Ruthern Bridge with adjacent ford


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020810

Date first listed: 26-Nov-1926

Date of most recent amendment: 06-Dec-2002


Ordnance survey map of Ruthern Bridge with adjacent ford
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Lanivet

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Withiel

National Grid Reference: SX 01296 66827


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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.

Ruthern Bridge survives reasonably well. Despite its early 20th century strengthening and some parapet repairs, much of its original fabric remains intact as a good example of 15th century bridge building in south west England. The minor status of the road carried by the bridge in the present highway network, along with the extinguishing and major revision of the route which the bridge originally carried, and the survival in part of the adjacent ford all demonstrate clearly the development of river crossings, the highway system and their landscape setting since the medieval period.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes Ruthern Bridge, which crosses the Ruthen River, a major tributary of the River Camel, at a hamlet named Ruthernbridge after this bridge, 5.5km west of Bodmin in mid-Cornwall. The bridge is largely of mid-15th century date with some later modification. The scheduling also includes surviving remains of a ford adjacent to the south side of the bridge and two cast-iron plaques recording an unusually early weight restriction imposed on the bridge. Ruthern Bridge is a Listed Building Grade II*. Ruthern Bridge spans the Ruthen River east-west by two arches linked by a central pier. From the abutments at each end, a short causeway carries the road over the adjacent low ground. The arches are slightly pointed: the western has a span of 3.66m while the span of the eastern is 3.43m. Each arch has a single arch ring with slate voussoirs, slightly recessed below a projecting string-course. Above the arches, the sides of the bridge are faced with random local rubble. The central pier, 2.36m wide, has pointed cutwaters at each end faced with coursed and neatly dressed granite slabs, called ashlar. Smaller and slightly asymmetrical cutwaters, also faced with granite ashlar, flank the abutments at each end of the bridge on both sides. From these, the bridge's causeways, faced with random rubble, carry the highway over the riverbank slopes. Beyond the bridge's eastern faced causeway, and beyond this scheduling, the modern road extends for about 25m over a low embankment of uncertain date above the river's narrow floodplain. The sides of the bridge and its masonry-faced causeways rise above the carriageway as parapets 0.3m wide and up to 0.75m high, finished with granite coping slabs of various profiles, though most are chamfered along each edge. The central pier's cutwaters are carried up into the parapets as refuges on each side, as also are the southern (upstream) abutment cutwaters, but the northern abutment cutwaters are capped off at the level of the parapet base. The parapet fabric facing the highway is of random rubble but towards the river it reflects that of the bridge sides below, generally of local random rubble but of granite ashlar where the cutwaters rise as refuges. Some relatively minor repairs and areas of repointing are apparent along the parapets. The eastern end of the southern parapet, and the raised causeway it defines, curves to the south in short straight lengths to accommodate a minor road approaching along the riverside. This eastern curve in the parapet crosses the line of a former ford across the river adjacent to the south side the bridge. On the west side of the river and within this scheduling, the unmetalled track down to the ford still survives, separated from the bridge itself by an open channel carrying a stream to the river. The carriageway defined by the parapets reduces to 3.1m wide over the bridge's arches. Immediately beneath its modern surface, the carriageway is supported on reinforced concrete slabs laid across the bridge's arches as a strengthening measure in 1938. Ruthern Bridge was described by the historian Charles Henderson as `one of the best preserved of Cornish bridges' for whose construction style he suggested a date of about 1430 to 1450, probably on the initiative of Bodmin Priory as the bridge greatly improved access to their lands at Padstow. Although no historical record survives to fix its date of construction, a bridge is mentioned here in 1412, perhaps a predecessor to the visible bridge which receives its earliest surviving record, as `Rothyn Brygge', in 1494. The bridge carried the former main route from Bodmin to Padstow by way of the high downs behind the north coast. In the post-medieval period, that route became extinguished by enclosure of the formerly open higher ground, but it was also superseded by another route to the north east, crossing the River Camel at Dunmere Bridge and Wadebridge: the line of the present A389 route from Bodmin to Padstow.These developments left Ruthern Bridge carrying only a minor unclassified road in a network of such roads serving only the local needs of the dispersed hamlets west of Bodmin. The bridge still bears plaques imposing an unusually early weight restriction on traffic using it. Dating from the 1890s-1900s, these cast-iron plaques are affixed near the west end of the northern parapet and the east of the southern parapet, 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. All electricity and telephone cables, all modern signposts and guideposts and the silts in the open stream channels across the ford, and the modern metalled road surface and its underlying reinforced concrete slabs are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground and the structure of the bridge beneath and beside them are 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: 15576

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Henderson, C, Coates, H, Old Cornish Bridges and Streams, (1928)
Institute of Cornish Studies, , Cornwall County Council 1889-1989, (1989)
Padel, O, A Popular Dictionary of Cornish Place Names, (1988)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 26032, (2001)
Contents copied to MPPA in 12/2001, Cornwall County Council, Cornwall County Council maintenance file for Ruthern Bridge,
Entry dated 6/6/1969, DCMS, Listed Building Entry for SX 06 NW 4/137, (2001)
MoW, AM7 Scheduling documentation for CO 76 Ruthern Bridge, 1928,
Repts of 1980 1984 & works in 1997-8, Various FMWs & G Bird, AM 107 FMW reports & works file for CO 76 Ruthern Bridge,
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map SX 06 NW Source Date: 2001 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 25": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Mapping for the area around Ruthern Bridge Source Date: Author: Publisher: Surveyor: 1880 and 1907 editions

End of official listing