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Ha'penny Bridge

Lechlade Historical Society
Ha'penny Bridge about 1910
Ha'penny Bridge, a Grade II listed building constructed in 1792, now carries the A361 across the River Thames replacing the ferry accessible from Bell Lane off the High Street. The Thames and Severn Canal was already open at this time, and Parkend Wharf (now Arkell's "Riverside") was busy with barge traffic.

Thames Street from the north, and the turnpike continuing south to Barker's Lane & Lynt Bridge near Inglesham, were constructed at about the same time. A toll of one half-penny was levied on every person crossing the bridge but this ceased in 1839 following a successful petition. However, the toll on animals continued until about the 1870s. The small square-section toll house is still visible on the town side of the bridge.

Before the bridge and roads were built, a narrow lane ran down by the side of the Red Lion Inn (Red Lion Street) but there is some doubt as to whether or not it gave access to the river.

During the 1970s the bridge was closed whilst repairs to the road surface and immediately underlying stone courses were undertaken. Traffic was diverted to St John's Bridge about half a mile downstream, and through Buscot Wick to the Highworth road, a route not too disimilar to that before the bridge was built!

Lechlade Historical Society
Looking up Thames Street from
Ha'penny Bridge about 1915

Lechlade Historical Society
Ha'penny Bridge today

Traffic over the bridge is frequently very heavy, especially in the summer. In 1958, to reduce the risk of accidents on the bridge, traffic lights were installed by the Wiltshire and Gloucestershire Highways Aurthorities - a rare example of county cooperation! It was a big event, attended by represenatives of the manufacturers, the installation engineers, Highway and Local Authorities and Cirencester police, and was officially opened by Mr Harrison, Chairman of Lechlade Parish Council.

But congestion is not the only problem. The "hump back" shape of the bridge means that, not withstanding the vehicle length restriction, long wheel base vehicles risk grounding, completely blocking the bridge.

(July 2009)

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