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Clifford Bridge spans the River Teign approx. half way between Fingle Bridge (upstream) and Steps Bridge (downstream). The bridge dates from the 17th century (or possibly earlier) and was widened in the early 19th century. The area, however, would have looked so different today had the proposed Exeter, Teign Valley and Chagford Railway, which was proposed in 1890’s, been completed. This post covers some of the features that can be found in the area of the bridge including a County “C” stone, a benchmark and a mystery upright stone. The post also provides a summary of the proposed railway which would have passed through the Teign Gorge via Dunsford, Steps Bridge, Clifford Bridge and Fingle Bridge.
Map showing the location of key features in the Clifford Bridge area
Clifford Bridge is a 3-span bridge with segmental arches and two cutwaters, platband (flat lintel band) at road level, parapets with rounded granite caps. It is quite a magnificent structure when viewed from river level.
The Dartmoor HER describes Clifford Bridge thus: “The bridge incorporates an earlier structure in the centre: the three spans of the earlier bridge are more steeply arched and spring from chamfered imposts visible on the inner sides of the piers. The cutwaters are well-integrated with the original piers and may be partly of the original build”.
On 1st August 1898, the Exeter, Teign Valley and Chagford Railway Bill was read for the 3rd time and passed by House of Commons. Royal assent was first given for the formation of the company 4 years earlier on 18th August 1894. The proposal was to connect Exeter with the already extant Teign Valley Railway, the first 10 miles would connect with that line at Lea Cross and from there an 8-mile branch line would terminate at Chagford. The above plan shows the proposal. Shortly after the creation of the company a Mr Lidstone, Engineer for Dickson’s the Contractors was of the opinion that: “The probability was that the Chagford branch would be opened up before the Exeter side of the line owing to the tunnelling required there. It was important that they should have easy communications with Exeter and this line would bring them within 17 miles of it, whereas now they had to travel 35 miles to it”.
Discussions with GWR revealed they “were not willing to operate on the Chagford branch of the line, because they argued, they already carried passengers to Chagford via their horse drawn GWR bus service between Moretonhampstead station and Chagford, and they were not prepared to jeopardise that arrangement”. Source: https://www.edgeofthemoor.org/local-history The pictures above what a steam train might have looked like in the Teign Valley. However, in 1898, the Western Morning News reported that the Chagford section was intended to work “……….by means of electricity, the fast-flowing River Teign providing the motive power, and by this arrangement the charming scenery of the Valley will remain unimpaired by smoke and noise of an ordinary locomotive. Negotiations are in progress with the Elieson Electric Motor Company (makers of electric tram cars) which it is confidently believed will result in an Agreement to work the line upon terms favourable with the cost of working by steam, and the novelty of this system will no doubt attract many visitors, creating a large amount of traffic”.
Benchmark B.M 0285.7 on Clifford Bridge (photographs by kind permission of Max Piper).
Clifford Bridge “C” (County) Stone West is one of two which would have been associated with the Bridge at one time. It can be found at SX78044 89709 . Bridges either constructed by the county, or taken over and therefore maintained by them and sited within the county of Devon would have had a set of two ‘C’ stones erected on either side of the bridge. The east “C” stone at Clifford Bridge is no longer extant.
A mystery upright stone located on the bank of the Teign, downstream from the bridge. This stone looks modern and is probably 20th century in origin. If anyone has any information relating to this stone, the author would be most grateful to hear about it.