Halfpenny Bridge, A361
Going upstream just as you come into the more or less straight reach, at the end of which is Halfpenny Bridge,
on the Right bank are trees concealing the old wharf.
Halfpenny Bridge pronounced "hayp knee bridge"!
Camp Site, Bridge House, Lechlade, Glos. GL73AG. 01367 252348.
200 yards from river, up road away from Lechlade on left, 45 pitches 1st March to 31st October. WC, Showers, Waste disposal, Laundry, Wash basins, Shaver points, power.
1720: Camden’s Magna Britannia -
Here (the river) begins to be navigable; and is here able to bear a Barge of 50 tun.
1792: Halfpenny Bridge built by James Hollingworth, to replace a ferry when Lechlade was becoming a busy inland port with all the new canal traffic. Before that (and presumably before St John's Lock) there was a ford here.
Fred Thacker, Thames Highway, 1920 -
Lechlade Town Bridge was built under the Act of 1792.
Camden's Magna Britannia of 1720 says that here the River
"begins to be navigable: and here he is able to bear a Barge of 50 Tun."
A Lechlade bargemaster stated in 1793 that the chief goods he carried down to London were:
"Iron, Copper, Tin, manufactured and pig Iron, Brass, Spelter, Cannon, Cheese, Nails, all Iron goods and Bomb Shells."
He took back
"Groceries, Deals, Foreign Timber, Merchandise of every Kind, a few Coals, and of late Raw Hides for Tewkesbury and Worcester and Gunpowder to Bristol and Liverpool:
has been applied to last Time he was up, to take Sugars to be carried to Bristol, but did not take them, for when they came to enquire the Price, they found they could go cheaper by the Kennet to Newbury, and the rest of the way by Land Carriage."
In 1812 Rd. Gearing and Wm. Saunders, both of Lechlade, had each one barge on the River.
Text from 'Views on the Thames' by William-Bernard Cooke, George Cooke, Samuel Owen, Peter de Wint -
Lechlade, or Leach Lade, which is described by Leland -
"a praty old village with a stone spire to the church"
is now a small market town in the south-eastern extremity of the county of Gloucester.
It derives its name from the river Lech, which directs its course through the north side of the parish, and the Saxon word Ladian, to empty, as it here falls into the Thames. This river derives its name from the British word Lech, signifying a stone, from the petrifying quality of its water.
The parish church is large and handsome, with a lofty spire, which offers a pleasing object to the surrounding country.
The Thames, at this place, begins to be navigable for vessels of considerable dimensions. Some of sixty tons burden and upwards reach this little town, and give it a commercial character: but the frequent deficiency of water in the summer, as well as its floods in the winter, have hitherto rendered the navigation of the river so uncertain, as to deprive Lechlade of many advantages which it might be supposed to derive from its particular situation.
The Thames Committee have indeed made several improvements in the upper part of the river; and the patriotic spirit, which, in defiance of expense and almost insurmountable difficulties, has completed the canal that unites the Severn with the Thames, promises to continue its zealous and indefatigable efforts to remove every existing impediment; or, by opening new channels, to facilitate the navigation between this place and the metropolis.
Lechlade from ‘The Genius of the Thames’ by Thomas Love Peacock –
Where Lechlade sees thy current strong
First waft the unlaboring bark along;
1815: Halfpenny Bridge, Lechlade -
Lechlade. Drawn by S. Owen. Engraved by G. Cooke. July 1, 1815.
1815: Two months after the above picture was drawn, Shelley was there in Lechlade.
By Thames and Cotswold, W H Hutton -
In the churchyard, with its sober seventeenth century houses adjoining, even encroaching on,
the sacred enclosure, stood Shelley and Mary, Charles Clairmont and Thomas Love Peacock
on the September night in 1815 when the perfect 'summer evening' meditation was written down.
The yews stand now as they stood when Shelley saw them, and still the 'aerial pile' shines in the setting sun.
Percy Bysshe Shelley -
A Summer Evening Churchyard, Lechlade, Gloucestershire.
Listen to 'A Summer Evening Churchyard, Lechlade'
THE wind has swept from the wide atmosphere
Each vapour that obscured the sunset's ray,
And pallid Evening twines its beaming hair
In duskier braids around the languid eyes of Day:
Silence and Twilight, unbeloved of men,
Creep hand in hand from yon obscurest glen.
They breathe their spells towards the departing day,
Encompassing the earth, air, stars, and sea;
Light, sound, and motion, own the potent sway,
Responding to the charm with its own mystery.
The winds are still, or the dry church-tower grass
Knows not their gentle motions as they pass.
Thou too, aerial pile, whose pinnacles
Point from one shrine like pyramids of fire,
Obey'st in silence their sweet solemn spells,
Clothing in hues of heaven thy dim and distant spire,
Around whose lessening and invisible height
Gather among the stars the clouds of night.
The dead are sleeping in their sepulchres:
And, mouldering as they sleep, a thrilling sound,
Half sense half thought, among the darkness stirs,
Breathed from their wormy beds all living things around,
And, mingling with the still night and mute sky,
Its awful hush is felt inaudibly.
Thus solemnized and softened, death is mild
And terrorless as this serenest night.
Here could I hope, like some enquiring child
Sporting on graves, that death did hide from human sight
Sweet secrets, or beside its breathless sleep
That loveliest dreams perpetual watch did keep.
1839: The bridge ceased to be strictly the "halfpenny bridge" when the local people refused to pay anymore ...
1859: The Thames, Mr & Mrs Hall
LECHLADE BRIDGE AND CHURCH
We are, however, now at Lechlade, where the Thames is a navigable river, and a sense of loneliness in some degree ceases; — effectually so, as far as Lechlade is concerned, for, as the reader will perceive, its aspect is an anti-dote to gloom. Lechlade is a very ancient town. It derives its name from a small river that joins the Thames about a mile below its bridge. The Lech is little more than a streamlet, rising in the parish of Hampnot, in the Cotswold district, and passing by Northleach and Eastleach. The proofs of its antiquity are now limited to its fair and interesting church, dedicated to St. Laurence. It is very plain withinside, but stately looking. It contains no old monuments, with the exception of a brass of a gentleman and lady of the time of Henry VI, and another of a man of the time of Henry VII, Close to the north porch is an interesting relic of the olden time — "a penance stone", on which formerly offenders against the discipline of the church stood enshrouded in a white sheet to do penance. The spire is a pleasant landmark all about. It is now, as it was when Leland wrote, two hundred years ago, "a praty old toune", where those who love quiet may be happy. It is clean and neat, and has a well-ordered inn, where a "neat-handed Phillis" strives to make the way-worn traveller at ease and in comfort. The priory of "Blake Chanons, at the very end of St. John's Bridge", is gone; of "the chapelle in a medow" no stone remains; the bold barons — from Baron Siward, who slew Tofte, Earl of Huntingdon, to Ferrers, Earl of Derby, and Roger Mortimer, the Talbots, Spensers, and Hollands — who once lorded over the district, are forgotten there; but the Thames still rolls its waters round the town, and blesses a generation to whom rumours of war are but far-off sounds —
All glory to the stern old times,
But leave them to their minstrel rhymes.
1883: Halfpenny Bridge, Henry W Taunt -
Halfpenny Bridge, Henry W Taunt, 1883
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT3772
1885: Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames -
[At Lechlade the Thames] first becomes navigable for practical purposes, and runs,
except in very dry seasons, in a goodly stream under the handsome arch of the bridge. ...
The ideas of [Lechlade's] inhabitants on the subject of paving are, it may be remarked, open to considerable exception. ...
Lechlade is the point at which boats may be taken for the trip down the river ... and boats may either be sent from Salter's at Oxford by van or by the Great Western Railway Company, who make arrangements for conveying them from the station to the river. There is a good hotel in the town (the "New Inn"), but boating parties occassionally prefer to put up at the "Trout Inn", at St John's Bridge, about half a mile down the stream, which is also favourably spoken of ...
1888: from " The Thames: Oxford to its Source" by Paul Blake -
Lechlade church spire is a prominent object for some miles before the town is reached.
For Lechlade is a town, the first since Oxford; navigation ceases just beyond;
it is the Ultima Thule of the hardy barge man.
Here the crew resolved to spend the night and lay in their final stock of stores, for several things were running low, especially jam and sugar.
The Swan was put up at the wharf on the right just beyond the bridge; there are coal stores there. A man was found who told them where the boat could lie in safety, secure in the possible event of the arrival of an unwieldy barge. After this they put themselves into the hands of Mrs Humphries, of the New Inn, and have not yet regretted doing so.
“Ha! Lechlade is the sleepiest old town I’ve ever seen”, was Charlton’s comment as they took a hasty run through the place before embarking next morning. The object of the exploration was provisions, of which they needed a fresh supply. Possibly Lechlade wakes up later on in the day, but at 8.30 the inhabitants seemed still half asleep, not even the rather rare sight of a “crew” rousing them to anything approaching interest.
There is no doubt now that the stone-country has fairly begun. All the houses, bridges, mills etc., are built of it, and look curiously grey after the brown, yellow, and red of the towns lower down.
Lantern Slide (1883-1908) - Halfpenny Bridge, Lechlade
Pictures by W.C.Hughes. Thanks to Pat Furley, research by Dr Wilson.
1920: from Fred Thacker in 'The Thames Highway' -
By Lechlade I murmur and run,
Then linger with children at play
In meadows whose lover the Sun
Has filled with the burden of May:
And love has not dimpled the face of a girl
More softly than mine as I eddy and whirl
Where islands check my way.
1929: A Thames Survey -
Halfpenny Bridge carries the main road from Swindon to Burford and Banbury.
It was built under the Act of 1792, is of stone, well designed, with one large semi-circular arch
and small arch over the towpath on the Wiltshire bank, and a picturesque toll-house on the
Gloucestershire side which should be preserved, although the bridge is free from tolls.
The quay above the bridge is now the head of navigation, and there is water for barges and launches and a wharf at the bridge. There is an opportunity here to make a more attractive approach to the town by improving the appearance of the boat-builder's yard and sheds.
1937: "The Thames and its Story" -
Lechlade Bridge may be said to be the first worthy of the name upon the river.
Well built of stone, it rises with a smart gradient, carrying the Highworth Road
across on three arches, the central one of which is large enough to span the river from bank to bank.
The village, neat, substantial, and mature, rallies around the ivy-covered church whose spire crowns the slope on which the village is built.
The village is extending; organ works have been established there, and communication with the outer world is not now dependent upon the infrequent train service of the Great Western, for a motor omnibus plies between Lechlade, Fairford and Cirencester.
1955: Halfpenny Bridge, Francis Frith -
1955: Lechlade, Francis Frith -
Halfpenny Bridge, Lechlade.
2000: Lechlade Bridge -
2005: Lechlade Bridge, Doug Myers -