Views:
RADCOT OLD BRIDGE

GOING DOWNSTREAM KEEP LEFT FOR NEW BRIDGE -
small boats only straight on through old bridge (low headroom at Cradle Bridge)

This section in The Stripling Thames by Fred Thacker

1910: This section in Thames Valley Villages by Charles G Harper

Old Radcot Bridge, small boats only, right bank, over what is now a backwater, not on main navigation channel.  The old three arched bridge, said to be the oldest on the river and certainly one of the loveliest.
 
1312: a grant for “pontage” for five years, for the repair of the bridge, upon all wares for sale carried across.
 
1351:  “Rodecotebrigge” mentioned as a boundary.
 
1387: The Battle of Radcot Bridge. December 19th.  In the fifteenth century manuscript of the Chronicle of Jean Froissart the battlements in the distance make one suspect that he had never been to Radcot!

Battle of Radcot Bridge, 1387
The Battle of Radcot Bridge, 1387.

In 1386, a group of nobles, jealous of the influence on King Richard of certain advisors who were outside the royal circle, forced themselves on the king as a governing council. The following year, however, encouraged by Michael de la Pole, Robert de Vere and others, Richard managed to reassert his authority, but afterwards there was an armed uprising by the Duke of Gloucester, the Earl of Arundel, the Earl of Warwick and others who accused these same advisors of treason.
There was a military encounter, known as the Battle of Radcot Bridge, between these forces and Robert de Vere, who had determined to escape to Ireland.
It is said that the central arch of the bridge was demolished as a trap in the course of this battle, and later rebuilt.

1600s: Camden -

This Isis, when it hath passed a small part of Wilshire, no sooner is entred into Oxfordshire but, presently being kept in and restrained with Rodcot bridge, passeth by Bablac, where Sir Richard Vere that most puissant Earle of Oxford, Marquese of Dublin and Duke of Ireland, who as he stood in most high favour and authority with King Richard the Second, so he was as much envied of the Nobles, taught us (as one said) that no power is alwaies powerfull. Who being disconfited in a skirmish by the Nobles and constrained to take the river and swim over, found the Catastrophe of his fortune and subversion of his State. For immediately he fled his country and died distressed in exile.
Of whom the Poet in his Mariage of Tame and Isis made these verses:

Heere Vere, well knowen by badge of savage Boore,
While man-hood shames to yeeld, yet strives againe
Stout hart may not, restrained by wisdomes lore.
Whiles shield resounds by doubled blowes a-maine,
And helmet rings about his eares, is faine
The streame to take. The river, glad therefore,
His guest tooke safe, and set him safe on shore.

Radcot Bridge from ‘The Genius of the Thames’ by Thomas Love Peacock –

Thy copious waters hold their way
Tow'rds Radcote's arches, old and grey,
Where triumphed erst the rebel host,
When hapless Richard's hopes were lost.

1692:  Baskervile -

Radcot Bridge the maine Stream where boats pass  through is about 22 yards over & has three great Arches;  the second stream has a bridge with Two Arches wch leads to  Wyer,  The 3rd stream has a bridge over with 4 Arches but not for great boats to go through …

1764: Survey of Berkshire, Rocque, has this map which shows the three streams -

Radcot Map 1764

1787: New Radcot cut and bridge built at a cost of £400.
 
1791: Drawing by Samuel Ireland of the Old Radcot Bridge. -

Radcot Bridge, Samuel Ireland, 1791
Old Radcot Bridge, 1791, Samuel Ireland

1802: Mylne found spars and other tackle under the old arches, as though they were being used for a fishery.
 
1824: Greenwood’s Berkshire Map (ignores the New Cut of 1787) as copied by Fred Thacker in 1920.  Assuming this is accurate - the three streams have become two (excluding the new cut - the northern most has now been filled in.  The next was also to totally disappear shortly!)

Radcot Map 1824

1859:  Print –

Radcot Old Bridge, 1859
Radcot Old Bridge, 1859.

1875:  Radcot Old Bridge, Henry Taunt -

Radcot Old Bridge, Henry Taunt, 1875
Radcot Old Bridge, Henry Taunt, 1875
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive;HT01160

1877: Bridgework under repair -

Radcot was the great centre of supply of coal for a great many neighbouring villages.

1885: Radcot Old Bridge, The Royal River –

Radcot Bridge ... is understood to be one of the oldest bridges on the Thames, and its appearance is quite in character with this theory; moreover it is an interesting piece of stonework, apart from its age, its three Gothic arches being curiously ribbed underneath. There is a very steep ascent to the crown, and over the centre arch is still preserved the socket in which, on the crest of bridges, the sacred cross was wont to be uplifted.
There are, in point of fact, two bridges at Radcot, but the "real original" is [this] antique three-arched affair ...
The river here is divided, a short cut to facilitate navigation and deepen the channel forming a new departure. The old stream wanders round, when the weeds will allow it, under the ribbed arches, leaving the channel of the new cut, like a newly come tradesman who has contempt for the old-fogeyish methods of the ancient inhabitants, to transact its business merrily, with promptness and despatch.

 

1885: Radcot Old Bridge
1885: Radcot Old Bridge, The Royal River.

1909: The Stripling Thames, Fred Thacker -

The old stream is not now used by ordinary traffic, though far better accommodated with an ancient bridge of three more or less pointed arches, over the central one of which a cross was once to be seen, on the eastern side. Only the socket is now left, with the old lead still in it. A Lechlade man told me that in quite recent memory babies were often baptized in this socket.
The western parapet displays a flat central plinth, as though something had stood there also.
The Victoria History says Radcot Bridge was probably built in 1200; and Cox in his Magna Britannia that it was "a great deal older than Richard II", who was born in 1366. ...
The dates favour my own strong belief, that this is the oldest original bridge work left across the Thames, and that New Bridge was so entitled in respect of it.

RADCOT BRIDGE by Joseph Ashby-Sterry in THE RIVER RHYMER, 1913 -

Violet, with the brightest eyes
Gleaming with a glad surprise ;
Dear, delightful and discreet,
Sweetly shy and shyly sweet ;
Pretty, piquant, pouting pet -
None who've seen her can forget
Violet !

ON Radcot Bridge, I'd have you know
They fought like demons years ago !
Here brave De Vere was put to flight,
And left his troops in sorry plight :
To-day, in place of swordly clash,
The boom of bee, the fishes' plash,
Is all the sound you hear, I ween,
To break the silence of the scene !
And now a winsome maid I see,
Who "holds the bridge" with laughing glee,
Above its pointed arch she stands,
And archly points with small brown hands !

On rugged stonework, grim and grey,
Dreams Violet, this sunny day ;
She leans well forward o'er the wall.
While shadows from her hat down fall
Across the sweetest pair of eyes,
That e'er reflected summer skies,
Or stole from calm, secluded spots,
The hue of blue forget-me-nots !
Her red lips smile, or pout in pique,
Her dimples play at hide-and-seek -
And as you gaze you'll ne'er forget
This picture on the parapet.

1910: P H Ditchfield, Vanishing Britain -

There is a very interesting old bridge across the upper Thames between Bampton and Faringdon. It is called Radcot Bridge; probably built in the thirteenth century, with its three arches and a heavy buttress in the middle niched for a figure of the Virgin, and a cross formerly stood in the centre. A "cut" has diverted the course of the river to another channel, but the bridge remains, and on this bridge a sharp skirmish took place between Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, Marquis of Dublin, and Duke of Ireland, a favourite of Richard II, upon whom the King delighted to bestow titles and honours. The rebellious lords met the favourite's forces at Radcot, where a fierce fight ensued. De Vere was taken in the rear, and surrounded by the forces of the Duke of Gloucester and the Earl of Derby, and being hard pressed, he plunged into the icy river (it was on the 20th day of December, 1387) with his armour on, and swimming down-stream with difficulty saved his life. Of this exploit a poet sings -

 

Here Oxford's hero, famous for his boar,
While clashing swords upon his target sound,
And showers of arrows from his breast rebound,
Prepared for worst of fates, undaunted stood,
And urged his heart into the rapid flood.
The waves in triumph bore him, and were proud
To sink beneath their honourable load.

1914: Bridges repaired.  Thacker -

Fortunately, I hear, they have a sympathetic architect (Mr. Redfern) who delights in doing these things well.

 

1929: A Thames Survey -

Radcot Bridge is on the main Faringdon - Burford road. Some authorities put forward a theory that this bridge is the oldest on the Thames; a bridge is certainly mentioned in ancient records as existing here in 1312 and again in 1351.
The different branches of the river have had their course altered at various times, but there now exist only two, the main stream and the lock cut. Over the former is the ancient stone humpback bridge of three pointed arches, with small cut-waters both sides. In the centre of the bridge, on the eastern parapet, is a socket in which was formerly fixed a cross. The old bridge was sympathetically restored by Mr. Redfern, architect, in 1914.
The lock cut and bridge with single semi-circular arch was built in 1787, well designed, although the lock cut itself is reported difficult for navigation.

It is of interest to note that to the ancient wharf by the bridge the stone for the general walling work at St Paul's was brought from Kempster's quarries at Upton, there put on rafts and floated down to London.
We recommend that every effort should be made to preserve Radcot Bridge as an "ancient monument", also we suggest that the island between the two bridges opposite the Swan Inn should be kept open. North of Radcot Bridge the road is carried across the two backwaters by one brick bridge and one of stone, both about 13 feet wide.

Radcot Old Bridge
Radcot Old Bridge

 

1951: Edward Ardizzone, Sketches from Holidays Afloat -

Moor for the night near Radcot Bridge. Pitch the small tent and so spend a more comfortable night.

 

Radcot sign
Above Radcot Old Bridge, sign seen coming downstream.

The Thames has a language all to itself.  Its alphabet comprises runes with mystic significance.  This particular rune is typical – in less than half a dozen strokes it conveys its meaning.  It is Thames speak for
“Way ahead blocked, turn left, then right, and watch out for narrow bridge”.
 
Going downstream, straight on is the old Radcot Bridge (small craft only) which is delightful – but misses the pub!

Schoolmaster’s Hole

Schoolmaster's hole at the head of the reach above Radcot Bridge.  I am told the local fishermen call this Camden Bend.  (Below Camden Farm).

Hell's Turn

Hell's Turn or Hell’s Gut:  half a mile below Grafton Lock, is not that hellish for a small boat, unless you happen to coincide with a 70' narrow boat trying to take it at speed …

1909: The Stripling Thames, Fred Thacker -

About three quarters of a mile above Radcot the upward course of the River makes a big bend from southwest to northeast, called Hell's Turn. Is this the true original of the village of Heighton, which Fearnside says borders the Thames hereabouts? Or did he mean Eaton (Hastings)? I know no other explanation; there is no village of the name he mentions.

Nor could I discover the remains of a weir, perhaps Day's, which Taunt marks between the latter village and Grafton Lock.

 
 
 
 
(Upstream to GRAFTON LOCK)




 
 







Introduction
Estuary
PLA
QEII Br
Barrier
Tower Br
Custom Ho
London Br
; Frost Fairs
Cannon St Rb
The Great Stink
Southwark Br
Millenium Br
Blackfriars Rb
Blackfriars Br
Waterloo Br
Charing Cross Rb
Westminster Br
Lambeth Br
Vauxhall Br
Victoria Rb
Chelsea Br
Albert Br
Battersea Br
Battersea Rb
Wandsworth Br
Fulham Rb
Putney Br
Hammersmith Br
Barnes Rb
Chiswick Br
Kew Rb
Kew Br
RICHMOND
Twickenham Br
Richmond Rb
Richmond Br
TEDDINGTON
Kingston Rb
Kingston Br
Ditton Slip
Hampton Br
MOLESEY
SUNBURY
Walton Br
Desborough Cut
SHEPPERTON
Chertsey Br
CHERTSEY
M3 Br
Laleham Slip
PENTON HOOK
Staines Rb
Staines Br
Runnymede Br
BELL WEIR
Magna Carta Is
OLD WINDSOR
Albert Br
Datchet
Victoria Br
Black Potts Rb
ROMNEY
Eton
Windsor Br
Windsor Rb
Windsor Slip
Elizabeth Br
BOVENEY
Dorney Lake
York Cut
Summerleaze Fb
MonkeyIsland
New Thames Br
BRAY
Bray Slip
Maidenhead Rb
Maidenhead Br
Below Boulters
BOULTERS
Cliveden
Hedsor
COOKHAM
Cookham Slip
Cookham Br
BourneEnd RFb
Quarry Woods
A404 Br
MARLOW
Marlow Br
Bisham
TEMPLE
HURLEY
Medmenham
Culham Ct
Aston Slip
HAMBLEDEN
Temple Is
Fawley Ct
Remenham
Regatta
Phyllis Ct
Henley Slip
Leander
Red Lion
Henley Br
Angel on Br
Landing
Hobbs Boatyard
Hobbs Slipway
MARSH
Hennerton
Bolney
Wargrave
Shiplake Rb
R.Loddon
SHIPLAKE
Sonning Br
SONNING
Dreadnought
K&A Canal
CAVERSHAM
Reading Br
Caversham Br
Reading Slip
Purley
MAPLEDURHAM
Hardwick Ho
Whitchurch Br
WHITCHURCH
Hartswood Reach
Gatehampton Rb
Goring Gap
Goring Br
GORING
Swan
CLEEVE
Moulsford
Moulsford Rb
Papist Way Slip
Winterbrook Br
Wallingford Br
BENSON
Shillingford Br
R.Thame
DAYS
Burcot
Clifton Hampden
Clifton Church
Clifton H Br
Barley Mow
Long Wittenham
CLIFTON
Appleford Rb
Sutton Courtenay
Sutton Br
CULHAM
Culham Cut Fb
Abingdon Slip
Abingdon
Abingdon Br
ABINGDON
Nuneham Rb
Nuneham
Nuneham Park
Radley Boats
SANDFORD
Rose Island
Kennington Rb
Isis Br
Iffley Mill
IFFLEY
Oxford Rowing
Isis
Donnington Br
Riverside Slip
Boathouses
Punting
Lower Cherwell
Upper Cherwell
Islip
Head of River
Salters Steamers
Folly Br
Bacons Folly
Oxford Fb
Osney Fb
Weir stream
Osney Rb
Bullstake Stream
Osney Marina
OSNEY
Osney Br
Four Rivers
OLD RIVER
CANAL
Medley Weir Site
Medley Fb
Bossoms
Perch
Trout
GODSTOW
Godstow Nunnery
Godstow Br
Thames Br
KINGS
River Evenlode
EYNSHAM
Swinford Br
Oxford Cruisers
PINKHILL
Farmoor
Stanton Harcourt
Bablock Slip
Arks Weir Site
NORTHMOOR
Harts Fb
Rose Revived
Newbridge
Maybush
River Windrush
below Shifford
SHIFFORD
Shifford Fb
Tenfoot Fb
Trout Inn
Tadpole Br
RUSHEY
Old Mans Fb
RADCOT
Radcot Cradle Fb
Swan Inn
Radcot New Br
Radcot Old Br
GRAFTON
Eaton Hastings
Kelmscott
Eaton Fb
BUSCOT
Bloomers Hole Fb
Trout Inn
St Johns Br
ST JOHNS
Halfpenny Br
Marina Slip
LIMIT
Inglesham
Hannington Br
Kempsford
Castle Eaton Br
Marston Meysey
A419 Br
Cricklade
SOURCE?
THAMES HEAD
SEVEN SPRINGS