Lerryn Bridge


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


Ordnance survey map of Lerryn Bridge
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
St. Veep
Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
St. Winnow
National Grid Reference:
SX 14082 57155

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.

Lerryn Bridge survives well, despite some recent parapet repairs, as a late medieval bridge repaired very early in the post-medieval period: its documented royal Order for repair in 1573 shows unusually clearly one means of achieving bridge repairs after the demise of the monastic responsibility for bridge and highway maintenance. The resulting contrast between the granite ashlar of the late medieval facing and the local slate rubble deployed in the post-medieval repairs illustrates well the differences both in style and levels of resourcing available to sponsors of bridge building of the late medieval and early post-medieval periods. The presence nearby of the ford in the early route across the river from which subsequent roads access the bridge, coupled with the role of the bridge in the rise and fall of Lerryn's maritime trade, shows the considerable development of river crossings and their potential for affecting the highway system and their landscape setting since the medieval period.


The monument includes Lerryn Bridge which crosses the River Lerryn at the village of Lerryn in south east Cornwall. The bridge is of late medieval origin with repairs documented from the 1570s. Lerryn Bridge is a Listed Building Grade II*. The bridge crosses the River Lerryn close to its highest tidal reach as it flows into one arm of the Fowey estuary. The bridge spans the river north west-south east by two unequal arches linked by a central pier; from abutments at each end, a masonry-faced causeway carries the road over adjacent low ground. Both arches are of pointed four-centred form, typically late 15th-early 16th century in date: the larger north west arch has a span of 3.89m while the smaller and flatter south east arch spans 2.44m. Each arch has a single ring of chamfered granite voussoirs flanking a vault lined by neatly dressed granite slabs. The line from which the arches spring, called the impost, is emphasised on both sides of each arch by a moulded granite string-course which extends around pointed cutwaters at each end of the central pier. Below parapet level the central pier is faced by coursed and neatly dressed granite slabs, called ashlar, which distinguish the bridge's late medieval facing. Granite ashlar also lines the riverside faces of both abutments and the sides of the bridge below the parapet between the pier and the apex of each arch. A further remnant of ashlar also survives outside the lowest voussoir above the riverbank abutment at each side of the north west arch. By contrast, a line of granite slabs below the parapet from the apex of the south east arch to above the south east riverbank abutment is later relaid material overlying masonry of random slaty rubble which characterises the repaired facings of the 1570s and all later work. Such slate masonry faces the remainder of the bridge's sides, including the causeways carrying the highway over the riverbank slopes. From behind each abutment, both sides of the causeways are steeply buttressed, sloping out below the parapets. The sides of the bridge and its causeways rise above the carriageway as parapets, generally 0.5m-0.6m high, also in slate masonry but finished with granite coping slabs, mostly flat-topped and pitted for plugs to hold iron cramps that are now missing. The central pier's cutwaters are carried up into the parapets as refuges on each side. Some relatively limited areas of repair and repointing are apparent along the parapets. The carriageway defined by the parapets reduces to 2.9m wide near the centre of the bridge, but widens gradually along each causeway. An early episode of widening is evident on the north east of the south east causeway where a granite slab supports the parapet across the step between the buttressed causeway side and the adjacent face of the narrower bridge. A similar method occurs elsewhere in this region dated to the 18th to early 19th century. Lerryn Bridge was mentioned, as `Lerrine Bridge', by John Leland, the King's Antiquary, who crossed it in about 1535. The later 16th century repairs are documented as an Order of 1573 from Queen Elizabeth I to the Bailiff and Constables of the administrative district of the West requiring them to levy a rate for `the erecting and re-edifying of a decayed bridge called Laryon Bridge'. Apart from producing the two markedly differing fabrics now evident in the bridge's facing, it has been suggested that the number of arches may have been reduced from three to two during this or another phase of repairs, losing a former small north western arch that would have given the bridge a more symmetrical elevation. The bridge at Lerryn supplements a ford, beyond this scheduling, crossing the river 125m downstream and still extant with stepping stones. The pattern of roads approaching these two crossing points suggests the ford provided the earlier crossing in line with a direct route to the parish church at St Veep, an early road on which other roads in the vicinity terminate. By contrast the road to Lerryn Bridge forms a detour duplicating and north east of the direct route and crossed by other routes along the lower valley sides. The route carried by Lerryn Bridge, and the nearby fording point, is one of several radiating from the town of Lostwithiel, until the later 14th century an important port and the chief medieval administrative centre for the Duchy of Cornwall in the south west of England. As Lostwithiel declined due to silting in the upper reaches of the Fowey estuary, trade increased in the ports further down the estuary, notably at Fowey itself but also at the smaller coastal villages and creeks including that at Lerryn and along the estuarine Lerryn River where a number of small quays and slipways now lie abandoned. Lerryn Bridge, crossing the head of the creek with a direct link to Cornwall's southern main route at Lostwithiel, was an important asset bringing sea-borne trade to Lerryn. In the 19th century that included coal, limestone and agricultural produce, along with a specific trading link to the nearby Herodsfoot Gunpowder Mills. By the early 20th century maritime coastal trade was in rapid decline, overtaken by railways and improved roads. This reduced pressures on roads serving that maritime trade, including Lerryn Bridge: the bridge now carries an unclassified road in a network of such roads serving the dispersed hamlets east of the Fowey estuary, with greatest traffic flows during the summer tourist season. The modern metalled road surface, the modern kerbing and bollards restricting the present carriageway width, all modern signposts, the seat hardstandings, all electricity cables and garden furniture are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features 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:
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Books and journals
Gill, C, The Duchy of Cornwall, (1987)
Henderson, C, Coates, H, Old Cornish Bridges and Streams, (1928)
Luck, L, South Cornish Harbours, (1988)
Pearse Chope, R , Early Tours in Devon & Cornwall, (1967)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry PRN 26974, (2001)
DCMS, Listed Building entry for SX 15 NW 6/121 Lerryn Bridge, (1964)
File for CCC Bridge Ref 20/141571, Cornwall County Council, Cornwall County Council Maintenance File for Lerryn Bridge, (2001)
From FMW visit on 29 Jan 1997, Vulliamy C J, AM 107 texts for Cornwall SAM CO 66 Lerryn Bridge, (1997)
Ministry of Works, AM7 Scheduling Documentation for CO 66 Lerryn Bridge, 1926, Original handwritten AM7
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map SX 15 NW Source Date: 2001 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 25": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Mapping for the Lerryn area 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

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