Vanishing England eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 374 pages of information about Vanishing England.
and it has been used as a lock-up; but Miss Dryden tells us that it was a chapel, similar to those which we have seen on many other medieval bridges.  It belonged to the Hospital of St. Margaret, which stood at the southern end of the bridge, where the Great Western Railway crosses the road.  This chapel retains little of its original work, and was rebuilt when the bridge was widened in the time of James I. Formerly there was a niche for a figure looking up the stream, but this has gone with much else during the drastic restoration.  That a bridge-chapel existed here is proved by Aubrey, who mentions “the chapel for masse in the middest of the bridge” at Bradford.

[Illustration:  The Crane Bridge, Salisbury]

Sometimes bridges owe their origin to curious circumstances.  There was an old bridge at Olney, Buckinghamshire, of which Cowper wrote when he sang:—­

That with its wearisome but needful length
Bestrides the flood.

The present bridge that spans the Ouse with three arches and a causeway has taken the place of the long bridge of Cowper’s time.  This long bridge was built in the days of Queen Anne by two squires, Sir Robert Throckmorton of Weston Underwood and William Lowndes of Astwood Manor.  These two gentlemen were sometimes prevented from paying visits to one another by floods, as they lived on opposite sides of the Ouse.  They accordingly built the long bridge in continuation of an older one, of which only a small portion remains at the north end.  Sir Robert found the material and Mr. Lowndes the labour.  This story reminds one of a certain road in Berks and Bucks, the milestones along which record the distance between Hatfield and Bath?  Why Hatfield?  It is not a place of great resort or an important centre of population.  But when we gather that a certain Marquis of Salisbury was troubled with gout, and had frequently to resort to Bath for the “cure,” and constructed the road for his special convenience at his own expense, we begin to understand the cause of the carving of Hatfield on the milestones.

[Illustration:  Watch House On The Bridge Bradford on Avon Wilts. 8 Oct 1908]

The study of the bridges of England seems to have been somewhat neglected by antiquaries.  You will often find some good account of a town or village in guide-books or topographical works, but the story of the bridges is passed over in silence.  Owing to the reasons we have already stated, old bridges are fast disappearing and are being substituted by the hideous erections of iron and steel.  It is well that we should attempt to record those that are left, photograph them and paint them, ere the march of modern progress, evinced by the traction-engine and the motor-car, has quite removed and destroyed them.



There are in many towns and villages hospitals—­not the large modern and usually unsightly buildings wherein the sick are cured, with wards all spick and span and up to date—­but beautiful old buildings mellowed with age wherein men and women, on whom the snows of life have begun to fall thickly, may rest and recruit and take their ease before they start on the long, dark journey from which no traveller returns to tell to those he left behind how he fared.

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Vanishing England from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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