Latest News of The Packhorse Bridge Restoration Project


The latest news is at the top.

A Medieval Fayre is planned for the Heritage Weekend, 14th (10am - 5pm) and 15th (10am - 4pm) September 2013

We would like to invite you to join us as we step back in time and celebrate the restoration of this historic site, and a historic time in Kelvedon’s Past.

In May 1312, (700 years ago) Kelvedon was granted two Royal Charters by King Edward II to John Filiol. One Charter allowed John Filiol to hold a market in Kelvedon on Mondays and Thursdays, the second allowed the holding of a fair on the Monday after Whitsunday.

Medieval folk will be camped at the bridge over the weekend, showing various crafts, cooking medieval food and will happily talk to visitors about their day-to-day lives. Visitors will be able to handle many recreated objects, ask questions, try their hand at various crafts and games, while listening to music from a bygone age, and watch a puppet show.

All of our historic folk are experienced re-enactors and regularly stage historic events with “The Merrie Companye”, “The Hungerford Household”, “Kentwell Hall”, “Castle Hedingham” and at various museums and stately homes around the Country.

Entrance to the Fair is £2.50 per adult, accompanied children free;                                                                    full members of the Packhorse Bridge Society£1.00 (annual membership £2.50).

20th October 2012: The Scouts planted four huge sacks of daffodils along the bank of the river, and also made two of their badges from crocuses in the flower beds. The bulbs had been kindly donated by Perrywoods Nursery in Tiptree.

26th September 2012: The Brownies had a meeting on the island. They constructed a small mammal/insect hotel from left over bricks, straw, twigs, hamster bedding and pot plant pots. The Brownies also donated and planted a beech tree on the island, fed the ducks and had a small Campfire and Sing Song.

A Medieval and Tudor Fair on the Heritage Weekend, 8th and 9th September 2012 was very well attended. Everyone enjoyed the beautiful weather as well as the interesting and entertaining re-enactors - about 200 people came over the two days. 


Entrance is The bridge is now open to the public on Wednesdays and Fridays until further notice, from 9am until 4.30pm. There is a latch on the bridge side of the small gate. Please read the safety notice in the display board on the large gate before entering the area.

07/05/12 The river level has reduced to the normal trickle and the only damage is a huge pile of silt deposited near the bridge on the upstream side.


03/05/12 The flood waters have arrived and all the arches of the bridge have water flowing freely beneath.


28/04/12 The Official Opening of the bridge: Cllr John Jowers from ECC opened the bridge and over 50 people came to look around. Three mediaeval enactors, part of a group who will be coming back in September for a Mediaeval Fair on the island, also attended and chatted to the visitors, handing out necklaces to ward off the plague. Everyone was impressed with the restoration work.


17/04/12 Some of the sponsored plants have been put in place and today Tom Foster sent one of his men to roll the top surface, foc, to make the surface of the pathway ready for the opening day. Barry at the Tavern has had the newPackhorseBridge information board installed on his side of the river.


30/03/12 We took delivery of Oak timber for fencing – it had been decided that railing would be too costly and require high maintenance, whereas this oak will require no maintenance, just replacing in about 25 years or so – it is also more aesthetically pleasing. Dick, Ian, Colin and myself spent the next couple of days erecting the fencing. Dick later added the metalwork, making the whole fence rock solid, despite not being cemented in place, after advice from Trevor Thorogood.


06/03/12 The information board has by now been erected and also some railings, which Dick made from leftover wood from the project. When the excavation of the old bridge was done, humps of removed river silt were piled on the island –Ian and Dick are now barrowing this excess soil to infill between the path and the outside walls of the bridge ready for some planting. Dick, Ian and myself have done lots of clearing of brambles etc on the island. There is now a good view of the bridge from the Railway Tavern garden.


21/02/12 Contractors arrived, paid for by ECC, to convert the concrete step into a bat habitat. We were pleased, because the temporary wooden construction in the step was rotting and unsafe. ECC had the step made years ago for positioning a metal bridge across to the island, in order to do some maintenance; fortunately we persuaded them that restoring the original bridge was a much better idea.


Snow stopped play at the beginning of February 2012


25/01/12 We took delivery of 11.5 ton of material straight from Blackwater Aggregates pit. This was the sand, gravel and clay mix as raised. The only cost we had to bear for this was £48 for delivery. Blackwater Aggregates have been most generous throughout the restoration process. Dick, Ian and I spent the next few days creating a pathway down the centre of the bridge.


31/12/11 My son Colin, three granddaughters, husband Ian, Dick Slee and myself began tidying up the site, stacking leftover materials for future use and infilling the dips between the arches, burying the lime contaminated soil from the top surface.


30/12/11 Robin has now done the pointing of the brickwork on the new wall and the repairs in arch 5 . This just leaves some pointing of the original brickwork beneath the arches, which he will do when the weather is better. It’s now over to the volunteers to infill the top of the bridge.


24/12/11 The wall is now complete.


20/12/11 The plaque was fitted in place today.


12/12/11 I managed to source some suitable copings, at least for the ends of the walls. It was going to be too costly to have identical copings made for the whole top of both walls. Most of the upstream wall is now completed.


 28/11/11 Not much left to do now, but its surprising how long it all takes – there are a couple of repairs to do in arch 5, the wall on the downstream to complete, copings to put on the island ends of the bridge and several odd jobs including some pointing. Then we have to decide what to do with the top surface. Robin will have to come back when the plaque is ready, as although I ordered it several weeks ago and it was being carved at the end of October, it still hasn’t been fired yet in the kiln, as it has only just dried out. Ian made up a wooden template for Robin to leave the space ready for the plaque over what would have been the middle arch of the bridge, had the smallest one on the land side not been hidden under the road.

24/11/11 Having had a couple of weeks off, Robin has now completed the spandrels – the triangular walls between the arches – and has rebuilt the wall above the smallest arch to be level with the top of the other arches. Dick has finished cleaning the second hand bricks.

01/11/11 Today sees the arches completed on the upstream side.

04/10/11 Robin is by now much happier about the state of the bridge and is working once more in the open air, adding yet another former’s worth to arch 6. Recently the Environment Agency's men came along the river to clear away all the extra vegetation and they chopped up the rest of the dead tree, piling up all the logs on the island ready for the insects to take up residence.

27/09/11 Having completed arch 7 repairs, Robin then tackled the missing portion beneath arch 2. The silt buildup in the arch was carefully scraped away to give him a narrow and cramped access.

10/09/11 Work commenced beneath arch 7 to repair a huge gap in the structure at the base of both sides. Robin had to work on his hands and knees to scrape out river silt and get to the elm raft on each side in order to rebuild these missing portions. This took about one and a half weeks to complete, but was essential to ensure the structural integrity of the bridge.

01/09/11 Another former’s width was added to arch 6.

25/08/11 Repairs to the pier of arch 2 downstream was started.

22/08/11 Robin began rebuilding the upstream end piers for arch 7, the smallest arch. Firstly he had to dig down to find the elm rafts, on which the bridge is built.

19/08/11 The downstream side of the bridge, less damaged than the upstream, is now almost complete, a missing wall between arches 5 and 6 has been rebuilt and work has begun on rebuilding the missing arches. Arch 5 has now had 2 widths of former replaced in brickwork and arch 6 has had 3 widths rebuilt. There is a slight difference in the widths of the arches at various points and this was causing a bit of hassle for the builders! However great progress is being made and the remaining bat bricks, which have been paid for by sponsorship from supporters, are being inserted into the fabric of the vaults of these two arches as they are rebuilt – they will be blocked off with river mud until the bridge works are complete, so that the bats will not be able to use them yet – there is a hefty fine for disturbing each bat and we don’t want to risk the job being held up any more! The mud will be poked out later. The progress on the arches is slow due to the complexity of the brickwork (jigsaw puzzle with different sizes and widths of brick) and having to make sure the mortar has gone off sufficiently to move the former to the next position. The formers have to be jacked up on wedges above the wooden rail to make a firm base, then later the wedges are removed and the former lowered to reset in the new position.  We were nearly out of bricks this week - but some more were delivered at the eleventh hour!

10/08/11 I managed to buy some uncleaned second hand bricks from the Labour Club this week and Dick Slee, who has been spending hours cleaning hundreds of old bricks, getting off the old mortar ready for Robin to re-use, helped me get those bricks from the Labour Club in Nick Ezra’s trailer – everyone is mucking in and helping where they can. Blackwater Aggregates (Bradwell Pit) have been supplying us with free sand at regular intervals since the project started, which has saved us quite a lot of expense. If any of you have been down to take a look at the project, please let me know what you think! Only when you look at the old photos of what the state of the bridge was like before we started can you appreciate what a mammoth task this was and anyone associated with its success deserves to be proud of the achievements. We still have a long way to go over the next few weeks to finish the bridge itself, and then management of the island will follow. I’ve already had some offers of help with the island management once we have a proper plan. Robin would like to put some stone on the ends of the side walls – Portland stone if possible – does anyone know where we can get some? It needs to be 14 or 15 inches square and at least 6 inches thick – and we need 4 of these! Once the bridge is complete, a full portfolio of photos, information, both historical and on the restoration, together with a list of those who have supported, donated or volunteered will be compiled and a copy given to the Kelvedon Museum, also on disc to the ERO.

23/07/11 Hooray! The builders are back!!! Having been without any available funding for the last eighteen months. The Packhorse Bridge Society obtained two grants this year each for £10,000: one is from Essex Environment Trust sought courtesy of Cory Environmental Ltd, the landfill operator in our area; the second grant is from Essex County Council’s Big Society Fund. We still have in hand a grant from Essex County Council’s Community Initiatives Fund from last year, specifically for information boards, which are in the throes of being designed. Unfortunately the Heritage Lottery Application was unsuccessful.There was an old dead tree on the bank overlooking the bridge, which was causing some concern, but last month it fell down, only slightly damaging one of the arches and the Environment Agency soon had it cleared away.

07/04/11 Afternoon Concert and Tea
Packhorse Bridge Fundraiser.
Please pass on my thanks to those who came to this afternoon’s concert and an extra thank you to the cake makers - they were delicious. As predicted, an absolutely super time was had by all – Tony Winn and Steven Turnbull treated us to a mixture of Funny, Sad, Comic, Love, Blues and Country songs, including a few with audience participation choruses, one even with actions too! A couple of poems and some lovely piano music were thrown into the pot along with Tony’s latest song, as yet unrecorded – so it was quite a programme – something for everyone to enjoy, and we did! Special Thank You’s go to: Jill and Tony for the loan of their house and piano; to Steven for his expert piano playing; to Tony for beautifully singing his clever songs and playing banjo and guitar as well as designing the poster, taking bookings, making cakes and transporting chairs to and from the Institute. Left over cakes were sold at the end for £10, donations of £282 collected on the day and £30 collected beforehand from those unable to attend, but willing to support, makes a grand total of £322 towards the restoration project – what a fantastic result!

17/08/10 Nothing much has happened to the bridge this year as funds have not been available. Now that the bridge is stabilized and the restoration proper can begin, we cannot do anymore to the bridge until the majority of the funding for it is in place, else we may jeapodise any future Big Lottery funding, however I am still collecting money for bricks and subs as this will go towards the necessary matchfunding. There have been a number of donations towards the funds in exchange for talks (by Chris) and entertainment (monologues and poetry by Lesley). Feering Parish Council have sent us a cheque for £500 and Kelvedon Parish Council are holding their grant in hand for when we need to buy something, so that we can save on the vat.    

12/12/09 The downstream ends of the arches are now finished, but the spaces between (spandrils) have still to be done. While Robin was doing the last bit of brick laying to key into the remains of arch 6, Stuart was busy knocking out the old botched repair: consisting of an old rotting telegraph pole, cut into four lengths, nailed together with a strip of wood and covered with a piece of corregated iron, some concrete, soil and then held together with plant roots.  This week we have received a cheque for £100 from the Kelvedon and District Rotary Club in recognition of the talk Chris Papworth gave earlier in the year. This was a welcome input to the reducing finances.

18/11/09 We have today received a cheque from the East of England Co-operative Society's Community Dividend Fund for the princely sum of £1000! Society President Gillian Bober, accompanied by her husband, Director Graham Bober, presented me with the cheque.  Jackie Bowis, Membership Manager for the East of England Co-operative Society said: “As a Co-operative Society that is owned by its local Members, we believe in giving back to the communities where we trade. The Community Dividend Fund is supported by Members who kindly divert their Dividend to the Society’s ‘660’ fund, which benefits hundreds of local charities, groups and organisations every year.” Then within a couple of hours, another cheque for the same amount come in from Foster Contracting! I am on cloud 9! We had a good omen at the bridge, because the first thing Chris did when we got there was to pick up a £1 coin! - No claims, please - it has gone straight into funds! The builders came in today and placed the formers into position for the downstream arches to be completed and removed the former from arch 7, which has now well and truly 'gone off'. Work will recommence next Monday. We have enough money now for about two and a half weeks work.  Regards, Lesley

25/09/09 Lots of work has been done over the past few weeks. We have had a digger in to clear the surrounds of the bridge, enabling the next phase of work to commence. The builders are back and keen to get on with the restoration. Many thanks to those of you who have supported us with loans of pumps, sponsorship for bricks and bat bricks and a special thanks to Blackwater Aggregates for donations of materials. If you haven't already done so, please join the society and sponsor some bricks - and don't forget to look at the latest photos, some of which are courtesy of Essex Council Council Publicity Department. If you would like proper copies of the photos we have taken, or want to see more, then please contact me.  Regards, Lesley

Feb 09 My, what a lot of rain we've had this month. When I took some photos of around Kelvedon during the height of the flood, the packhorse bridge was just managing to stay visible above the water line. Everyone was waiting with bated breath for the floods to recede and the formers, which had been used to make the first two arches, to be removed so that any damage could be assessed. When the waters receded all was well. The bridge had once again proved that it was worth saving. Regards, Lesley

25/11/08 All the bat bricks have now been sponsored - thank you! But still numerous other bricks are still required.  Regards, Lesley

 We have been partially successful with our Essex County Council Communities Initiative Fund Application!  We’ve got £17K worth of funding! - that is more than half the amount we requested. They feel that it is such a worthy cause, that this money will give us seeding for further grants from elsewhere. The next step is to get a Heritage Lottery Fund Preliminary Application in – so if you haven’t yet sent a letter or email of support, please do so NOW!  Anybody want to pay a Packhorse Bridge Society subscription? – it’s only £2.50 for annual adult membership, under 16s free if adult in same household also joins. See the membership form on this website.Have any of you been down to the bridge to see the work progressing – I’d like to hear from you if you have. Don’t worry about the colour of the bricks used on the repaired arch – they will be faced off with red bricks and soil and grass put over the top eventually. We will be purchasing some ‘bat bricks’ – specially made in Norfolk with six little cavities in each – if you’d like to sponsor one of those, they are about £12 each, including delivery. We need at least 12 -  take a look at their web site -  That’s enough excitement for now – more later – regards, Lesley.


Thanks to a £4K grant from Essex Heritage Trust, work on the restoration of the first two arches commenced in October 2008. The first job was to stabilise the bridge and prevent further water damage.  With the EHT grant in place, more grant funding was applied for and an Essex County Council Communities Initiative Fund Application was sent off and everybody crossed their fingers. Regards, Lesley