A1-The Great North Road

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Huntingdon - Godmanchester Bridge

The Ouse separates Godmanchester from Huntingdon, bridged by the five arches of warm sandstone.  A couple of stones on the north upstream side bear the date 1872 but this records the rebuilding of the parapet, the lower part of the bridge being much older.   Although the A14 traffic flows to the west over a new bridge there is still a lot of local traffic using the old bridge.  It’s wide enough for two way traffic but not pedestrians as well so a separate footbridge has been built on the upstream side, from which one gets an unusually close up view of bridge stonework.  And this is the more decorative side of the bridge.  Walk downstream on the northern, Huntingdon side for a fine view of the whole structure and the massive warehouses opposite, now converted into flats.  The road is slightly raised on a causeway, probably of Roman origin, for almost half a mile from Godmanchester to the bridge.

How long the Roman wooden bridge lasted is unknown.  The present stone bridge dates from the 14th century.  An earlier bridge was recorded in a Quo Warranto Plea of 1259 as being in need of repair but it was swept away by an ice-laden flood in the winter of 1293-94.  Records dated 1296 also show that collections were made for the repairs in the churches of Huntingdonshire.

The importance of this river crossing on the Old North Road is highlighted by an instruction to Hugh de Despenser, Justice of the Forest of Wauberge, to provide 24 oaks fit for timber to repair the bridge "as gift from the king".  This may imply that the bridge was wooden but wood was also used for foundation piling and as protection for the foundations of stone-built bridges.

The Patent Rolls for April 1329 refer to the need for the bridge to be repaired.  A chaplain, Philip de Ravele, was appointed by the king as keeper of the bridge.  He was charged with responsibility to repair the bridge and to build a chapel upon it with what remained of funds collected but not been spent on repairs.  The 1334 Rolls of Parliament record that this was done.  In 1370 the bridge underwent major rebuilding and now consists of a bridge in two parts, the older end being on the Huntingdon side.

 

Looking downstream a century ago.

This photo was taken in the early 1900's, long before the footbridge which now obscures the view, was added.

 

  Bridge at night picture

Looking upstream

Photo thanks to Andy

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