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Ross-on-Wye

Wilton Bridge Features

The Sundial

The sundial was commissioned by Jonathan Barrow, who was from Monmouth but lived in Bridstow, and was added in 1718 on the north side of the bridge but was moved to its present position when the bridge was widened during the Second World War.

It had an inscription around the top part of it saying:


Esteem thy precious time
Which pass so swiftly away
Prepare thee for eternity
And do not make delay

which was where Ross County Secondary School took its motto.

The sundial is unusual as it has a cube dial with four gnomons and each face is inscribed with hour lines.

More details on sundials can be found at the British Sundial Society homepage.

Sundial on Wilton Bridge (11-3-06)
The sundial on Wilton Bridge
(Click for a larger image)

The Voussoirs
Voussoirs on Wilton Bridge (11-3-06)
The voussoirs of Wilton Bridge
(Click for a larger image)

The bridge has an unusual feature that the stones making up the arches (voussoirs) are not the normal slightly tapered trapezium shape, but every they are a zig-zag shape on both sides (which can be made out in the photo). The exact reason for this is unknown but it maybe to lock the stones together due to the force of the water as the bridge also has very large cutwaters. [ More information ]

Other local bridges displaying this unusual feature are the Lugg and Mordiford Bridges.


Bridge Widening

Until the Second World War, the bridge had been fine for the horses, carts, carriages and the relatively few cars but it was decided that it needed to be widened from its original 18 foot width to allow larger vehicles (probably military vehicles in the event of invasion) to cross. As a result, the parapets on the north (upstream) side were removed and the bridge was temporarily widened. Then in the 1950's, the widening was made permanent with the addition of a steel and concrete platform, meaning the parapets were never replaced, which can be clearly seen in the photo.

Widening of Wilton Bridge (11-3-06)
The extension on the north side of the bridge
(Click for a larger image)

Below are two postcard views of Wilton Bridge. The left one shows the bridge prior to widening and the right one shows the temporary widening of the bridge.

Wilton Bridge prior to widening
Wilton Bridge prior to widening
[Published: H.T. Marfell]
(Click for a larger image)
Wilton Bridge temporary widening
Wilton Bridge with temporary widening
[Published: T.Sergeant]
(Click for a larger image)

Rope Marks

Prior to the Railway arriving in 1855, the main method for the transportation of bulk materials into and out of the county was by boat via the Wye. Prior to 1661 the River was was navigable but was impeded by a large number of weirs for use as fisheries and for feeding mills among other things.

In 1661 an act was passed for the making Navigable of the River of Wye and Lugg, and the River and Brooks running into the same in the Counties of Hereford, Gloucester and Monmouth. As a result much larger barges could come up the river and so the river banks had dozens of quays and docks on them. Every village close to the river, for example, had its own Wharf for the loading and unloading of goods and materials. For many of these there are no or very few signs but their locations can be determined from old maps and shipping records and Wilton was a particularly significant series of wharfs with many warehouses located in the area.

Wilton lower wharf
Wilton lower wharf
(Click for a larger image)

Goodrich Castle and Boats
Goodrich Castle & boats c.1834
(Click for a larger image)

The boats were hauled up the river by teams of men, often around ten per boat, pulling up to thirty tons of raw material from towns and ports such as Chepstow. The boats then returned carrying anything from lime and building materials to brewed products. Although horses could be used, their usage incurred significant tolls so even though one horse could do the same work as the men, it was more economic to use men. This meant that tow paths had to be created and maintained up the entire navigable length of the river. The Act stated that these should be four feet wide and be well maintained.

In the print from a steel engraving (left) four men can be seen pulling the barge up the river.


The hauling of the boats was fine until the point where a bridge was encountered. The ropes used to pull the boats were attached to the mast of the boat, often located at its midpoint, which meant that getting upstream past bridges was not a simple task.

As a result the mast was folded down (as seen on the far right in the woodcut to the right) and the boats had to be manhandled past the bridges and the ropes run over the top of the bridge to allow it to be heaved under. The marks from this are clearly visable on Wilton Bridge.

Wilton Bridge and a boat
Wilton Bridge and a boat
(Click for a larger image)

On the parapets on the south side of the bridge are prominant marks, particularly on the second and fifth arches from the east (Ross) side, scored deeply into the cap stones of the wall. These are clearly visible when standing on the bridge but are not so easy to show in a photograph.

Wilton Bridge rope marks (19-10-08)
Examples of rope marks on the 5th arch of Wilton Bridge. The red lines indicate the more prominent grooves.

The following are some photos of the fifth arch.

Rope marks on left side of fifth arch (19-10-08)
Rope marks on left side of the fifth arch
(Click for a larger image)
The left rope marks from above (19-10-08)
The left side rope marks from above
(Click for a larger image)

Rope marks on right side of fifth arch (19-10-08)
Rope marks on right side of the fifth arch
(Click for a larger image)
The right rope marks from above (19-10-08)
The right side rope marks from above
(Click for a larger image)

The second arch from the east side is more deeply scored and has a greater number marks on it than its counterpart on the western side. The fifth arch only seems to have marks on either side of the arch whereas the second arch has marks on both sides and directly over the arch.

Wilton Bridge plan
A plan of the bridge showing where the marks can be clearly seen.

This implies that the second arch was the more commonly used arch for upstream passage (unless the cap stones have been replaced on the fifth arch). Presumably the current was too strong in the centre arches so the edges were utilised and the inside of the bend was the slackest water thus the preferable side to use. Another reason could be that on the west side of the river both above and below the bridge were wharves; the upper and lower wharves. As a result the west side of the river was much more conjested due to the wharves. The lower wharf can be seen in the woodcut above.

Rope marks in the middle of second arch (19-10-08)
Rope marks in middle side of the second arch
(Click for a larger image)
The middle rope marks from above (19-10-08)
The middle side rope marks from above
(Click for a larger image)



next The Wye Tour Wilton Castle previous


1 The Bridges of Wales and Western England by E. Jervoise, A.M.Inst.C.E. - pub 1936 The Architectural Press
2 The Turbulent Story of Ross & Archenfield against the famout background of Ross-on-Wye - Sept. 4 and 5 1976


[Page updated: Dec 04 2012 23:19:13]






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