The Full Story
THE PACKHORSE BRIDGE – THE FULL STORY
The Packhorse Bridge, or ‘Roman Arches’ as many local people call it, was probably built around 1750. There were, at that time, two bridges – a wooden bridge that spanned what is now the main river and was lost in approximately 1880 and the brick bridge, which remains today.
These bridges were an essential part of the main road, carrying traffic of all types from Norfolk and Suffolk to London, and would have seen everything from geese being herded to market in London to the important mail coaches serving East Anglia.
It was the difficulty experienced by these coaches as they came down Kelvedon High Street, having to make a sharp right turn followed immediately by a left turn in order to cross the bridge, which prompted the highways agency of the day to construct a new bridge in 1792 - in effect a road-straightening scheme, which meant that traffic could cross the River Blackwater without slowing down. No maintenance appears to have been carried out to the old bridge since this new bridge was built.
Kelvedon has a rich heritage rising from its importance as a staging-post on the main route between London and East Anglia, as can be seen from the numerous inns and other hostelries which served the area. The old Packhorse Bridge formed a vital part of that ancient route, facilitating the crossing of the River Blackwater. As such, the bridge deserves to be cherished and conserved for the future.
The aim is to repair and restore the bridge for not just the current generation but for generations to come, and to help the bridge achieve its rightful place as not only an important part of the heritage of Kelvedon and Feering, but of the whole of Essex. To achieve this, The Packhorse Bridge Society was formed, with representatives from Kelvedon & Feering Heritage Society, Kelvedon and Feering Parish Councils and with assistance from Essex County Council. Current estimates suggest a total restoration cost of £35,000 - £40,000 and fundraising is already underway. We have received pledges for part of the cost and are making good headway with the project.
The Packhorse Bridge Society invites everyone with sympathy for the past to join us. We need, not just funds, but volunteers to help with the project. Can you help raise funds? Sponsor a brick? Help with clearing the site? Or, perhaps most interesting of all, get your hands dirty and assist with the actual restoration. Have you any experience with lime mortar? If not, learn more about it from the experts when the project gets underway.
The Packhorse Bridge Society would like as many people as possible to become involved with this exciting and worthwhile project. Please ‘sign’ our visitors’ book before exiting the site, adding any comments you may wish to make. Thank you for your interest and please call again for any progress updates.