworn slab on which it was founded. Both piers are faced largely by granite blocks. On the western pier these are roughly dressed and highly weathered, especially on the upstream cutwater. On the eastern pier, the upstream cutwater is faced by neatly dressed and squared granite slabs, with less regular granite masonry along the sides; the modified face truncating the downstream cutwater has a heavily pointed combination of granite and local stone rubble. The bridge abutments are faced towards the river by masonry mostly of roughly dressed granite slabs with some local rubble. Behind the abutments, causeways take the carriageway across the riverbanks to rejoin the levels of the approach roads beyond. The western causeway extends 11.6m, built out from the south easterly slope and revetted along the south by a wall of granite and local stone edged by granite slabs. The eastern causeway forms a broad rise to the bridge over 8m beyond the riverbank. The core of these causeways will contain any surviving evidence for the nature of the bridge's original approaches. The bridge has a very low parapet on each side which varies along the bridge. Over the central and western spans this comprises large edge-set granite slabs whose splitting method confirms their pre-1800 date. These slabs rest on others supported by the piers and abutments, flanking and rising above the clappers. The parapet is extended along the south of the western causeway by a line of granite posts with a safety rail, and on the north by a post-medieval wall and storage building immediately beyond this scheduling. The parapet over the bridge's eastern span is a 19th century low rubble wall with a flat-topped granite coping which also extends across the truncated southern side of the eastern pier and onto part of the eastern causeway. The piers' three surviving cutwaters are carried up outside the parapets and are faced variously by granite and local rubble. Both western cutwaters are capped off level with the top of the parapets. Only the eastern upstream cutwater forms a refuge opening to the carriageway, its low parapet of edge-set local stone contrasting with the parapets to each side. Between its abutments the bridge measures 12m, with an overall length of 31.6m including its causeways. The parapets define a carriageway 2.8m wide at the centre of the bridge, rising to 3.8m wide at the east end of the parapets and 6.2m wide at the end of the western causeway. Under the eastern causeway, a modification considered to date from the 18th century is the insertion of a tunnel to take floodwater from the narrow floodplain upstream, emptying it into the river close downstream from the bridge's eastern span. The tunnel, 13.5m long, north east-south west, by 0.95m wide and 1.2m high, is roofed by granite slabs laid across the rubble walls. Its north east end opens to a sump hollow against the north east of the roadside hedgebank; on the other side of the hedgebank a small opening broken into the tunnel carries water from the roadside ditch. No historical documentation bears directly on the construction of the bridge but the stimulus for its building lies well within the medieval period. The bridge gave access over the River Lynher to Rillaton, now a small hamlet 0.75km east of the bridge but formerly a very important medieval administrative centre. It housed the court of Manor of Rillaton and was the focus for a larger Hundred of Rillaton named in the Domesday Book, later becoming the Hundred of East Wivelshire. The Manor of Rillaton was part of the Earldom of Cornwall and later one of the original manors granted to the Duchy of Cornwall in 1337. A similar clapper-built bridge crossed the River Lynher 0.9km downstream to provide access to the manorial mill sited in the village now called Rilla Mill; that bridge, demolished and replaced in the 1890s, has been described as `very ancient' and possibly the `stone bridge' mentioned in a land grant of 1155-1165. Whether or not the former bridge at Rilla Mill was of such age, it was the medieval importance of Rillaton and the need to give access to it and its manorial mill which motivated the building of these two similar clapper-built bridges of which this bridge is the only survivor. That importance, along with the manorial system which provided it, had long been in decline by the end of the medieval period and could not by then have supported the creation of a new bridging point at the site of Stara Bridge which could serve only the hamlet of Rillaton. As the post-medieval road network developed, the bridge at Starabridge was effectively duplicated and superseded by the bridge at Rilla Mill. By the First Edition Ordnance Survey map of 1809, the road over the bridge leads only to the roads along each side of the Lynher valley while that over Rilla Mill bridge formed part of a continuous route south west from Launceston to Liskeard and Cornwall's southern coast, a route already recognised when King Charles I followed part of it with his army on 2nd August 1644. That disparity between the bridges still prevails in the modern road network: the bridge at Starabridge now carries a narrow unclassified road serving local needs and from which heavy goods vehicles are prohibited. Weight restrictions here date from the 1890s-1900s when cast-iron plaques were secured to the parapet at each end of the bridge, and still remain in place, advising those `in charge of locomotives' that the `bridge is insufficient to carry weights beyond the ordinary traffic of the district' and that they must obtain the consent of the County Surveyor before attempting to pass over it. The surface of the modern metalled road, the modern granite posts and safety rail on the western causeway, the public footpath sign and its post, the concrete drainage gully on the west, and all modern drains, are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Bishop, G, A Pictorial View of the East Cornwall Parish of Linkinhorne, (1987)
Bishop, G, A Pictorial View of the East Cornwall Parish of Linkinhorne, (1987)
Henderson, C, Coates, H, Old Cornish Bridges and Streams, (1928)
Henderson, C, Coates, H, Old Cornish Bridges and Streams, (1928)
Henderson, C, Coates, H, Old Cornish Bridges and Streams, (1928)
Institute of Cornish Studies, , Cornwall County Council 1889-1989, (1989)
Thorn, C, F, , Doomsday Book; 10: Cornwall, (1979)
Burnett, D, 'Duchy Review' in The Origins of the Duchy, , Vol. 9, (1999), 8-11
Hull, P L , 'D and C Record Soc Volumes New Series' in The Cartulary of Launceston Priory (Lambeth Palace MS 719), , Vol. 30, (1987)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 17421, (2001)
Descrip from visit on 30/10/1988, Preston-Jones A, AM 107 documentation for SAM CO 337 Stara Bridge, (1988)
Title: 1": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Map sheet 25 Tavistock Source Date: 1809 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Mapping of the area around Stara Bridge Source Date: Author: Publisher: Surveyor: 1880 and 1907 Editions
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map SX 27 SE Source Date: 2001 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 25": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Mapping for the area around Stara Bridge Source Date: Author: Publisher: Surveyor: 1880 and 1907 Editions


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].