Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: September 22, 2021
Webpage updated: September 25, 2021




New Bridge, although here incorrectly named as "Long Bridge", in relation to the Marsh Corn Mills.
Ordnance Survey Sheet CXXIV.1, dated 1854-1863.

At the time of the Norman Conquest the area we now know as Plymouth was surrounded on three sides by water.   To the south was the Sound, of course, but off that there were creeks at the Sourepool (now Millbay roughly), and at East Stonehouse, which stretched inland as far as the present Pennycomequick.  To the west was the Hamoaze and off it were creeks at Keyham, Weston Mill and Budshead.  And even over on the east, the river Plym had a creek at Laira Green and the river itself ran as far inland as the present Plympton Castle.

A traveller to or from Plymouth could cross the river by the Ebb Ford, at Crabtree, but as its names implies it could only be crossed when it was low tide.  Otherwise the nearest bridge upstream was the aptly-named Plym Bridge.  There were no bridges downstream until the Laira Bridge was opened..

Long Bridge, on the Plym.
Note thatt he bridge on the extreme right was over the Tory; the gate posts of Saltram can be seen above it.
From "The South Devon Monthly Museum", Volume V, Number 29, May 1st 1835.

According to an article entitled "Long Bridge" in "The South Devon Monthly Museum" for May 1st 1835 the bridge was built in 1753 at the expense of the County of Devon.  The article continues that: 'Before the turnpike road was constructed here in 1758, there was merely a beaten track leading across these marshes (subject therefore to inundation, and other impediments) communicating on the one side with the road leading by Leigham Gate to Knackersknowle Village, and on the other side with Plympton, by a ford across the river, and thence by a narrow lane to Plympton, through the Tory (then running across a lane called Lincotta Lane), and thence through Underwood to that town.'

The article further explains that: 'Before this Bridge was built the most accustomed road to Plympton was across the sands from Crabtree to Blaxton, under Saltram, and thence by a road to Underwood, since thrown into the Saltram grounds.  But as this road was dependant on the state of the tide, it was of course extremely inconvenient, and frequently dangerous.  When therefore a new road to Exeter became necessary, great controversy arose whether that road should be carried from Crabtree over a bridge to be built at Blaxton, thence and through Underwood and Plympton to Ivy Bridge; or over the New Bridge, and through Ridgeway to Ivy Bridge.'

Sir John Rogers led the group that supported the New Bridge route and Mr Parker, of Saltram House, the Underwood supporters.

New Bridge was only ten feet wide and in 1835 was about to be removed and rebuilt as it was 'ill-adapted to the increased number of carriages and horses which now pass over it, and especially to the degree of velocity with which our mail and other coaches now travel'.

The surveyors from the Ordnance Survey gave the structure the name of "Long Bridge" but had they been subscribers to Mr G P Hearder's "South Devon Monthly Museum" journal they would have discovered in the May 1835 issue that this name was totally incorrect and the reader should refer to the link to "Long Bridge" to find out the truth.

The replacement New Bridge Across the Plym.
From "The South Devon Monthly Museum", Volume V, Number 30, June 1st 1835.

Mr James Green, the surveyor of bridges for the County of Devon, designed the replacement structure, which was erected by Mr William Dwelly, of Plymouth, for the sum of 1,050.  It was to be built of fine and close grained limestone.  The central arch was to be 22 feet across while the two side arches were to be 20 feet wide.  The old bridge had almost gone by July 1835 and a temporary wooden one was put in place for the use of pedestrians and and coaches.  Mr Hearder called for the authorities to give this replacement bridge a proper name but it was never achieved.