Helland Bridge


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


© Crown Copyright and database right 2021. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2021. 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 - 1020812.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 07-Mar-2021 at 12:33:10.


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

Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
St. Mabyn
National Grid Reference:
SX 06515 71512

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.

Helland Bridge survives well. Despite limited recent repairs, it retains extensive medieval fabric whose style and construction provide a good example of late medieval bridge-building in south west England. In its extension to four arches, it is one of the larger surviving late medieval bridges. Of special interest are the alterations from its original design which provide evidence for an interrelated development between the bridge and its neighbouring corn mill both in the late medieval period and in the 19th century. The differences in style and construction of those various phases of late medieval and 19th century build illustrate some of the developments and motivations in bridge-building and the differing levels of skill available for it across these periods. In its geographical context, the presence of such a substantial medieval bridge on a minor road so long by-passed in the region's main route network shows clearly the considerable development of the highway system since the medieval period.


The monument includes Helland Bridge which crosses the River Camel at the hamlet named after the bridge, Hellandbridge, 4.5km north of Bodmin in mid-Cornwall. The bridge retains extensive late medieval fabric with several phases of post-medieval repair. An early 19th century arch extends the north of the bridge over the former corn mill's tailrace. Helland Bridge is a Listed Building Grade I. The bridge crosses the River Camel in dissected terrain west of Bodmin Moor, spanning the river north-south by four pointed arches, 5.18m to 5.49m across, linked by three piers. From the abutments at each end, a short masonry-faced causeway carries the road over adjacent low ground. The northern causeway was modified to add a fifth round arch, 3.25m across, over the mill tailrace. The four pointed arches vary in form. The southern two are similar, slightly flattened, with single rings of slate voussoirs flush with the sides of the bridge. The northernmost of the four arches is of similar profile but has a double ring of slate voussoirs, the inner slightly recessed from the outer: that arch is clearly of a different phase from the southern two but all three arches have a typically 15th century form, construction and fabric. Between those three arches is an unusual asymmetrical arch, near- triangular with a double row of slate voussoirs, the inner row slightly recessed. Detail of the masonry around the arch and in the adjacent piers shows this arch is a later rebuild, considered to repair flood damage occasioned in 1847, as described below. The level from which all four arches spring is similar but deep silting fills the northern two almost to that level while the main river channel is scoured more deeply beneath the southern arches. Between these arches, the three piers have pointed cutwaters at each end; the central pier's upstream cutwater has a stepped width reduction on its south face indicating that the fabric above is of later rebuild, also attributable to the rebuilding of the adjacent arch as noted above. Beyond the medieval northern abutment, the early 19th century extension has a low rounded arch with a single ring of slate voussoirs over the tailrace of a former corn mill nearby. The extension's width, at 12m, reflects the 19th century carriageway width but greatly exceeds that of the medieval bridge: the difference is accommodated by a substantial step outwards to the west side of the extension from the rest of the bridge. The masonry facing the bridge's sides, piers and causeways below parapet level, whether medieval or of later build, is largely of random local slate rubble but granite slabs face the exposed footings of the upstream cutwater apex on the southern and central piers. The bridge's sides and much of its causeways rise from the carriageway as parapets in which the piers' cutwaters are carried up as refuges. The parapets are excluded from the scheduling above the surface of the adjacent modern metalled carriageway but remain part of the Listed Building. The parapets are of 19th-20th century build, in slate masonry, some non-local, finished with granite coping slabs mostly with a curved upper profile, some retaining their iron securing cramps. The low parapet over the early 19th century northern extension is furnished with iron railings. The carriageway entering the bridge was widened, probably in the late 18th or early 19th century, by moving its parapets outwards in two sectors. Over the medieval northern abutment and pointed arch, the re-aligned downstream parapet was underlain by three stepped granite slabs supported by granite corbels bonded into the bridge. Two of those slabs and their corbels over the arch were replaced by a single slab and corbels in the late 20th century. Over the southern abutment, the re-aligned upstream parapet is supported on rebuilt masonry across the splay from the arch to the causeway. The carriageway defined by the parapets is 2.9m wide near the centre of the bridge, widening gradually towards each end, then more markedly so along each causeway, especially from the medieval northern abutment to the extension over the mill tailrace as noted above. Along the narrowest sector, the inner faces of the parapets are lined at intervals by low granite slabs set on end, called kickstones, further restricting the carriageway's usable width, as does modern kerbing flanking the approaches to that sector. Helland Bridge stands on an early route north out of Bodmin to the coastal hinterland north east of the Camel estuary. A bridge is first mentioned here in 1381, as `Helland Brigge', considered a predecessor to that now standing. The present bridge, of 15th century origin, was named `Helham Bridge' by John Leland, the King's Antiquary, in about 1535. The bridge appears on several early post-medieval large-scale maps. The 1842 St Mabyn tithe map confirms the northern extension over the mill tailrace had by then been added to the bridge, but the 1881 Ordnance Survey map suggests a far longer relationship between the bridge and the mill. It shows a by-pass channel from the mill's headrace passing under the bridge's northern medieval arch and cutting across an earlier such channel taken off the headrace further east but abandoned before the 1842 or 1881 mapping. This early channel explains a deep indent in the floodplain which the bridge's northern two medieval arches were designed to cross, thereby dating that channel to the mill's 15th century predecessor. This link between the northern two arches and an adjacent medieval corn mill explains the bridge's unusual length and the phase difference of the northern medieval arch as a response to the mill's requirements, probably replacing an original causeway and floodwater arch over the floodplain. On 16 July 1847, a flash flood swept down the River Camel, damaging Helland Bridge and rising over its parapets, but not causing the total destruction it wrought on most other bridges along the valley. The bridge's rebuilt arch north of centre is believed to have repaired damage from that episode. In the post-medieval period, the main route north from Bodmin has transferred its crossing point of the River Camel downstream to Dunmere Bridge, leaving Helland Bridge increasingly by-passed and carrying an unclassified road intended to serve the local needs of this area's dispersed hamlets. Several features are excluded from the scheduling. These are: the parapets and railings above the surface of the adjacent modern metalled carriageway, the modern road surface metalling, kickstones and modern width-restrictions added to the carriageway, all modern roadsigns and their posts, the modern gate and its fittings, all electricity cables, their markers and support pole, the water main north of the bridge, and the wooden shed and stored materials. However, the ground beneath all 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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Henderson, C, Coates, H, Old Cornish Bridges and Streams, (1928)
Henderson, C, Coates, H, Old Cornish Bridges and Streams, (1928)
CAU, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 17108 Helland Bridge, (2001)
CAU, Helland Bridge Cornwall Archaeological and Historical Assessment, (2000)
CCC Bridge Ref 20/065714, Cornwall CC, Cornwall County Council Maintenance File for Helland Bridge, (2001)
Min of Works, Listed Building Entry for SX 07 SE 1/39 Helland Bridge, (1969)
Shown to MPPA on 6/3/2002, Mrs R D Worth - see MMS for contact details, Info & photos held by Mrs R D Worth of the Old Mill Herbary, (2002)
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map SX 07 SE Source Date: 2001 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map Explorer 9 Bodmin Moor Source Date: 1995 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 25": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Mapping for area around Helland Bridge Source Date: Author: Publisher: Surveyor: 1881 & 1907 editions
Title: 25": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Mapping for area around Helland Bridge Source Date: 1881 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:


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].