Swinford Bridge, B4044, Eynsham

SWINFORD BRIDGE

This section in The Stripling Thames by Fred Thacker
1910: This section in Thames Valley Villages by Charles G Harper

Talbot Inn

Five hundred yards up the road on the right, north, bank is the Talbot Inn.
website 01865 881348

8 Comfortable En Suite Letting Rooms
3 Budget Refurbished Simple Letting Rooms
Food Served 7 days a Week
Decking Area overlooking the River Thames
Well Stocked Bar Featuring Arkells of Swindon Ales
Dogs welcome in the bar, biscuits on request!

The particlar bit of the River Thames it overlooks is the Wharf Stream, which is not, as far as I know, navigable; though, judging by the name, it must have been sometime. The Google map aerial view does show a small boat moored there.

Aelfric's Abbey

Excavations at Eynsham Abbey, Oxfordshire 1989-92 by A. Hardy, A. Dodd, G.D. Keevill -

The minster church at Eynsham, Oxfordshire, was founded in the 7th or 8th century and refounded in 1005 as a Benedictine abbey. This is a report on the excavations at the church by Oxford Archaeology.
The excavations revealed substantial remains of the abbey, tracing its history from its foundation until the Dissolution in 1538-9. The excavated precinct buildings included part of the Great Cloister, refectory, kitchens, cellars, domestic range and latrines.
A programme of geophysical survey was carried out in addition to the main excavation in order to study as much as possible of the abbey's inner and outer wards, and to place the excavations in their wider context. The recovery of archaeological evidence at the site, combined with a study of documentary sources, has provided a rare opportunity to study in depth the development and economy of a major religious house from its origins through to its demise.

1610: Camden -

Isis, having received Windrush, passeth downe to Einsham, in the Saxon tongue Eignesham , a Manour in times past of the Kings, seated among most pleasant Meadowes, which Cuthwulfe the Saxon was the first that tooke from the Britains, whom he had heereabout vanquished, and long after Aethelmar, a Noble man, beautified it with an Abby.
The which Aethelred King of England in the yeere of salvation 1005 confirmed to the Benedictine Monkes, and in his confirmation signed the priviledge of the liberty thereof (I speake out of the very originall grant as it was written) with the signe of the sacred Crosse, but now is turned into a private dwelling house and acknowledgeth the Earle of Derby Lord thereof.

1636:  A party of Welsh Sherriffs bringing money for Charles I were crossing when 3 or 4 were drowned and £800 lost for a time and 8 persons escaped by swimming.
1692: Baskervile – the ferry has “a great boat to bear horses over”.
1764: Ferry noted by Rocque.
1764: Yet in that same year John Wesley crossed on horseback here.  There was a ferry and a ferryman, but also a causeway ford -

Between twelve and one we crossed Eynsham Ferry.  The water was like a sea on both sides.  I asked the ferryman,
“Can we ride the Causeway?”  He said,
“Yes, sir;  if you keep in the middle.”
But this was the difficulty, as the whole causeway was covered with water to a considerable depth;  and this in many parts ran over the causeway with the swiftness and violence of a sluice.  Once my mare lost both her fore feet, but she gave a spring, and recovered the causeway;  otherwise we must have taken a swim, for the water on either side was ten or twelve feet deep.  However, after one or two plunges more, we got through, and came safe to Witney.

1769: It is said that King George III's coach nearly came to grief here because the river was in flood and the ford under deep water. To encourage the 4th Earl of Abingdon to build a bridge he decreed that tolls collected should be tax free FOR EVER!
1777: Bridge built by the Earl of Abingdon.

1791: Samuel Ireland -

... the ancient village of Ensham, near which is an elegant bridge of stone, consisting of three arches, erected about 15 years since, by Lord Abingdon, whose liberality and public spirit have, I am credibly informed, been amply repaid by the revenue derived from this undertaking.
The building at the extremity of the bridge was intended for an inn ; but, though provided with all proper accommodation and out-buildings, has not proved so fortunate a speculation, having never yet, in any way, been occupied.
THE situation of this bridge is truly picturesque : the river considerably expands itself, and beautifully meanders amidst the neighbouring meadows, fertile in pasture, and happily screened by the contiguous hills, which form a gentle slope towards its margin.
On the Oxfordshire side, the various breaks in the distant scenery, the happy combination of village objects, and tinkling of the distant folds, seem to give an additional beauty and serenity to the landscape, in the minds of those who chance to trace this spot, in the close of a genial summer evening.

Swinford Bridge, 1784
Ensham [ Swinford ] Bridge, 1784, Samuel Ireland.

1859: Swinford Bridge –

Swinford Bridge, 1859
Swinford Bridge, 1859.

1885:  Swinford Bridge, Henry Taunt -

Swinford Bridge, Henry Taunt, 1885
Swinford Bridge, Henry Taunt, 1885
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT04328

1885: The Royal River -

Eynsham Bridge does not look so old as it really is. It is a very conspicuous, and, indeed, handsome structure, with eight arches and a liberal amount of balustrading in the central divisions of the parapets.
Eynsham, Ensham, Eynesham, or Emsham, has a history which goes beyond the Conquest, and it is by right, therefore, that the bridge is name after the village, though its real name, as decided by the Ordnance Map, is Swinford Bridge.
Early in the eleventh century and abbey was founded here by the then Earl of Cornwall, and Ethelred, the reigning king, signed the privilege of liberty with the sign of the holy cross. At the Dissolution the abbey and its site passed into the ownership of the Stanley family, but no ruins have been preserved. Ensham, or Eynsham Cross, stands in the market place of the village, opposite the church.
The bridge, as we now see it, was built sixty years ago.

[ 1777, when the bridge was built, was 108 years before the above was written - I have no note of any rebuilding in 1825 - so maybe The Royal River was quoting an account written in 1837? ]
 

1909: The Stripling Thames, Fred Thatcher –

[Above Eynsham Lock] you come, round a sharp bend southwestwards, full upon the splendid bridge named of Eynsham, or officially of Swinford; one of the noblest and most impressive bridges on the whole River, seven and a half miles from Folly Bridge.
The Earl of Abingdon of the time erected it in 1777; and his successor still maintains the toll-house at its northern end. Ireland drily comments that the builder's "liberality and public spirit have, I am credibly informed, been amply repaid by the revenue derived from this undertaking".
He also mentions a building at one end of the bridge, intended, but never actually used, as an inn. Boydell says it was a "spacious and handsome mansion", against the Berkshire end of the bridge; and there you will still find it. It found use as a posting house in the coaching days; and it is now divided up into cottages, but still a handsome old building; constituting, with its clustering cots and barns, that "tithing of Cumner" called Swinford from which the bridge derives its offcial title.
Whenever you come downstream, notice how delightfully the spire of Cassington frames itself in one of the arches.

1929: A Thames Survey -

Swinford Bridge, Eynsham. In our opinion, this is one of the finest bridges across the Thames. Rocque's survey in 1764 notes a coach-ferry at this point. It carried the mail coaches from Oxford to Cheltenham and the road today carries heavy traffic.
The present bridge was built in 1777 by the Earl of Abingdon and obviously designed by an architect or engineer of taste and ability. The facing material is stone, all arches semi-circular; three central arches with rusticated voussoirs over the river and three smaller arches each side for flood water, and towpath (Berkshire bank). There is a stone balustrade over the three main arches. Cut-waters on the upper side only; 1894 flood-mark level with top of cut-waters.
Tolls (fixed in the seventh year of George III) are still payable at the toll-house on the Oxfordshire side. This toll-house is an essential feature of the bridge composition and of charming design. Bridge and toll-house should be preserved, but we suggest that tolls payable on a road of such national importance should be abolished as soon as possible.

2004:  Swinford Bridge –

Swinford Bridge
Swinford Bridge

2005: Swinford Bridge, Doug Myers -

Swinford Bridge, Doug Myers © 2005
Swinford Bridge, Doug Myers © 2005

2009 -

For sale
The 240-year-old bridge that will cost £1.65m - but earn you £113k a year in tax-free tolls.
Under an Act of Parliament passed when the bridge was built in 1767, all income derived from it is exempt from income tax. And the structure itself is not liable for inheritance tax, capital-gains levies or stamp duty.
More than £100,000 is collected annually from vehicles that use the crossing, three miles north-west of Oxford. Cars are charged 5p, motorcycles 2p and lorries 50p a time. The tolls have been fixed since 1994 and can be altered only by Parliament.
Built in the 18th Century by the fourth Earl of Abingdon at a cost of around £5,000, the bridge carried pigs and other animals over the Thames, hence the name Swinford (a contraction of ‘swine ford’). In return for the Earl’s investment, King George III passed an Act of Parliament stipulating that the toll income would belong to the Earl and his ‘heirs and assignees for ever’. The bridge was owned by his family until 1985, when it was sold for £275,000.
The bridge'’s owner must provide a ferry in case the bridge is out of action. He or she also has the right to seize the car of anyone trying to cross without paying.

2009: Sold -

A toll bridge built in 1769 across the River Thames sold for more than 1 million pounds ($1.66 million) at an auction Thursday.
The Swinford bridge brings in about 190,000 pounds (US$320,000) in toll payments from about 4 million vehicle crossings a year.
Due to a quirk in British law, toll revenue collected from the picturesque stone structure about 65 miles (100 kilometers) northwest of London can be collected tax-free. It has been free of income tax since the 18th century, when Parliament granted ownership of the bridge and its tolls to the Earl of Abingdon and "his heirs and assignees forever."
Residents have complained that the archaic toll rules create serious traffic jams. They had asked Oxfordshire County Council to buy the bridge and abolish the tolls, but the local government said in a statement that it could not afford to.
Neil Mackilligin at London auction house Allsop, which sold the bridge, said its new owner did not want his name to be disclosed. Mackilligin said the new owner was based in the U.K. but did not live near the bridge.

Aerial view of the river upstream from Swinford Bridge, (with the bridge at the top) -

Aerial view Upstream of Swinford Bridge
Upstream of Swinford Bridge.

Horseshoe Bend

Above Swinford there was a horseshoe bend
(on the right bank, one field upstream of the bridge)
1815:  a warping roller was ordered (to help tow round the sharp bend).
1890:  the Conservancy decided to “make a cutting through the horseshoe bend above Swinford Bridge”.
1900:  Cutting dug across the neck of the bend.
So it is only noticeble now as a clump of trees with an inlet either side.