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Origins of the Bridge
The Thames at Wallingford had to be crossed by ford or boat when William the Conqueror’s army arrived in 1066. However, by the time the battles between Stephen and Matilda, there was a bridge, though probably a wooden one, as it played a strategic role in the fighting between Stephen and Henry of Anjou.
Set in Stone
There is believed to have been a stone bridge by the 13th Century, and four of the arches contain stone from this time. The bridge put Wallingford on the main route to Gloucester and South Wales, but the building of bridges at Abingdon and Burford in 1415 started Wallingford’s decline. Major repairs used stone from the dissolved Holy Trinity Priory in 1530.
Maintaining the Bridge
Upkeep of the bridge was a continual problem, and in 1571 Elizabeth I allowed tolls to be charged both for going over the bridge and for passing under it.
The Civil War and after
During the Civil War, four arches were removed so a drawbridge could be put in during the siege of the castle. The missing arches had only wooden replacements until 1751. In 1671 wardens were put on the bridge to stop people from crossing from Crowmarsh who might bring in the plague. And after a flood, which took away three arches, the bridge was largely rebuilt in 1809, with balustrade and parapet. The bridge was a major transport bottleneck until 1993 when Winterbrook Bridge was built as part of the Wallingford by-pass.