Field Day
Amazingly Graceful

Four Villages and a Bridge

An important little bridge

The Monday Photo

This river crossing, on a minor road between Thornborough and Leckhamstead is of more local importance than it first seems.

From the evidence, this was once the only accessible local route across the Ouse. There’s a bridge over the river not far away at Thornton, but that seems to be part of the manor grounds, so may not have been open to all. Thornton, by the way, is the site of a deserted Medieval village.

To support this, a trackway or lane once cut the corner between the Thornton to Thornborough road and the bridge, running along the parish boundary.

It would also have made a shorter journey to the water mill, not far upstream from the bridge. It appeared on the mid 19th Century Ordnance Survey 1” “Old Series” maps, but had gone from the maps half a century  later.

Four parishes meet at or by the bridge; Foscott, Leckhamstead, Thornton, and Thornborough.

I thought at first that this was so that each of the four parishes that found the bridge so important all claimed a part of it, so that all would be responsible for maintainance. But now I think only two of the parishes had responsibility for it; Foscott and Leckhamstead.

The small parish of Foscott, site of another deserted Medieval village, looks like it once didn’t quite reach the bridge. But it seems to have had its border extended from one corner over a couple of small fields just to reach it. I think this happened over seven hundred years ago, because of the 14th Century dispute over the bridge.

The dispute arose between the master of St. John’s Hospital, Oxford, and the inhabitants of Leckhamstead and Foscott. So Foscott parish must have already been altered to reach the bridge by then; the mill just upstream, granted to St. John’s Hospital, Oxford in 1244, needed access to the road network.

I think the condition of the bridge put that access into doubt, hence the dispute.

Altering parish boundaries doesn’t seem to be too unusual; there’s another example in Milton Keynes, part of the old parish of Woughton on the Green.

The bridge itself is not too remarkable, being an 18th Century brick recasing of an older, rubble stone structure; you might walk across it without a second glance. I wonder how old it is.

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