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The Old Bridge at Attlebridge.
T. D. ATKINSON.
The subject of the accompanying photograph is the bridge which crosses the eastern branch of the river Wensum between Attlebridge and Morton. The river here forms two streams, the eastern and lesser of which was evidently in former days a mill-stream. The mill has now disappeared, but it probably, stood near the bridge, and had some connexion with the homestead hard by which has, what was till lately, a very picturesque range of old outbuildings, including a malting.
The bridge over the main stream has been rebuilt in recent years with a total disregard for appearances, but that which spans the mill-stream is an excellent example of the skill with which the medieval workman invested even the most ordinary and utilitarian buildings with charm and character.
The bridge consists of three arches springing from piers, which have the triangular cut-water terminations
· 1 These notes were written in September, 1912. The bridge has since been rebuilt in a different form. The hope expressed that modern science would be equal to the occasion has proved vain.
usual in medieval bridges, both up and down stream. These cut-waters have chamfered plinths just above normal water level, and pyramidal terminations against the parapets. The side arches are pointed; they have but a slight rise and are formed of very slightly curved arcs, but they spring from the piers with a sharp curve worked entirely on the springing stone. The central arch has, I think, a similar springing, but for the rest consists of one flat arc. Each arch consists of two chamfered orders. Over the western arch on the down-stream side there is a weathered and throated string-course of the usual medieval section, and this is continued along a part of the west abutment. Above this level there is a high and plain brick parapet.1
The cut-waters and their pyramids are built of stone. The abutments are also faced with stone, as
are the arches and the spandrels above them up to the level of the string-course. The stone is of good quality and looks like a Northamptonshire oolite. The masonry is first rate. The mass of the piers seems to be flint faced with brick; the arches, except the above-mentioned faces, and the parapets are of brick.
I know nothing of the early history of the bridge. That it was rebuilt in 1668 is recorded on a stone built into the outer face of the south parapet. The inscription is partly illegible; the following transcript gives the conjectural parts in italics :
1 The stream is about 12 yards wide. The central arch is about 12 feet wide and the side arches about 8 feet. The piers are 3 feet 2 inches thick. From the water level (September 14th, 1912) to the top parapet is 9 feet 8 inches; from the road to the top of the parapet is 3 feet.
The second line might have been Mortonbridge but that there is not space enough. I read “stonbridge ” for “stone bridge.” The exact reading is, however, of no great moment, as the essential parts are perfectly distinct: namely the date and the fact that the building was a rebuilding.
At the beginning of these notes I implied that the bridge is medieval. I have little doubt that that is practically true. Rebuilding is a vague term which was very loosely used in old days and was often applied to an extensive repair. Whatever the extent of the work in this case, there can hardly be the shadow of a doubt that all the masonry is of the fifteenth century, perhaps of the latter part when the county was settling down to peace and prosperity under Henry VII., or possibly earlier, say two hundred years or two hundred and fifty years before the rebuilding. The general form of the piers and arches, the details of the arches and stringcourse,
all thoroughly medieval, and it is not impossible that some of the brickwork and flintwork is medieval also. It recalls two medieval buildings at Norwich: the Bishop's Bridge and the Water-gate to the Close at Sandling's Ferry.
The bridge was severely damaged by the flood on the 26th of August, 1912. The current undermined the foundations of the piers on the up-stream side so that they settled seriously. It is sincerely to be hoped that