Packhorse bridge 75m south east of The Old Vicarage


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


Ordnance survey map of Packhorse bridge 75m south east of The Old Vicarage
© Crown Copyright and database right 2020. 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.

West Somerset (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SS 90570 35160

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.

Despite some modern superficial renovation, the bridge located 100m ESE of The Old Vicarage is a good example of a medieval multi-span packhorse bridge. It retains much of its original stonework preserved under later, renewed masonry. The bridge has remained in use in its present form since at least 1628 when it was reported to the Quarter Sessions as being `re-edificed' after flood damage. The bridge is located on the line of an old track between Dulverton and Porlock and once formed the main crossing over the River Exe before the road bridge, located about 40m downstream, was built in the early 19th century.


The monument includes a packhorse bridge, believed to be of medieval date, which crosses the River Exe on the north side of Winsford. The bridge forms a footbridge on a public footpath which connects the Old Vicarage located on the north side of Winsford to St Mary Magdalene's Church. The bridge is stone built and has two segmental arches with a single course of random rubble voussoirs which are separated by a low, pointed cutwater on the upstream side. The pathway, which is ramped towards the centre of the bridge, has a cobbled surface about 1.1m wide between stone parapets walls. The walls are 0.9m high with rounded copings and each wall end is set with a single large block. The ends of the parapet walls splay outwards at both ends to a width of 5m and extend for 13.1m on the downstream side and 11.3m on the upstream side. The cobbled surface of the bridge extends on the north side of the bridge for 0.65 m and, on the south side, for 1.7m. The bridge is a Listed Building Grade II*. During the medieval period sheep farming played an important part in the Exmoor economy. Wool was spun in rural areas and transported to centres such as Dunster, located about 6km to the north east of Winsford, on pack animals. Purposely designed `hump-backed' bridges were constructed in order to allow movement during times of flood.

All wooden post and rail fences 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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Jervoise, E, Ancient Bridges, (1930), 110
Exmoor National Park Authority, The History of Exmoor Education Leaflet, 2002,


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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