Ridware Study Group
Research Project 2 : High Bridge Crossing between Handsacre and Ridware
The following notes indicate the initial findings of the research into the High Bridge Crossing between Handsacre and Ridware. This is in the early stages of research and will be updated as the study progresses.
NOTE: THE RESEARCH PROJECT RESULTED IN THE PUBLICATION 'THE HIGH BRIDGES', PUBLISHED DEC 2006. Please see Publications page.
The notes will remain on the website for a short period so that one can get a brief understanding of the nature of the research.
13th century “It was anciently called Rideware-bridge, or High-bridge for we meet with ‘Rideware-bruge’ and ‘magno ponte de Rideware’ in deeds f.d. in the reign of Henry III or Edward I; though the bridge then, and long afterwards, was probably of timber” (Stebbing Shaw).
1584 Reference to the repair of the High Bridge by residents of Offlow Hundred in the Quarter Session records.
17th century A map of 17th c. bridges in Staffordshire shows the following sequence along the Trent: Wolseley, Colton, High, Yoxall, Wychnor, etc. In 1660, Wolseley Bridge, which carried one of the most important routes in the country, was described in the Quarter Sessions as “very much in decay, and almost impassable to travel”. In 1662 Yoxall Bridge was reported to be “in peril of great decay, and the groundwork founderous, and will cost threescore and ten pounds to repair, and if speedy reparacon be not made, the same will be utterly ruined” (Thomas, “Geographical Aspects of the Development of Transport and Communications…”, SHC 1934).
1608 A list of bridges and by whom they were repaired states that “Highe” was the responsibility of Offlow Hundred. “Hansacre” was also the responsibility of Offlow Hundred. It was fairly rare in Staffordshire for the Hundreds to be responsible for bridge repair, and the only other one in Offlow Hundred was Weeford Bridge (Thomas, “Geographical Aspects of the Development of Transport and Communications…”, SHC 1934).
6 June 1608 John Chadwick grants Thomas Edwards the right to “grind at his mills either at mavesin rid: or at high bridge mills” (D260/M/E/430/42 Right of fishing at Pipe Ridware).
1622 – 1623 In the parish register it states that “The Highe-bridges newe builded ano 1622 and 1623, Mr John Chadwick and Mr Michaell Lowe being overseers” (Stebbing Shaw).
1626 It was called High Bridges because there were “two wooden bridges consisting of two arches a piece near High Bridge in the parish of Maveson Ridware”. In 1626 it was stated to the Court that “High Bridges is in daunger to be lost”. Troubles from flooding are recorded (Thomas, “Geographical Aspects of the Development of Transport and Communications…”, SHC 1934).
1665 The two wooden bridges were rebuilt of stone (Thomas, “Geographical Aspects of the Development of Transport and Communications…”, SHC 1934).
1674 – 1675 From the parish register: “As the High-bridges were, as above 1622 and 1623, built at the charge of the county and made of stone; so they were all out of repayre in 1674 and 1675, and the wooden bridges made new at the charge of the hundred of Offlow, and the stone great bridge repaired at the charge of the whole county, as it was formerly, John Whitehall of Pipe Ridware, esq. Being made overseer of it, who took care to have it well performed.” The wooden bridges were about 87 and 134 yards north of “the great bridge”, and were later replaced with stone (Stebbing Shaw).
1722 The arches of the High Bridge were rebuilt in stone (Thomas, “Geographical Aspects of the Development of Transport and Communications…”, SHC 1934).
1728 Petitions were sent to the House of Commons from the inhabitants of Stone and Lichfield to erect turnpikes on the Holyhead road, the Burton to Lichfield road, and “Litchfield through Tewnall’s Lane to High Bridges”. Theophilus Levitt JP gave evidecet that the road from Lichfield to High Bridges was “impassable in winter” (Thomas, “Geographical Aspects of the Development of Transport and Communications…”, SHC 1934).
1729 “Evidence given in 1729 in support of a petition for the turnpiking of the Stone-Lichfield road laid stress upon the numerous hollows into which postboys fell, particularly in winter when the hollows were covered by deep snow.” In 1729 the whole Staffordshire length of the Holyhead road was turnpiked (2 Geo. II c.5). This Act also covered the Lichfield to Burton road and “the road between Lichfield and the High Bridge over the Trent at Handsacre” (VCH II 279-80).
1751 Burton Bridge was the longest and most famous bridge in the county and the scene of many accidents. “The Gentleman’s Magazine for 1751 quotes an incident of a lady of note passing over the bridge in her carriage, when the leading horses leapt over the parapet, and in order to save the coach and its occupant from being killed, the traces of the leading horses were cut, and they fell into the river and were drowned” (Thomas, “Geographical Aspects of the Development of Transport and Communications…”, SHC 1934).
1766 “The first section of road to be turnpiked in 1766 followed a course from High Bridges in Armitage, where the Lichfield – High Bridges turnpike ended, northwards via Hill Ridware and Abbots Bromley to Bradley Lane, Uttoxeter.” The Act was 6 Geo. III c.88 (Phillips & Turton, “The Turnpike Network of Staffordshire…”, SHC 4th series, XIII (1988)).
“This road was, within the memory of man, deep and dangerous, but a turnpike having been erected in the year 1766, improvements quickly followed…and there is now an excellent road (though in some places too narrow), the country being blessed with plenty of the best gravel, without which a road may be hard, but can hardly be very pleasant” (Stebbing Shaw).
1784 The north and south arches of the High Bridge were rebuilt in order to widen it. Also, “a strong wooden rail was fixed as a safeguard along the parapet walls, these being so low as to make the passage dangerous before”. (Thomas, “Geographical Aspects of the Development of Transport and Communications…”, SHC 1934; Stebbing Shaw).
1784 – 1809 Armitage vouchers for bridge repairs. See photocopies (D805/5/2).
1795 “The great flood of 1795 brought havoc to many bridges in Staffordshire”, including Wolseley and Wychnor. Wychnor cost £1,803. 10s.3d to rebuild (Thomas, “Geographical Aspects of the Development of Transport and Communications…”, SHC 1934).
8 May 1798 “Mr Lane also said, he understood, that this part of the River went from High Bridges downward to its Junction with the Hamstall Water of Mrs Lea (the Sister of late Lord Lea) near Netherton, from the Information of Old People – But you will recollect, that it begins a little Way above High Bridges near opposite the High Bridge House” (D260/M/E/430/42 Right of fishing at Pipe Ridware; record of a conversation between Sir Edward Littleton and Mr John Lane).
1810 – 1819 “Subsequent road improvements were largely directed towards the re-alignment of existing turnpikes to ease gradients and avoid difficult bends and other hazards” (Phillips & Turton, “The Turnpike Network of Staffordshire…”, SHC 4th series, XIII (1988)).
“As early roads led down to the fords on the rivers, it was generally found that the bridges which superseded the fords lay in a kind of hollow. The bridge consequently had hollow parts of the road on each side.” Therefore, wheeled traffic had to ascend on to the bridge from each side, and the effort to cross damaged the road and the bridge, as well as causing accidents. Later bridge improvements often involved raising the road levels (Thomas, “Geographical Aspects of the Development of Transport and Communications…”, SHC 1934).
1811 Armitage Surveyor of the Highways Vouchers contains payments to John Prince for “reparing Yeald Bridge”:
for Timber £33 4s 9½d
Workmanship £7 11s 9d
Carrage 8s 9d
Total £41 5s 3½d
(D805/4/2 Armitage Surveyor of Highways Vouchers)
4 October 1811 “paid for the Repearing yeld Bridge 20-2-6” (D805/4/1-2 Armitage Surveyor of highways accounts 1797-1813).
20 May 1812 paid “Mr Prince for Reparing ye old Bridge 26-7-2 ½” (D805/4/2 Armitage Surveyor of Highways Vouchers).
1829 – 1832 Construction of the cast-iron bridge. “At 140 feet the bridge was the longest single span iron bridge in the country when constructed. It is listed as of special interest” (see newspaper article).
“About 500 tons of metal went into its construction, at a total cost of £11,176” (see newspaper article).
6 January 1831 Letter from Michael Turnor, estate manager, to John Lane of Kings Bromley on the possible compulsory purchase of islands in the River Trent to build the embankment of the cast-iron bridge. This includes a sketch map of the islands and the bridges. See photocopy (D357/H/3/1-11 Lane family papers)
13 June 1831 Letter from Michael Turnor, estate manager, to John Lane on the compulsory purchase of the islands. “…the Bridge itself is the most preposterous thing that can be imagined – it is by speculations of this kind that our County rates are kept so high” (D357/H/3/1-11 Lane family papers).
1839 Thomas Peploe Wood and J Buckler draw and paint the old stone-arch bridge, presumably at the instigation of William Salt, as part of his historic record of Staffordshire
18 December 1952 Bus accident on the High Bridge (see newspaper article).
1981 The cast iron bridge was cracking because of mining subsidence and the bailey bridge was constructed to take road traffic (4817/17 newspaper article in the May Grimley collection)
1996 The Grade II listed cast-iron bridge was restored by Staffordshire County Council . The restoration received a commendation by the Institution of Civil Engineers’ Historic Bridge Awards 1998 (see newspaper article).