The Bridge and its Historical Context

Bridges, Fords and Ferries

Forded crossing points across major rivers were important in the siting and development of early riverside settlements and had been used at Glasbury, Boughrood and Hay, possibly till the late 19th / early 20th century when bridge-building techniques were able to cope with the destructive power of the more serious floods. Prior to this the existing bridges were often partially destroyed or sometimes swept away altogether, when fords would again be brought back into common use.

The ferries also pre-dated the major bridges and often ran by the forded crossings, being used to ferry both people and goods. They were also invaluable at higher water levels when the fords would be impassable to people and livestock. They could also be an exciting and sometimes hazardous experience for the passengers concerned.

Glasbury Bridge

The bridge is on the A438 and provides a major artery for the transport of both goods and tourists as they journey from the Midlands and the North en route to West and South Wales. The bridge has always been a major crossing of the Wye, yet paradoxically this main 'A' class road gives priority to the B4350 coming from Hay-on-Wye at its southern extremity. This causes an occasional but bearable traffic jam at peak holiday times.

Historically a ferry across the Wye at Glasbury was mentioned as early as 1311, whereas the first reference to a bridge is in 1665, possibly upstream of the present bridge and near the mouth of the Llynfi. The ferries ran until the mid nineteenth century competing for custom with the bridges and sometimes replacing them when they were in-operative due to temporary damage or total rebuilding.

There was a timber bridge which fell in 1738 and this was replaced by another timber bridge, both probably being near the Abbots ferry. This one lasted about 40 years before being replaced by a fine seven arched stone bridge in 1777. The bridge was built by Thomas Edwards ( sometimes landlord of the Three Cocks Inn ) under the direction of William Edwards , his father, who had built ' the great bridge on the Taff ' ( the old bridge at Pontypridd ).
The stone bridge was located where the present bridge stands but unfortunately was destroyed by the extreme flooding of 1795 and once again a wooden bridge was constructed in 1800.
Note that at this time Glasbury Parish spanned both sides of the R.Wye and was regulated as being in Radnorshire, but in 1844 the County Boundary was altered, after which the entirety of the Glasbury Parish located to the south of the river was annexed to Breconshire.

In 1850 the wooden bridge was damaged rendering it useful for foot passengers only and the ferry was brought back into regular usage. After a celebrated legal dispute ( click here for details ) a replacement bridge was constructed, with stone piers on the Breconshire side and wooden supports, largely untouched, on the Radnorshire or northern side, with relative costs being an important consideration for this unusual compromise. The bridge cost Brecon £2000 whereas the increase in rateable value was only £470, ( presumably from the part of Glasbury deemed to be in Brecon ? )
Inevitably the compromise became unsafe and a concrete bridge was constructed in 1922. This in turn was incorporated in the existing bridge in 1966, when it was doubled in width to cater for the marked increase in both haulage and tourist traffic.

Boughrood Bridge

The Boughrood Bridge was built in 1838 - 43 by T H Wyatt and D Brandon for the de Winton family of the Maesllwch Estate to carry coal, coke, lime and other goods into southern Radnorshire. It replaced the earlier ford and the ferry and was a substantial stone bridge with four segmental arches, with a semi-circular arch at each end. A two storey toll house was added to the northern end in 1843 and the occupants in 1850 combined the collection of tolls with a cobbling business - it was common practice for the toll-people to have a secondary source of income, especially so if they were supporting a large family. In 1875 it was run by James Portnell
The bridge toll continued to be levied up to 1934.

B Bowker
29 10 2014

Sources  :

David Pike - for confirmation on the seven arched bridge at Glasbury
CPAT "The Middle Wye Valley, Transport and Communication Landscapes"
Powys Digital History Project

“The Picturesque Views on the River Wye from its source at Plinlimmon Hill to its junction with the Severn at Chepstow With  observations on the public building and other works of art, in its vicinity" by Samuel Ireland, London. Published by R. Faulder,  New Bond St and T Egerton, Whitehall. 1797.
"Welsh Country Workers Housing 1775-1885" by J Lowe

Abbots Ferry and the Stone Bridge
From an etching in 1794
Courtesy of Christine Forbes nee Lloyd

The Wood and Stone bridge in the late 19th century
Courtesy of Frank and Geraldene Cleary

The modern bridge after the flood wall was built
( circa 1970 / 80 )
Courtesy of Claudia Smith

Boughrood bridge and the two storey toll-house
B Bowker - 09 07 2014

Boughrood bridge from the east (toll-house) side
B Bowker - 09 07 2014

Boughrood Bridge on theTithe Map of 1887