My text for today comes, as is often the case, from Charles Henderson’s ‘Old Cornish Bridges and Streams’ (1928), from the section on THE CAMEL OR ALAN.
Ladles and gentlespoons, I give you …
Wadebridge remains as in Carew’s day (1602) “the longest, strongest and fairest that the Shire can muster.” Its name epitomises its history, for the place was first an important but dangerous Ford (Vadum) across the tidal waters of the Camel. Its old name of Wade or Atte Wade suggests that the place was the Ford (Vadum) par excellence. It is even possible that the name dates from Roman times. The word does not seem to appear in any other Cornish place name.
In the middle ages, before the bridge was built, the road by Wade was greatly frequented and two Chapels greeted the traveller on either side of the passage, like the Chapels in the 15th century wall paintings of St. Christopher, the ferryman Saint, in Poughill Church. [C21 note, Poughill is pronounced rather like puffle.] One of the chapels at the St. Breoke end was licensed in 1382 as St Michael’s. The other at the Eastern end was called the King’s Chapel. The bridge was built from Chapel to Chapel, circa 1468, but alas ! both were profaned and sold for secular purposes by Queen Elizabeth in 1591. In the deed of sale they are described as standing on the East and West ends of Wadebridge.
William of Worcester in 1478, saw the long bridge of “12 or 18” arches, but although it had only been set up a few years, he left it to John Leland to give us the story of its building (in1538). Leland’s account, though well known, must be given in full.
“Wadebidge wher ther was a fery 80 yeres syns and menne sumtyme passing over by horse stoode often in great jeopardie, the one Lovebone, Vicar of Wadebridge, movid with pitie began the bridge and with great paine and studie, good people putting their help thereto finished it with xvij fair and great uniform arches of stone. One told me that the foundation of certain of th’ arches was first settle on so quick sandy ground that Lovebone almost despaired to performe the bridge ontyl such tyme as he layed pakkes of wolle for fundation.”
Hals (1700) citing no authority, adds that Bishop Courtnay, in 1485, granted an indulgence to Thomas Lovybound, then Vicar of Egloshayle to attract the offerings of the Faithful and that John de Harlyn was the builder. Bishop Courtnay’s Register is defective and the Indulgence cannot be found, but the date 1485 must [C21 note, must – strong word!] be an error, for John Lovybound, Vicar in 1450 and 1465, had been succeeded by a different incumbent in 1472. In 1468 [Trigg Minor lll, 52], John Lovebond, clerk, [C21 note, clerk in Holy Orders, priest or prest as they say in Nordic noir] had license to get stones from the Manorial Quarry of Pen Mayne in St. Minver. The bridge must the have been in building and is therefore a contemporary of that famous 24 arched bridge at Bideford which it resembles so closely. Vicar Lovebond made his bridge 320 feet long, with a roadway 9 feet wide carried on 17 pointed arches 18½ feet in span and 9 feet high above the spring. The piers are very thick. The material is local stone.
Henderson recounts further histories of the bridge, of which more later.
The current bridge is of course quite different and a good deal wider.