Dartmoor Explorations

A collection of walks, discoveries, insights and pictures of exploring Dartmoor National Park

Inscribed tablets on Wilford and Drakeford Bridges

Another aspect of boundaries on Dartmoor, or as Dave Brewer states in Dartmoor Boundary Markers, 2nd edition, “boundaries of responsibility”, are bridges which were maintained by the county. Wilford and Drakeford Bridges are two such bridges where the county had responsibility for their repair. Both bridges span the River Bovey and have beautifully inscribed tablets on them which date from the 17th and 18th centuries indicating when they were repaired. Ironically these bridges also are located on modern day boundaries, namely; the Lustleigh Parish Boundary and in the case of Wilford Bridge also on the National Park boundary.

0. Map
Sketch map showing the locations of Wilford and Drakeford Bridge in relation to River Bovey, the old GWR Moretonhampstead Branch line, the Lustleigh Parish boundary and the National Park Boundary.
1a. Wilford Bridge
Wilford (Woolford) Bridge, spans the River Bovey on the boundary of Lustleigh Parish and Dartmoor National Park. It lies just a few 10s of metres from the Dartmoor Way and the former GWR (Great Western Railway) Moretonhampstead Branch line. The bridge has an inscribed tablet stating when the bridge was repaired.
1b. Wilford Bridge
The Wilford Bridge tablet reads :
“1750
THIS BRIDG
WAS REPA
RED BY the
COUNTY
1914″
In the 17th century some courts continued in their consideration of imposing levies for the repair of roads and bridges when presentment were made. The constables made these presentments to the Grand Jury at sessions. This tablet recognises the repair of this bridge in 1750, presumably following the process previously described. The tablet was the forerunner to “C” (county) stones found elsewhere. The date 1914 has been added, which one assumes was when the old 17th century bridge was replaced as the present roadway is carried across the River Bovey on iron girders. (Ref: Dartmoor Boundary Markers, 2nd Edition by Dave Brewer – page 221)
2. Railway Bridge
The Lower Knowle road passes under the old GWR Moretonhampstead branchline just to the south of Lower Knowle. On the bridge there is a mileage marker “M.O.B 7 .49”, which the author believes refers to this bridge being 7 miles and 49 chains from Newton Abbot. The M.O.B may refer to Moretonhampstead Branch.
3. Benchmark
On the south east end of the bridge is a benchmark. This one does not appear to have a reference on 19th century maps or the Dartmoor HER.
4. Lower Knowle Lane
Dwellings near Lower Knowle on Lower Knowle Lane: Starparke, Little Orchard and Covering End.
5. Lower Knowle
Lower Knowle dates to at least the early-mid 19th century, but may be much older. It appears on the tithe map. 
6. Letterbox
This Edward VII post box is located in a stone garden wall on the east side of Lower Knowle Road. A part of the wall collapsed along with the box in 2021, requiring the box to be removed temporarily by the Post Office. The work done to reinstate it is evident with the cement looking out of place in a drystone wall.
7. Junction
The Dartmoor Way turns west at this point towards Packsaddle Bridge and Drakeford Bridge. Note the shortened spelling for Moretonhampstead and Bovey Tracey.
8. Double Arch Railway Bridge
The road passes under the Moretonhampstead branchline again enroute to the Packsaddle Bridge and Drakeford Bridge. The bridge is a double arch, one being used for the road and the other appears to be for possible farming use.
9. Packsaddle Bridge
Packsaddle Bridge is a humpback bridge, with low walled large granite stone. There is lots of evidence of repair where it appear to have been repeatedly struck by traffic. Having watched a couple of drivers negotiating the bridge the author can see why it has been struck.
10. Ivy Cottage
Just to the south of Packsaddle Bridge is a small building called ‘Ivy Cottage’. It is marked on the late 19th century historic maps, but is not shown on the 1840s Tithe Map, thus dating it to the mid-late 19th century.
11a. Drakeford Bridge
Drakeford Bridge is a medieval bridge, which appear to have been repaired by the county in 1684 (it has a tablet like Wilford Bridge indicating this). It was widened by 6ft on the upstream side in 1809 by James Green (County Surveyor), under the 1803 Bridge Act.
11b. Drakeford Bridge
The Drakeford Bridge tablet is very well inscribed. It is interesting to note the use of upper and lower case letters, the spelling of “Bridge” and the reversed “4”.

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