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Hayward Bridges

Hayward Bridges


There have been at least five ‘Heyford’ or, later, ‘Hayward bridges since the Norman Conquest 1. The story told here has been compiled from those historical sources that have survived but unfortunately the problems of COVID have meant that some which still reside in the vaults of the Dorset History Centre have not been examined. As further information becomes available we shall update this document. A copy of this may be downloaded Hayward Bridges


As can be seen from the following diagram, the River Stour is the only river that arises to the north of the Wiltshire chalk and passes through the Blackmore Vale, then the chalk, to enter the sea at Christchurch.

                                                          My thanks to David Pope for preparing this map.

Ronald Good in his book, ‘The Old Roads of Dorset’, compiled in the 1930’s, notes that the Stour between Sturminster and Blandford was an area particularly rich in fords. Below Blandford [the ford was roughly where the weir is today] there was a ford at Charlton Marshall, then nothing until Wimborne.

Above Fiddleford he lists none.

“At Bryanston the river has been much altered since the close of our medieval period and there were once fords here…At Durweston there are fords notably between there and Stourpaine and there was probably one a little further west at Enford. East of Shillingstone and approached by Holloway Lane there is a particularly fine old ford still sometimes used and presumably giving its name to Hanford.”

The ford at Hanford was still in use in Good’s day but what Good did not mention is that the ford between Child Okeford and Shillingstone was still available for use, and indeed was used, at least into the early part of the twentieth century and may still be seen in dry summers when the river Stour is very low. The ford at Enford may have been limited in its use given its position at the bottom of a steep incline. The ford between Stourpaine and Durweston must have been particularly useful in the early 19th century as the causeway and bridge at Durweston were almost as frequently out of action as they were at Hayward Bridge.

Good notes that above Child Okeford the next ford was at Fiddleford but then the ground turns to clay and fords became much rarer and we might presume that in prehistoric times [if we may use that suitably vague term] this area would have been vitally important for people in the north of, what is now the county, seeking to travel east or west.

Low lying areas were typically marshy and sodden [hence Guy’s Marsh, Bere Marsh, Margaret Marsh and Caundle Marsh] and travellers in what is now North Dorset were forced to travel over the chalk ridges. When they came to the Stour they would have had little choice but to cross at one of these fords and could then head west, over what is today the Wessex Ridgeway, or over the old route to Blandford via Bryanston.

The Historical Period

The Domesday Book makes no mention of a bridge in either the Child Okeford entry or the Shillingstone entry. There were 15 households in Child Okeford at the time, so possibly a population of 60 -75, and in Shillingstone 46 households, so possibly 200 or so. Hutchins2 in the third edition says simply, “There has been a bridge at this spot from a very ancient period when it seems to have been called Haydon Bridge”.

We do not know when the earliest bridge here was built but it can be imagined that the presence of a ford might, paradoxically, both encourage and delay the building of a bridge. The firmer river beds found at fords, which prevented it’s erosion and allowed for the formation of shallows, were both useful to place the foundations of bridges on, but also more difficult to dig out for their foundations.

It is likely that most travel was undertaken in the summer months, when rivers were low, and there may have been little need for anything more sophisticated than the ford; indeed local people may have been reluctant to give up a usable ford for something that might not survive long. We do not know how wide the ford area was at Child Okeford but as we will see there is good evidence that the ancient ford was not used as the primary site to place a bridge.

One problem with the fords in this area is that they all occur along a very extensive flood plain. It was not enough to build a bridge over the river itself, some form of causeway had to be created to allow access to the bridge itself in times of flood. These were often as much trouble as the bridge itself as inevitably they lay at right angles to the river’s stream and were easily washed away.

It is likely that the first bridges at Child Okeford / Shillingstone were built of wood. Wood is ubiquitous and virtually every village had carpenters. Repairs to a wooden bridge would have been relatively easy and cheap. Stone, at least stone suitable for bridge construction, is not readily available and although local sources of stone were available [as we will see] considerable effort would have been necessary to bring it to the site. Stone masons were few and far between and even in the 19th century had to be brought into the area to work on the bridge.

The 12th century saw the widespread adoption of stone bridges when increasing trade made them economically viable. 3 There is, as we will see, evidence for a bridge on the current site in 1175 and it is possible that the first stone bridge was built around this time.

The first mention of a named bridge however does not occur until 1246. Hutchins notes a court roll written by Robert Passelewe and his associates, “Justices Itinerant for the Pleas of the Forests”, written in the year, ‘31 Henry III’ which in modern dating could have been anytime between October 28th 1246 and October 27th 1247.

Passelewe undertook a perambulation of the Forest 4 of Blackmore. In essence he walked, or more accurately his horse did, around the Forest. This particular perambulation set off;

“from Hayford Bridge to Hockford 5 thenceforward to Belchalwell, Woolland and from thence to Hulberwe…….” returning via Stockwood, Sherborne and Haydon and from thence by the boundary between the counties of Somerset and Dorset as far as the “bridge of Staplebrigge [Stalbridge] and from thence following the water of Sture as far as the bridge of Hayford.”

The Name

The earliest recorded name of the bridge is thus Hayford and this name, or some variant, persisted in use into the 18th century. Two questions may be asked; firstly why was it called ‘Hayford’ bridge when the nearby villages at the time of Domesday were known as ‘Ackford’[Child Okeford] and Alford6 [Shillingstone] both of which mean “The Ford by the Oak”. Secondly, when and why did it change to Hayward Bridge?

The acknowledged expert in this area is A. D Mills who gives the following names for the bridge in his book ‘The Place Names of Dorset’. The sources are those recorded by him with the exception of the 1735 entry.

Assize roll in PRO7
Forest Proceedings in PRO
Assize roll in PRO
Pontem de Hayford
1268Hutchins 3rd edHayford Bridge
1337Municipal Records of the
Borough of Dorchester
1494Documents in possession of the Earl of Salisbury at HatfieldHayward ys Brygge
1533John LelandEyford [see below]
1584Hengrave Hall ManuscriptHeward Bridge
Hewood Bridge
1618Various unprinted maps and plansHayford
1620Hutchins 3rd edHeyford
1735Dorset Quarter Sessions 8Hayward Bridge
1774Hutchins 1st edHayward Bridge

It will be noted that the two version of Hutchins vary whilst the first edition published in 1774 gives the name of the bridge as Hayward the third edition published in 1865 gives it as Heyford or Hayford.

It is not until the late 15th century that the name Hayward appears and does not seem to have been in regular use until the 18th century; the question remains why it then changed. We have no answer but the confusion seems to stem from the similarity of two old English words, Heg [Hay] and Hege [Hedge]. Mills has the following to say on the meaning of the name Heyford:

“‘ford used at haymaking time’ from heg and ford with brycg. The confusion of the name with ME [middle English] hayward (OE [old English] hege-weard hedge keeper )” is first evident in the form from 1494. There is no support for the supposition in Hutchins [3rd ed.] that the bridge was earlier called Haydon Bridge.”

The original name translated into modern English would then be ‘ford used at haymaking’ but it is worth remembering that these names are derived from written documents by people who generally had no connection with the area and could easily mistake meanings or sounds. In the 15th century the Hayward was still an important person in the community and we can readily understand how a scribe might have thought the bridge was named after him.

‘The Itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535–1543.’

The 16th century saw the start of people wandering around the countryside for various purposes. Only one though took the trouble to visit this part of Dorset and that was an antiquarian John Leland. Dates are a bit hazy; the book that he wrote is actually called ‘The Itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535–1543’. His function was not in doubt though, for he had been sent out on his travels by Henry VIII to examine the libraries of all the monasteries [extant and dissolved] in the country, and claim all the important manuscripts for the crown. He passed through Sturminster Newton Castle;

“The townelet of Stourminstre standith in a valley, and is no greate thing, and the building of it is mene. There is a very good market. It stondith in ripa sinistra of Stoure. There is a very fair bridge of 6 arches at the towne ende made of later tymes chiefly by the Vicare of Stourminstre and the persone of Shinington agayne Eyford Bridge in ripa dextra yn the way to Blanforde. (Eyford Bridge 2 miles beneth Stourminstre.)” 9

Statute of Bridges; ‘An Act Concerning the Amendment of Bridges in Highways’, 1531

From at least 1224 AD, counties, under the common law, had the responsibility for maintenance of bridges “unless some persons By reason of the Tenure of their Lands or Tenements, or others by prescription only, were bound to repair.”10

This practice however was honoured more in the breach than the observance.

“Until the Tudor period little attention was paid by Parliament to the maintenance of roads and bridges. The medieval obligation of keeping them in repair attached to particular persons or corporations owning property, and in some cases guilds or monasteries undertook the repair of particular roads, bridges, and sea walls. The only remedy against neglect was the cumbrous one of presentment by the grand jury at the Assizes or an indictment by private persons. But a government so concerned with commercial development as that of the Tudors could not afford to neglect the arteries of commerce, and an Act of 1531 empowered the Justices of the Peace to inquire into broken bridges, and where no person or corporation could be made responsible, to tax the inhabitants of the town or parish for the repair of bridges situated within its limits, and the inhabitants of the whole shire for the repair of bridges outside those limits. They were also to appoint collectors of these taxes, and surveyors to inspect the bridges and spend upon them the moneys so collected.” 11

It is not entirely certain that this solved the problem, after all what was outside of town or parish [A] must necessarily have been inside town or parish [B] for there were no parts of the land that were not in one or the other. There was no guarantee either parish would be able to afford the repairs, even if charged to do so, and we can imagine that there was considerable resistance of the local community to pay for bridges that only marginally benefited them but were important to the county or nation as a whole. The statute envisaged that finding those responsible to repair the bridge could be difficult, and that where it was, and the state of the bridge caused “great annoyance of the King’s subjects”, the Justices of the Peace could order the repairs to be made and paid for “by the inhabitants of the shire or riding within the which the said bridge decayed shall happen to be.”

Here then is the origin of what in time would come to be known as ‘County’ bridges – those that were maintained by the inhabitants of the whole of the shire through the payment of a ‘Bridge Rate’. Edward Boswell was one of two Treasurers to the Dorset Quarter Sessions. In 1795 He published a small book called the “Civil Divisions of the County of Dorset” the content of which, amongst other things, were a list of the bridges in Dorset with the names of the people or organisations tasked with repairing them. The book was reprinted in 1833 and at that time there were sixty ‘County’ bridges which were repaired under the auspices of the county surveyor. In addition to these sixty ‘County’ bridges there were another thirty five repairable by turnpike trusts; one hundred and fifty by individuals or charities; and two hundred by parishes. In the vast majority of cases though, the charities and parishes repaired bridges that were little more than culverts. Very few had the responsibility for repairing the major bridges. Ronald Good had this to say on the various types bridges;

“This says something about the importance of the bridge to the county. County bridges were large vehicular bridges on roads of such importance that they were of more than local value. The turnpike bridges were generally lesser vehicular bridges which happened to lie on new turnpike routes or which more particularly had actually been built by the turnpike trustees to supplement or replace older ones. The third category is more miscellaneous including bridges built at private cost or purpose and it would be interesting and useful to know more about it. The remaining or parish bridges were such every day utility bridges over highways as were small enough to be within the scope of parish resources but valuable enough to be maintained by the community.”

What constituted a “County” bridge did not depend solely on the inability of the Justices to find out who was charged with the repair of the bridge. Had this been the case the number of “County” bridges would have been static; other circumstances must have intervened to lead to their adoption by the county. Eleven bridges were taken over by the county in the seventeenth century; a further thirteen in the eighteenth century, including two local bridges at Durweston; and Kings Mill12 at Sturminster Newton.

The remainder of the 60 were taken over in the early 19th century and after 1833 the number continued to grow until by 1883, when the county council took over, there were 172. It seems that what constituted a “County” bridge was determined more by the importance of the bridge, as Good notes, as well as the ability of whatever organisation was responsible to pay for the repair.

This point is however unclear as the Quarter Sessions records never indicate why or when a bridge was adopted by the county. The bridge usually just ‘appears’ on its list of “County” bridges to be repaired with no clue as to why. One thing will emerge though is that the counties responsibility for the bridge did not always extend over the causeway leading to it.

Lady Hayward’s Charity

Until the 19th century the responsibility for the repair of Heyford bridge lay with an entity that became known colloquially as “Lady Hayward Charity” but was officially known, by the Commissioners of Charity, as ‘Hayford Bridge Trust’. It is worth mentioning that there never was a Lady Hayward or indeed anybody of that name concerned with the upkeep of the bridge. A lady might have been involved as we shall see, but this was not her name. The origins of the trust were in the medieval period but the first reference that I have found to it comes from the Dorset History Centre and concerns an indenture of sale of land in Shillingston13. It was;

“made the Seventh Day of June in the Two and Thirtyth years of the reign of our Sovereign Lord Charles the Second by the Grace of God of England Scotland France and Ireland King and Defender of the faith and in the years or our Lord God according to the computation of the Church of England One thousand Six hundred and Eighty”


Taken at Dorset History Centre this is the first recorded transfer of land, the rents of which paid for the repair of Hayward Bridge. It is dated 7th June 1680.
The land concerned was part of the trust used to maintain the bridge and the sale was made between Sir John Morton of Milborne St Andrew and Robert Coker of Mappowder,

“the surviving feoffees [trustees] of the houses and Lands called Bridge Lands belonging to the Supportation and maintenance of the great Bridge called Hayford als[o] Hayward Bridge with the way leading to the same lying more or less in the villages and parishes of Shillingston and Childe Okeford in the said County of Dorset of the one parte”

This then was the land that generated income, through its tenancies, to maintain the bridge and the approaches to it. Note the reference to ‘the great Bridge’ suggesting that this was a very substantial bridge of considerable local importance. Hutchins in 1773 notes, in a rather imprecise way, that it “is a bridge of six or seven arches”. In size this would put it on a par with both the town bridge in Sturminster and Blandford both of which have six arches.

The new feoffees were to be, Thomas Speke of Iwerne Courtney, John Tregonwell of Milton Abbas, Robert Seymer of Handford [sic], George Ryves of Ranston, Thomas Trenchard of Woolton (Son and heir of Thomas Trenchard), Robert Coker (Son & heir apparent of Robert Coker) aforesaid Richard Fownes of Steepleton, John Trenchard of Lytchett, John Ryves of Fivehead Nevell, Edward Saintloe of Little Funtmell, and Richard Swayne of Tarrant Gunfield 14.

As the feoffees of an earlier time died off they had to be replaced and sales such as these must have been a regular occurrence, possibly every couple of decades, given the lower life expectancy. Another indenture survives at Dorset History Centre [see below] but these are surely not the only ones to have taken place. The sale included;

“all that Cottage or dwelling house and orchard a Curtelage with two hamletts or parcells of Land with their appurtenances situate lying and being near Hayford also Hayward Bridge within the parish of Shilling Okeford in the said County of Dorset with pastures of feeding for two Kyne15 two horses a sow and for same upon the Comon with Marsh there called Beers Marsh and also one Close Called Eastwell Situate and being in the parish of Childe Okeford”.

Note the complete lack of punctuation and the reference to Beers [Bere] Marsh which at the time was not under cultivation but being used as common land for grazing.

Other properties also formed part of the Bridge Lands;

“one other Cottage lately ### and one parcell of Land to the same adjoyning called Corkwell containing by estimation one acre with its appurtenances lying in the East Side of the said Common called Beere Marsh within the said parish of Shilling Okeford” and “And also one Close of meadow or pasture called Styells mead situate lyeing and being within the said parish of Shilling Okeford and mannor of Beere in the said County of Dorsett”

As well as;

“all other houses Cottages Land and Tenements of them the said John Morton and Robert Coker belonging to the maintenance of the said Bridge called Hayford also Hayward Bridge lying or being in the severall parishes of Childe Okeford Shilling Okeford in Beere Marsh in the said County of Dorsett now or late in the tenure or occupation of Edward Browne Robert Fry Richard Fry and [blank] Soper widdow” 16

The next indenture is dated the 30th day of June 1758.

As the Trustees of the Charity died they had to be replaced periodically. This is another indenture dated 1758.

This time it is between Charles Brune of Plumber in Dorset and Thomas Fownes of somewhere illegible in Wiltshire the,

“Surviving Trustees of the Houses and Lands called Bridg [sic[ Lands appropriated to the Support and Maintenance of the Great Bridge called Hayford otherwise Hayward Bridge upon the Stour and Ways and Avenues leading to and from the same near the Villages or Parishes of Shilling Okeford and Child Okeford in the said County of Dorsett”

and George Pitt of Stratfield Saye in the County of Southampton Esq, Edward Halter of Stalbridge, George Trenchard of Lytchett Matravers, Julius Berkford of Stepleton , Henry Seymer of Handford, George Chaffin the Younger of Chettle, Thomas Bower of Iwerne Minster and Richard Bingham of Melcomb.

The sale was purely nominal being made “for and in consideration of the sum of five Shillings cash of Lawfull Money of Great Britain”. Once again the indenture names the land that was involved. It is more detailed than the previous one and for details reference should be made to Appendix 2.

Bridge Lands

Although it is outside of the chronology of our story the first time we are able to accurately identify the bridge lands is when we come to the tithe map of 1839. The map identifies each piece of land in the parish together with its owner who in this case are the ‘Trustees of Hayford Bridge’. Only two of the plots were actually land, the majority being cottages.

  1. Plot number
46Three Tenements and a Garden comprising in total ¼ acre.Seemingly unoccupied
47Cottage and Garden ¼ acreJohn Shorey
50Lamb Ground 5 ¼ acres MeadowWilliam Cox
58Pasture 1.5 acresJames Newman
61Cottage and GardenElizabeth Trowbridge
62Cottage and GardenElizabeth Warren
63Cottage and GardenJohn Francis
64House Garden and OrchardAllen Lawrence

Plot 64 must have been bigger than 61-63 since it was the only one in this row of cottages that paid tithe [8d]. Plot 58 today is overgrown with scrub and appears to have been heavily eroded.

The rent from the cottages on the right were used to help pay for the upkeep of the bridge. Other cottages used to support it have been demolished.

It is difficult to imagine, given its propensity to flood, that it could have generated much in the way of income for its occupiers.


The majority of the information set out below comes from the Dorset Quarter Session17 records and Boswell’s ‘Civil Divisions of the County of Dorset [1833]’. Despite the increase in ‘County’ bridges during the 18th and 19th centuries it is a remarkable fact that the circumstances that surround the eventual adoption of Hayward Bridge as a “County” bridge are unique. There are, throughout the records, numerous entries concerning the bridges of Dorset. Blandford, Canford even Durweston, built in 1795, were in receipt of considerable financial input without any fuss or bother. Numerous others had to be repaired intermittently but in over one hundred and fifty years’ worth of records [and yes I have examined them all] there is no other case of a bridge that caused such concern or controversy.

Hayward Bridge in the 18th Century

On the 15th April 1734 William Stoke, Richard Bingham, William Freke, Henry Bower, Samuel Martin, John Michel and others, all of whom were Justices of the Peace, met at Blandford. They constituted the County Quarter Sessions and the proceedings of the Sessions were recorded in the county records. These Sessions extended over several days and item eleven is entitled “Shillingston vs John St Loe Esq”.

The court [for that was what the Sessions were] were asked to consider an indictment laid before the previous Quarter Sessions [not recorded] made by the “Inhabitants of the parish of Shilling Okeford otherwise Shillingston’ that the rents from the ‘several lands and hereditaments’ that were supposed to be used for the maintenance of the bridge had ‘not been [applied] for some time past by John Saint Loe Esq who refused or neglected to account for the same or to apply such rents and profitts pursuant to the Discretion of the Donors…” No details of the extent of the disrepair are given but the previous court had ordered John Saint Loe, together with a host of villagers to appear before them with the accounts. We have no idea why St Loe was not fulfilling his duties; we do not know his age and he was to die in 1843; so we cannot assume he was suffering from illness or old age.

When the Quarter Sessions reconvened in 1735 the court found that in 1600 an inquiry [inquisition] had been made by Elizabeth I’s ‘Commissioners of Charities’ into the nature of the lands that had been left for the supportation of the bridge. The inquisition found that;

“John Eskelling and Robert of Child Ockford” left land for the “maintenance and repairation of the Bridge called Hayward Bridge.”

Note that the Quarter Sessions record names the bridge as Hayward Bridge but we do not know how it was referred to by the Charity Commissioners and oddly neither Mills nor Hutchins makes reference to the inquisition; it may well have been called Hayford Bridge. The inquisition went further in specifying that the land was to be used to maintain the;

“end of the Highway adjoyning [sic] to the same Bridge from the West to the farthest end of the Bridge then there standing unto the farthest side of the Same Bridge opposite to the Corner called Linch”.

As a result of this and listening to the various witnesses the Quarter Sessions ordered the feoffees

“to and do amend the highway adjoining the said bridge leading to Shillingston and Sturminster Newton as far as the western end of the present hole or puxy [marsh] there”

In order to ensure this happened the churchwardens of Shillingston and Child Okeford were to be given copies of the accounts.

They, together with three of the Justices, Messrs Freke, Bower and Martin, who were appointed as referees, were required to collect the arrears of rent that had accrued and interestingly;

“the referees are to measure the ground that is now to be repaired and to fix a post at the end thereof for future memory.”

The Justices were to report back to the Quarter Sessions, which they did later in the year, at which time they confirmed that the accounts had been received but it does not sound as if much work had actually been done. Indeed it appears that they had discovered that the problems with the bridge were more serious than had, at first sight, seemed. They ORDERED that;

“an arch be forthwith build for the better conveying the water in the place where the horse bridge stood.”

This is an interesting way of phrasing things; was there a separate bridge just for horses? In any event there was more work to be done;

“That the highway next adjoining to the said bridge and mentioned in the last order be better repaired and that such highway from the west end of such bridge to the present puxy containing 22 lugs of 16 feet and half to the lug; and that a stone at the end thereof be fixed with an inscription thereon directing that the feoffees of the said bridge are to amend the highway so far. That the said bridge be forthwith be put in good repair by the feoffees.”

Nothing more is heard from the Quarter Sessions about the bridge in the 18th century and presumably the feoffees were maintaining the bridge in some sort of repair. The bridge was not entirely out of the news however as two newspaper articles recite. On the 6th March 1773;

Friday sevennight [sic], a waggon going over Hayward bridge, near Child-Okeford in Dorsetshire, was carried by the violence of the wind over the bridge into the water, and a team of four horses drowned.

Almost ten years later on the 13th February 1783;

“a chaise belonging to Mr Baker of Henstridge was overset in the water at Hayward Bridge, near Sturminster Newton, Dorset; fortunately there was no person in the carriage; one of the horses was drowned, and the other with the driver was saved, but with difficulty. Had not a farmer passed by at that instant, they must have all perished; as was the fate of a team of horses a few years ago at the same place.”

Whose bridge is it anyway?

There are numerous records about diverse bridges in the late 18th century but nothing more is heard about Hayward bridge until 1813. By this time it is clear that all was not well with the bridges on the Stour. At the Michaelmas session of the Quarter Sessions in 1813 it is;

“ORDERED That Mr Dyson do Examine the Course of the River Stour beginning from the limits of this county nearest to Christchurch in the County of Hants to Hayward Bridge and that he give notice to the Owners and Occupiers of Lands to remove any obstructions to the Course of the river by which the stabilising of any of the bridges thereon may be endangered”

Dyson was the first County Surveyor of Bridges, appointed in 1809, for which trouble he was paid £500 [£29k] and £50 [£3k] to appoint a clerk. At the same [1813]Sessions it was;

“ORDERED that the Feoffees of the bridge called Hayward Bridge do produce their accounts at the next session of the Peace to be at Blandford Forum in this County relating to Lady Hayward Charity and that a copy of this order be served on Mr Ridout Steward to the Feoffees.”

As in 1734 there are no preceding entries in the Quarter Sessions relating to any problem at the bridge and no mention of what remedies, if any, had been instituted by Dyson.

Two years later, in 1815, severe flooding damaged the bridge. There are no newspaper records from the time but if then, as now, flooding was a normal annual event then this is not surprising. Elsewhere in the country floods had caused widespread damage and at sometime early in the year Hayward Bridge appears to have been damaged. At the Lent Quarter Sessions an indictment was brought against the county for non-repair of the bridge. This came as a shock to the Justices, as might be expected, as they clearly did not think that the bridge was their responsibility;

“The Eastern Treasurer having reported unto this court that an Indictment was preferred at the last assizes against the County on Account of Hayward Bridge being out of repair ORDERED that the said Treasurer do prepare a Special Plea Stating that the Trustees of the Lady Hayward Charity are bound to repair and that he take the necessary professional steps thereon.”

It is not clear who laid the charge against the County but my belief is that it was Henry Seymer of Hanford. Further enquiry will be made at Dorset History Centre post COVID.

To reiterate, what follows is unique in the records of the County. Numerous bridges fell into disrepair, Very occasionally a note is made that a legal opinion has been sought on some matter or other but there are no other cases where there is a full record of the case against the county and the legal opinion that was given.

The man they approached on these points of law was Serjeant John Lens of Lincoln’s Inn. The office of Serjeant at Law was very ancient and would soon be abolished but ‘barrister at law’ would be a modern equivalent. Nothing else about him can be found.

1815 Case and Opinion Respecting Hayward Bridge to be entered on Record


“Hayward Bridge is an ancient Bridge over the River Stour in the County of Dorset which together with a Portion of Road at each end of the Bridge has from time Immemorial been repaired by the Trustees of a Charity called Lady Hayward Charity consisting of the Rents and Profits of certain Lands and Tenements in the Adjoining Parishes which are appropriated solely to that purpose and have hitherto been always sufficient The Trustees have appropriated the Rents and Profits of the Estate to the Purposes of the Trust and have now a Balance in their Hands which they declare themselves ready to Account for and expend as circumstances may require and there is not the least Imputation against them of having been negligent or faulty in the performance of their trust.

The above mentioned Bridge is situated at a narrow part of the River Stour and in the time of flood the river not having sufficient waterway to discharge itself has from time immemorial occasionally risen so as to overflow the road leading to the Bridge and to render the passage of Carriages dangerous from the depth of the water but Horse and Foot Passengers have a Safe passage over a field adjoining the Road where there is an ancient causeway for that purpose after the Flood has subsided which generally takes place within a few hours the carriage Road is again perfectly safe.

The Occupiers of the lands on each side the River near the Bridge have of late years neglected to keep the ancient channel of the River open to its proper limits so that by the falling in of the Banks and other obstructions to the depth of water in the time of Floods has become greater Since the Channels has been so obstructed and narrowed.

Your opinion is therefore desired on the following points

First Whether the Road above mentioned is liable to be Indicted at a time when it is perfectly safe on Account of the water of the River having risen during the continuance of a Flood so as to have Interrupted the passages over the Bridge some time before

Secondly Whether the Occupiers of Lands adjoining to the River near the Bridge are not liable to be indicted for neglecting to open the Banks of the River to its ancient limits and for not removing the obstructions and encroachments

Thirdly Whether the Trustees can legally Discharge themselves of the Trust by Surrendering up the Estate to the Magistrates in Sessions together with the Balance in their hands

Fourthly Whether the Magistrates in Sessions can legally intermeddle [sic] with the Trust in any way whatever except under the Statute 13th Geo 3 Cap 78 Sec 5118.

Fifthly Supposing the Balance in the Hands of the Trustees not to be adequate to the repair required by the Bridge and the Road adjoining how would you advise the Trustees and Magistrates to proceed for raising such Sums as the necessary expenditure shall require above the annual rents and profits of the Estate in case and Indictment should be preferred on Account of the Bridge or Road being out of repair.”

The key paragraph here is the third for there is further background information recorded by Boswell that is not mentioned in the case presented [although it would have been known to Serjeant Lens]. The extensive flooding in the early part of 1815 resulted in the fact that;

“the bridge was damaged and the roads at each end thereof washed away; and the amount of the money in the hands of the feoffees being about £100 was inadequate to the repair thereof, and they offered to pay over this sum to the magistrates of the county in aid of the repairs, but the magistrates refused, not thinking themselves justified in accepting it…”

Boswell then went on however;

“..until it should be determined in a court of law.”

Quite obviously the County did not want to be lumbered with a repair bill and they did not wish to take on the responsibility for a bridge when there was someone else legally charged with that responsibility. In addition it was not certain that the County had the legal power to accept the income generated by the Bridge lands.

Serjeant Lens was of the opinion that the county had no responsibility for the bridge;

I am of Opinion that such an occasional interruption arising only from the Cause here suggested which have always been the nature and description of the Passage will not render the Persons liable to the repair subject to any Indictment

2nd I think the Occupier of the adjoining lands may be liable to indictment as for a Public Nuisance if by their neglect to keep open the Channel by sustaining the Banks of their Respective Grounds the encroachment and obstruction complained of have arisen

3rd It is not stated whether the Charity relates to any other or what object or the lands by them – long gap – merely liable to the repair of the Bridge and Road but I know of no order in which such lands can be surrendered to any so as to effectually discharge the Trustees from the obligation

4th If a County be indicted for not repairing as Bridge the Inhabitants will discharge themselves by shewing that the owners of certain lands are liable by tenure thereof and I am not aware of any instances in which the County has been held liable for the – long gap – on any defect of the rents nor is it probable that such a case should have existed considering the corresponding increase in the value of land together with the increased expense of repairing

John Lens Lincoln’s Inn May 13th 1815

Whether or not this opinion was relayed to the feoffees is not known, but if it was they were not put off, for the case continued. Given Serjeant Lens’ opinion the County decided to defend the case. It would be another two years though before the case was held at the Summer assizes of 1817. It has not been possible to find an original account of the trial but Boswell comes to the rescue again. In his account of the trial we learn a little more of the origins of the lands that served to fund the bridge;

“It appeared that the said bridge was an ancient bridge and that John and Robert Eschelling or S Vivonia Eschelling, lady of the manor gave certain lands [not named] situate lying and being within the parish of Okeford Shilling, alias Shillingston and Child Okeford, to certain feoffees or trustees therein named, their heirs and successors, upon trust, and for the purpose of laying out and expending the annual rents in the repairs of this bridge and a certain part of the road and highway at each end therof.”

According to Domesday Alford [as Shillingstone was then known] had been given to a Norman Knight named Schelin. Hutchins saw that it was but a short journey for this name to become, Eskelin, Escheling and via various other linguistic changes, Schilling. Mills does not demur in this assumption.

The earliest mention of Robert and John Escheling is from the reign of Henry II in 1175 so that it is possible that a substantive stone bridge was built around about that time. However the court could not decide if it was they or Vivonia who donated the lands. Her dates are somewhat later first being recorded in 1213. Hutchins has this to say of her;

Viviana [Eschelling], lady of Acford Escheling, in her free widowhood, grants by charter to the monks of Ford free ingress and egress in that manor for buying and carrying hay through her lands.

For the monks of Forde Abbey to come all the way to Shillingston to collect hay emphasises the importance of the crop to the village as well, possibly, to the importance of the bridge in the local economy.

Septimus Smith, a local attorney in Blandford attended the trial and was called as a witness as he was the Steward of the feoffees. Boswell noted that Smith had a copy of the Inquisition of the Commissioners of Charities from 1600, together with various account books. He then makes the comment that “the original grant from John and Robert Eschelling [now with an extra l] cannot be found.” After over six hundred years this can hardly have been a surprise.

What did come as a surprise to the county was that they lost the case. It was to cost them dear; not only in legal fees, £110 [6k] paid to John Tregonwell King one of the county treasurer’s in defending the case but in a sudden and dramatic rise in the cost of the repair of Hayward bridge.

Hayward Bridges

After the court case in 1817 nothing further is heard of the bridge until the Epiphany Sessions held 13th January 1818 when “John Bellamy Carpenter” was paid £286 [£16k] 19 pounds “for work done and materials used in and about a certain Bridge called Hayward Bridge.”

There is no mention of any damage being done but the area floods annually today and there is no reason to suppose it did not flood then and cause the bridge harm. In any event it needed repair and those repairs did not come cheaply.

Another reference in the Quarter Session records from July 1818 refers to Bellamy as “John Bellamy of Winterbourne Whitchurch Builder” and it might be thought that his status was little more than a contractor. In fact he had a long history of involvement with bridges dating back until at least 1805 when he was employed to make a survey of the bridge at Wool and subsequently undertook the repairs there.

In 1819 he is found making a plan of, as well as repairing, Kings Mill bridge in Sturminster and was also employed in that year to make a plan and estimate for the widening of Crawford Bridge in Spetisbury. It is not known precisely what qualifications were needed to be a surveyor of bridges but it is likely that he started life as a mason and builder and through experience on the ground worked his way up.

Bridge repairs were a potentially lucrative business but must also have required a large initial capital outlay. Bellamy received another £102 [£6k] in March 1818 to pay for “Carpenters and Masons work done and performed on the bridge”.

In these early years of the 19th century it seems that the County employed individuals on a bridge by bridge basis; then in 1809 ‘Mr Dyson’ was appointed surveyor. He appears to have been dismissed at some stage although when is not clear and the county seems to have reverted to its old practices employing people in an ad hoc way.

In July 1818 for example they appointed Bellamy as ‘Surveyor on behalf of the said County [Dorset]” to superintend the construction of the “Two Fords” bridge at Lydlinch. The County seems to have had a change of approach as from 1820 he is referred to as the ‘County Surveyor of Bridges’ seeming to indicate a difference in status. By this time he had worked upon several other bridges in the county.

In 1818 however bridge repair was undertaken in a more relaxed way with a number of contractors being employed each submitting their own bills to the Quarter Sessions and apparently without anyone in superintendence. Thus in July of that year Messrs Whitmarsh and Painter were paid £60 [£3k]on account for building a wall at the bridge and William Melmoth £90 [£5k] for making a new road to the bridge.

The escalating costs may have been the reason that the splendidly named Sir John Wyldbore Smith and the Revd. James Dowland, two of the local Justices of the Peace, were appointed to manage the costs of the project. Here we see a pattern all too evident in 19th century local government.

The combination of the Dorset country gentleman and the Dorset country cleric, chosen to undertake a task for which neither had any particular aptitude or training.

The costs of the Hayward bridge repairs in the next decade or so may not be known with accuracy; the published costs for the ensuing years are as follows:

YearCost in yearEquivalent Cost [rounded] in 2017
1818-1819£286 for repairs
£110 for the defence of the indictment
£102 for the plans
1821-1822None recordedNot published
1822-1823None recordedNot published
1823-1824None recordedNot published

This is almost certainly an underestimate as we shall see. A part of the difference may lie with the fact that Wyldbore and Downland [and later magistrates] were given the right to draw sums up to £400 [25k] from the treasurers without reference to the sessions, so it is possible that other sums were spent that were not recorded. In the short term however they were not particularly successful in controlling costs as in October 1818 another £100 [£6k] was paid to Melmoth and another £119 [£7k] to Bellamy.

According to the accounts published in the newspapers of the time another £804 [£46k] was spent on the bridge between 1819 and 1820 but surprisingly there are no entries in the Quarter Sessions records that can be matched to this expenditure.

The next mention of the bridge comes in a notice published in the “Salisbury and Winchester Journal” of 7th February 1820.

Hayward Bridge

Near Sturminster Newton Dorset

The late Floods having considerably damaged this Bridge the public are hereby informed that it is IMPASSABLE and will continue so till further Notice

January 26 1820

Just under a week later an adjourned Sessions of the justices was held when Bellamy was ordered to prepare an estimate and specification for repairs to the bridge which he duly presented to the Quarter Sessions in April.

For his trouble he was paid £55 [£3k] but in a theme that is to recur in this story, his advice was not to be followed. In what amounted to a slap in the face he was ordered;

“to make a Temporary repair of Hayward Bridge for the Accommodation of the Public with as little Delay and at as cheap a manner as possible”

It was not exactly a vote of confidence either for the Wyldbore Smith or Downland who were replaced as superintendents by Henry Seymer and Thomas Bowyer Bower.

Worse still for Bellamy and, as it was to prove later for the County, the Justices decided that;

“Reverend Charles Phelips be requested to make an application to the Magistrates of the County of Somerset to Permit their Surveyor to Examine the Said Bridge and report to the Clerk of the Peace of this County his opinion whether it be most advisable to repair or to rebuild the Same”

The surveyor they approached was George Allen Underwood. Born in 1793 he was just 27 years old and his background is not known. He described himself as Surveyor and Architect and the only other reference to him that I have found comes from 1817 when he was appointed architect to design the ‘Free Church’ in Frome, Somerset. He appears to have been based in Cheltenham.

In 1820 his was probably a new appointment as an advert to repair a bridge in Somerset in 1814 names a different man as County Surveyor.

In any event Underwood undertook what must have been a time consuming journey to Dorset and delivered his report to the adjourned Sessions on 31st May 1820.

What it said is not known but he was asked to prepare plans for the new bridge and at the Midsummer Sessions in July 1820 the County ordered

“the rebuilding of Hayward Bridge on a new Scite [sic] near adjoining to the present scite.”

Mr Underwood was asked to undertake the work and permission was asked of the Somerset Magistrates for him to be released. In fact he was subsequently appointed as County Surveyor of Bridges for Dorset. Mr Bellamy was paid £39 [£2k] in October for his emergency repairs and in the words of Harry Farr Yeatman, Rector at Stock Gaylard and one of the more prominent and active Justices of the Peace, “the county did not employ him any longer.”

The phrasing of the order is rather curious as rebuilding suggests just that; the reconstruction of an existing bridge, whilst, ‘a new scite near adjoining,’ implies a brand new bridge. Adverts for the work were issued and on the 19th August 1820 the result of the tender process was decided;

“The Clerk of the Peace having produced unto this court several tenders which he has received for Building a New Bridge on a scite [sic] contiguous to and within fifty feet of Hayward Bridge”.

From this we can see that this was to be a new bridge set at some distance from the old one. The lucky builder was Thomas Tinney of Kingsdon in Somerset and the contract amount was for £1494 [£86k]. Underwood was appointed to superintend the process and was paid £80 [£5k] ‘for his trouble’. He was to;

“Superintend the Erection of the said Bridge at the Several periods of preparing the materials of putting down the foundation, leaving off the Work at the Commencement of the Winter resuming the Work in the Spring of the year 1821 and once in the intervening period before the Completion of the Work and when Completed in order to Certify the Same.”

The contract did not get off to a good start as in November the Court noted that;

“Thomas Tinney the Contractor for Building Hayward Bridge did not Use the Stone from the Quarry at Melbury according to the Terms of his Contract but used Stone from the Marnhull Quarry”

Mr Underwood was asked to have a word with him but in any case work ceased for the winter and only resumed in the spring when, on the 1st May, the first tranche of money £500 [£29k], was paid to Tinney via Mr Underwood. At the same time the bridge was closed;

“Whereas Hayward Bridge [a County Bridge] situate standing and being upon and over the River Stour within the Parishes of Shillingston and Child Okeford in the County of Dorset Stands indicted for being Ruinous broken and in Decay and that a New Bridge was ORDERED to be be built on a site a Situation contiguous thereto NOTICE IS therefore hereby given that at the General Quarter Session of the Peace held at Sherborne in and for the said County on Tuesday the First day of May instant IT WAS ORDERED by His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace then and there assembled that the said Old Bridge should be taken down and that the Road leading to upon and over the same should be stopped up on the Twentieth day of May next and that no Person or Persons whomsoever can or will be allowed to pass or Travel upon and over the said Old Bridge from and after the said Twentieth day of May until the said New Bridge be Completed.”

Work seems to have proceeded quickly with another £500 [29k] being paid to Tinney in July but then in August 1821 a further problem arose as “the Erection of Hayward Bridge is not conformable to the Plans and Specifications annexed to the Contract of Thomas Tinney”. It is unlikely that Tinney made the changes on his own recognisance and it is probable that Underwood having embarked upon the project had encountered unanticipated difficulties and he had altered the plans but failed to let the Court know. Some pressure must have been applied to Underwood to underwrite the changes as it was;

“ORDERED That the offer of Mr Underwood of entering into a Security for the due performance of the Contract by the said Thomas Tinney be accepted and that the Clerk of the Peace do prepare such Security forthwith”

During the construction of this bridge it was not usual to itemise the expenses incurred, after all the contract was ‘all-inclusive’, but in October 1821 the court made an ad hoc payment of £143 [£8k] for Piling and Planking the Foundation of Hayward Bridge and also erecting a Temporary Foot Bridge.

Progress on the bridge was not proceeding according to plan and the time granted to complete the contract was extended to the midsummer Quarter Sessions in July 1822. Clearly something was wrong with the foundations of the new bridge, so wrong, in fact, that work on the bridge must have continued over the winter as another £132 [£7.5k] was paid for piling in January 1822 and a further £64 [£3.5k] in April.

Their problems were not over. At the Easter [April] Quarter Sessions it was noted that Underwood had had to make an alteration to the guard walls and in July another bill for £16 [£900] was received for piling and Underwood was granted a further extension until the 14th September to complete the work. In August 1821 another problem arose and one which it may be thought could have been anticipated;

“It being reported unto this Court that the Roads within the County Bounds at Hayward Bridge having been Considerably raised to facilitate the Approach to the new Bridge it becomes necessary for the Security of the Public to extend the Railing to a greater length than was required at the old Bridges and as the expense to be incurred by such an extension of the Railing is not included in the Agreement entered into by the Contractor”

Today the sums expended do not seem that great but it must be emphasised again that none of the bridges in Dorset had cost so much to build or repair. Hayward Bridge was a true exception. Not until the 1880’s when a bridge constructed at Weymouth was to incur considerable amounts of money had so much money been spent. The Court was clearly worried and it appointed yet another Justice, The Reverend Harry Farr Yeatman, to the team superintending the construction.

Finally the bridge was completed sometime in September or October 1822 and final payments were made to Thomas Tinney of £114 [£6.5k] and £80 [£5k] to Underwood. Mr Underwood presented the court with “a Certificate as to the Completion of Hayward Bridge agreeably to the Specifications so received” and that seemingly was that. Of course the bills continued to roll in after the bridge was finished and they are of some interest.

There was £61 [£3.5k] to William Short for his men who had been involved in “Extending and Cleansing the River Stour”. £7 [£402] was paid to a local farmer, John Cooper “for the Injury sustained on the Lands on Child Okeford Farm together with loss of Feed of the Lands cut away to widen the River during the building of Hayward Bridge”.

A similar amount was paid to “Messrs Melmoth” for the same reason and it may that it is this cutting away of land, on both the Shillingstone and Child Okeford banks, which accounts for the fact, observable on aerial photographs today, that the river’s immediate approaches to the bridge are considerably wider than the river above or further down the river.

Short was paid another £20 [£1000] for superintending the men “during the easing of the Banks” whilst the men that actually did all this work were not forgotten either; William Stickland was paid £8 [£460] “for Beer delivered to the Several Workmen whilst working in the Water during the building of Hayward Bridge”.

William Melmoth was paid £12 [£700] “for work with his Team20 and also six days Mill Rent for Drawing the Water during the building of Hayward Bridge” from which we learn not only that William Melmoth owned the Mill at Bere Marsh but that he was able, somehow, to reduce the river’s flow, either through the mill race or the main stream of the Stour.

Thomas Woolfrey got £3 [£172] for repairing tools used at the bridge whilst Robert West was paid 18s 6d [£53] for “work done and performed and materials used in repairing the Wheelbarrows of and belonging to the County” together with another £91 [£5k] for erecting a post and railing fence.

Some material remained after the building of the bridge and William Melmoth was paid a pound to take some of it to the Julian Bridge at Wimborne and two pounds to take the remainder to Kings Mill Bridge at Sturminster. Finally £9 [£500] was paid to the Clerk of the Peace Thomas Fox “for respiting [sic] and discharging the Indictment of Hayward Bridge”.

Finally the legal case that was embarked on by the Trustees of Hayward Charity was discharged.

Just under a year passed, the sun may have shone but in the autumn the wind, rain and floods came and without warning the bridge was in trouble again;

“15th November 1823

ORDERED That the Magistrates acting in the Divisions of Sturminster and Shaftesbury do forthwith take Such Measures as they think necessary for the Security of Hayward Bridge and for the Construction of such Land Arches as to prevent as much as possible any future Injury from floods.”

The problem once again seems to have been that the flood water could not escape through the arches of the bridge [we do not know how many bridge arches there were in this newly constructed bridge] and the land arches were to be cut through the road on either side.

Despite the fact it was winter it appears that work must have begun immediately for, in January, a whole host of bills were presented to the Court. Again they are of some interest. A whole range of new contractors were appointed. Robert West was paid £10 [£574] for deal planking and “four Navigators Wheelbarrows including Painting and Iron Work”, Stephen Marsh was paid 15s 6d [£44] for “making two Sounding Rods and Labour repairing two Oars of a Boat; Allen Trowbridge 10 shillings [£28] for the hire of boat; and William Melmoth £3 [£172] for “taking up the railing…and for timber [and] nails” used at the bridge. Joseph Short has replaced William and was paid £29 [£1665] for “55 Loads of Chalk, Carriage and Labour Wheeling Gravel”.

The power to dismiss incompetent employees appears to have been as difficult in the 19th century as it is in the 21st . Dismissal of a ‘gentleman’ would have seriously damaged his reputation and could have been the occasion for legal action. There were other ways of getting rid of unwanted employees however and on the 21st February 1824 the Justices;

“RESOLVED That the Surveyor of the County be required in future to reside within the County and that the Clerk of the Peace be directed to inform Mr Underwood of this Resolution”

Given that Underwood lived in Cheltenham this was unlikely to have been well received and indeed the notice had its desired effect as in the same Sessions it is recorded that he had resigned his post, his severance pay being £49 [£2814]. In the meantime another contractor, John Stone, had been paid £3 [£1895] “for putting Land Arches in the Causeway at Hayward Bridge” whilst Joseph Short was paid £120 [£7k] for the same thing. Meanwhile applications for the post of Surveyor of Bridges in Dorset was advertised and at the Easter Sessions held at Shaston [Shaftesbury] William Evans of Wimborne Minster was elected although curiously he was not appointed until the midsummer Sessions in July.

Little is known of Evans himself but he was to continue in post from 1824 to his death in 1842. His salary was barely a half of that of Dyson, being a meagre £200 [£11k] throughout the whole period, and despite having to take on the responsibility of repairing the Gaol and County Hall at Dorchester. He seems to have been fairly successful in his role.

Evans’ career was reviewed in 1837 by Harry Farr Yeatman when recommending Evans for a salary increase. He contrasted Evans’ abilities with those of Bellamy and Underwood whose “want of skill and due attention on the part of these two officers” had led to the County sustaining immense damage “by the loss of bridges which they had ignorantly or negligently constructed when they had, in some instances, blown up or erected or permitted others to erect with improper materials.”

Yeatman noted that expenditure on bridges under Evans’ supervision had been cut in half from £1543 [£89k] in 1824/5 to £743 [£42k] in 1837. Yeatman, who was no push over, urged the Justices “to do in their corporate and public capacity what they did in their individual capacity and character as private gentlemen and that was to pay an old and faithful servant according to his deserts…”

Yeatman clearly did not understand how gentlemen worked; the local MP cast aspersions on Evans work [without any evidence] and Evans was deprived of his salary by 10 votes to 9. I would like to say that he resigned in disgust – but he didn’t, spending another five years in post and receiving intermittent gratuities from the Court as compensation for his efforts.

After his formal appointment in July 1824 Evans was directed immediately to examine the bridge and prepare a report. The Sessions extended over several days but before they were finished Evans made his report to them suggesting that he had examined the bridge some time before this. It was not good news:

“Report of the State of Hayward Bridge Midsummer Sessions Shaston July 14th 1824

The Foundation of the Cutwater [sic] Pier on the Sturminster side of the Bridge has sunk at the end up the Stream 6 inches and at the end down the Stream 3 ½ inches.

The Abutment and Cutwater Piers on the Child Okeford Side of the Bridge have sunk 2 inches.

The Arch and Guard Wall over it on the Sturminster side have settled considerably.

The Cause of the above Settlements arises from the Insufficient waterways in time of Floods from the Cutwater and Abutment piers not being high enough [They should have been carried four feet higher below the Springing of the Arches commenced] from the vast additional weight caused to bear on the bed of the river in Consequence of the lowness of the Archways and want of Flood Arches and from the Piling and Planking not being sufficient Strength to Support the incumbent weight.

The first Remedy to be applied to prevent if possible any further defects will be to increase the waterways by adding 12 stone Culverin drains of 5 feet diameter each will give 60 feet additional Waterways.

A Bay must be made and the Water pumped out to examine the Cutwater Pier first above alluded to before it can be properly ascertained in what manner the Pier can be thoroughly secured.”

There are some points of interest here. Hutchins it will be recalled described the original bridge has having six or seven arches but this replacement appears to have had only two, with the central, cut water, arch bearing the majority of the weight.

The second point is the remarkable level of accuracy that Evans achieved in measuring the subsidence – down to an accuracy of a half an inch. It does not appear from the report that there was any immediate risk to the bridge and there was no immediate notice closing the bridge.

It is equally clear that the proposals were a stop gap, the flood arches presumably would have to be built through the roadway but in the long term nothing could be decided until the foundations of the cut water pier had been examined.

The Court ordered the recommended repairs to be made and beefed up the committee of justices to superintend the work. Thomas Bowyer Bower, David Okeden, Parry Okeden [sic] Esquires i.e. laymen were appointed together with Harry Farr Yeatman, William Frederick Grove and John Bastard, all of whom were clergymen.

Heavy rains during the winter of 2016 led to the flooding.This however is a regular event.

Ten of the land arches made in 1824 hard at work during the January floods of 2016

Heavy rains during the winter of 2016 led to the flooding.This however is a regular event.

The 1903 bridge beset by water in January 2016. There were more culverins on the

Child Okeford side of the bridge but one can just be seen on the Shillingstone side

Moderate flooding in January 2021

The Court instructed the Clerk to approach Philip Williams, who we must presume to be a barrister, to see if;

“any proceeding can be instituted against the late Surveyor [Underwood] in Order to Compel him to make a Compensation to the County for the Insufficiency of the Work undertaken by him as Surveyor”.

They also wrote to Underwood in what for the time were very strong words;

“I am directed by the Magistrates for the County of Dorset assembled in General Sessions at Shaftesbury in the County of Dorset the 13th day of July 1824 to express their dissatisfaction at the very imperfect and Shameful manner in which you have erected Hayward Bridge”

The Justices were set to meet at the Bridge with Mr Evans on the 21st July and the clerk suggested to Underwood “at which time and place you may attend if you think fit”. He then went on

“And I do give you this further Notice that legal Measures will be resorted to by me [on the behalf of the Inhabitants of the said County] for Compensation from you for negligence and inattention by you as Surveyor in the Execution of such Bridge and for want of due performance of the Contract entered into by Thomas Tinney for the building of Such Bridge for the due performance whereof you gave and executed your Bond to me”

Pleading the shortness of notice and pressure of other work Underwood expressed his regret but then mounted his defence, the underlining is his,

“Had it been in my power to have attended you I should at least have had the satisfaction to proving to you that no attention or expense on my part has been spared to render the work effectual,Substantial and agreeable to the Contract. I employed a Superintendent of the work approved off by the Magistrates and at the cost of upwards of a thousand pounds endeavoured to effect this object under the circumstances I trust Gentleman you will not visit me with your displeasure. With respect to the defect of the want of waterway I will readily admit an increase would have been an improvement but a greater one might be effected by bringing the Water in a more direct line to the Bridge and in all probability had I engaged the confidence of the County Longer I should have done what I have before recommended this measure to be adopted and it might have prevented the injury the bridge has sustained. I cannot close this without again Regretting the impossibility of my not being able to attend you and beg leave to say that I shall be at all times ready to attend any person whom you Shall employ to repair the work and render every assistance in my power”.

After the meeting at the bridge the Clerk wrote to Underwood again informing him that the remedial work to the bridge was to be undertaken and that another meeting was to be held by the Court and Mr Evans on the 11th August at which he was again invited. In the event this was a very tight schedule and when it came to the 11th the matter of the bridge was adjourned to September. Two more Justices were appointed to the committee overseeing the bridge – Sir John Wyldbore Smith [again] and Edward Portman.

On the 4th September 1824 the Court duly reconvened. The Justices were clearly worried about the potential costs they were about to incur for one of the first items on the agenda for the Sessions was the order to borrow £1400 [£80K] from the Blandford bank to meet the next Quarters outgoings.

Mr Evans having completed the work he presented the findings to the court. Unfortunately the contents of this report were not recorded and we cannot be sure that Mr Underwood attended but he had seen the report. The next order of the Court is revealing,

“ORDERED That in Consequence of the Contradictory opinions of Mr Evans and Mr Underwood as to the Stability of Hayward Bridge Mr Giles be requested to make an Official Report as to the state of the Bridge at the ensuing Michaelmas Sessions”

We might assume that Underwood would have pushed for repair and that Evans had pushed for replacement and the result was stale mate. A third surveyor was appointed, Mr Francis Giles, to decide between the two proposals. Virtually nothing is known about this man. We have no idea if he was local or how the Court had found him but in due course [1836] he would become an Engineer to the London and South Western Railway working under the famous George Stephenson.

At this stage Evans was still nominally in charge but he was ordered to work with Giles to make the bridge safe for the coming winter and both men were to prepare proposals for the future of the bridge. One final thing, both men seemed to agree that the bridge had to be taken down and the Court;

“RESOLVED That it is necessary that the Bridge lately erected called Hayward Bridge should be taken down and a new Bridge erected as Soon as the Season will allow of proceeding upon the work”

They ordered that the bridge was to be “taken down immediately for the purpose of saving the Materials and that a Temporary Horse bridge be erected as soon as possible”. So worried were the Justices about the potential cost that planned work on the bridge at Blandford had to be deferred.

At an extraordinary meeting of the Court on 1st December the order to take down the bridge immediately was rescinded and the plans submitted by Mr Giles were adopted;

“ORDERED That the Plan of Mr Giles for Erecting a Bridge consisting of a single Arch of Stone over the Stour on the present site of Hayward Bridge be adopted as the future Bridge and that the Clerk of the Peace do forthwith advertise for Tenders for supplying he Materials and to perform the Work of Rebuilding the Bridge of taking down the present Bridge and for Supplying and putting up the Centering compleat for an Arch of Seventy Five feet span and also for taking down the same when the Bridge is built and taking back the Materials according to the specifications to be prepared by Mr Giles”.

Giles had “Complete Superintendence” of the building of the bridge for which he was paid a fee of £200 [£11k] and the largest ever committee of Justices so far assembled were put in charge.21

What is is interesting about this proposal is the single arch nature of the proposals. The width of the river at the bridge today is [according to the OS map] 63 feet wide and given that it had just been widened by William Short and his beer driven men it was probably not much less wide then. A span of seventy five would have been cutting it close. Giles drew up a full list of materials and an advert placed;

“Persons willing to supply Materials and to perform the Work of RE-BUILDING HAYWARD BRIDGE, according to the following Articles will send their respective Tenders to my Office at Beaminster [postpaid] on or before the 6th day of January next

To deliver at Poole Harbour about 5000 cubic feet of Granite scapelled 22 for arch stones in sizes 3 feet to 4 feet in depth 1 foot 6 inches in face and 2 feet 6 inches to 4 feet in length at per cubic foot

To deliver at Poole Harbour about 6000 cubic feet of Roach Portland scapelled for arch stones in sizes 3 feet to 4 feet in depth 1 foot 6 inches in face and 2 feet 6 inches to 4 feet in length at per cubic foot

To deliver at Hayward Bridge above 100,000 of sound hard and full-sized Bricks at per thousand

To deliver at Hayward Bridge the best Stalbridge or other Lime at per local measure stating what that measure is

To supply and put up the Centering complete for an Arch of 75 feet span also to take it down when the bridge is built and takes back the material. A plan of this may be seen at my office

To perform the Work of taking down the present Bridge, Rebuilding the Face of the Abutments of the new Bridge with the best of the same Materials at per cubic foot and the interior with common stone and brickwork at per rod of 306 cubic feet

To dress and set the Arch Stones as follow-

Of Granite, at per cubic foot.

Of Roach Portland at ditto.

Of Melbury or Dowlton at ditto

To set and dress the remainder of the Superstructure according to the plan and sections at per cubic foot

Plans, sections and specifications of the above may be seen at my Office

Thomas Fox, Deputy Clerk of the Peace, Beaminster 11th December 1824”

By the Epiphany Sessions that began on 11th January 1825 a number of contractors had already been appointed. Edward Painter was to provide some of the stone; Edward Haskell some other part of the stone; and Henry Taylor the Stalbridge flag stone. Thomas Sharp was to pull the old bridge down, Mr J Simmonds was to provide the masons; James Whitemarsh was to build the land arches; and James White paid to bring the wood for the centering from Poole. Finally Thomas Wilkins was to bring the necessary tools and materials from the recently built Charmouth Bridge.

It appears however that somebody had forgotten to order the granite for the quoins to be used at the corners of the various arches. This deficiency was given to Mr Giles to remedy.

As evidenced by a bill for £200 [£11k] payable to Edward Painter for “stone delivered at Hayward Bridge” work must have commenced in the spring but in July came a complete volte face when;

“the Plan of Mr Giles for building a Bridge with One Arch on the Site of Hayward Bridge be repealed and that the Plan was produced by Mr Giles for building a stone Bridge with two Arches on that site be adopted instead”

Meanwhile the legal action against Mr Underwood was still being considered with £17 being spent on counsel’s advice but no firm decision being made. More bills flowed in – another £450 [£26k] to Edward Painter; £98 [£6k] to Robert Lumley for “Machinery” to be used at the bridge; £176 [|£10k] to Francis Giles for specialised surveying machinery and plans; £74 [£4.2k] to James Whitemouth for Masonry work; and so it went on.

By November 1825 it is clear that the Justices had had enough. The court decided that

“the Hayward Bridge Committee formerly appointed be requested to settle their Accounts up to this time and to hand over to the Bridge Committee all Papers and Documents relative thereto with and Monies which may be in their Hands when they Close their accounts”

In true ‘Yes Minister’ style their answer to the problems faced by one committee was to appoint another committee, bigger and better than the last, with twenty two members drawn from across the county. Despite all the stone delivered (another £200 [£11k] worth being delivered in January 1826) it was not until then that the road over the bridge was closed;

“Hayward Bridge

Notice is hereby given – That the ROAD over HAYWARD BRIDGE, county of Dorset will be STOPPED from and after the 7th of February next, in consequence of the said Bridge being under Repair

By order of JOHN BASTARD


There may have been a shortage of labour holding up the process as in May 1826 an advert appeared for Masons wanted at the bridge. Perhaps surprisingly there are no other Quarter session records between April 1826 and April 1827 but this may have been because the newly appointed Bridge Committee had been granted powers to expend money without reference to the Sessions.

On the 24th April 1827 work on the bridge seems to have been completed. A final bill for stone of £117 [£7k] was paid to Edward Painter and Mr Evans was asked to assess the “Machinery of different discriptions [sic]” that had been bought and used at the bridge, to see if it should be disposed of or reused.

Finally, for the saga of the 19th century bridges between Child Okeford and Shillingstone is by now over, a sum of £42 [£2.4k] was paid to Edward Boswell for the “Presentment of Hayward Bridge”. 23

In April 1828 a letter was received from Mr Giles asking for more money for his services in rebuilding the bridge but the “Justices in Session [were] not disposed to comply with his request”.

On November 1st 1829 at his house “in Devonshire Buildings Bath, sincerely beloved and deeply lamented by his relatives and friends George Allen Underwood Esq., architect for and Surveyor for Somerset” died. He was 36 years of age; did the stress of rebuilding Hayward bridge contribute to his death? We shall never know.

The Later [19th century] History of Hayward Bridge

After the appointment of the 22 member ‘Bridge Committee’ the records of the Quarter Sessions become much less interesting. In the later volumes the records merely record that the report of the Bridge committee was read but not what it actually said. After 1827 therefore the fate of the bridge can be gleaned only from sporadic newspaper reports which, ironically, record what was said at the Quarter Sessions.

The next mention of the bridge therefore comes from the Dorsetshire County Chronicle in January 1837. At the Epiphany Quarter Sessions the Revd. Harry Farr Yeatman, Rector of Stock Gaylard, raised the question of Mr Evans’ salary [see above]. In addition to deploring the “want of skill and due attention” on the part of Bellamy and Underwood, Yeatman went on;

“One bridge alone Hayward Bridge having cost the county from these causes upwards of £8060 [£463k] and which bridge even now having been twice erected by these surveyors was in danger of falling a third time from insufficient foundations having been laid under it.”

Without the newspaper account of Yeatman’s statement we would not have known that the bridge was in trouble some nine years after its completion or that the total cost of the two re-buildings amounted to some £8060 [463k] – a fact not known from the accounts that had been published.

Unfortunately the newspaper accounts are not particularly frequent and we have to wait until the next year when the Dorset County Chronicle of the 5th April 1838 gave a summary of the report of the Bridge Committee chairman, the Revd. George Pickard who noted;

“it is necessary to proceed with the repairs to the bridge and causeway of Hayward Bridge, and as the work will be attended with considerable expense, it has occasioned a larger sum [£500] to be placed at the disposal of the Committee.”

On 4th July 1842 George Pickard reported that the county, who were now responsible for 67 bridges, had spent £458 [£28k] in the last quarter on repairing the “County” bridges. Durweston bridge, which had caused almost as much trouble as Hayward Bridge, had cost some £800 [50k] to repair; Longham Bridge was set to cost another £800 [50k]; and Dewlish bridge £120 [7k]. Canford bridge was out of repair and Sturminster and Hayward bridges also required attention before the winter caused further depredations. Unfortunately he does not say how much money needed to be spent on Hayward Bridge – perhaps he was too embarrassed to say!

In 1849 the Bridge Committed reported tha;t

“Hayward Bridge also required something to be done to it as the Surveyor has discovered two shoals in the river by which the cut-water pier was endangered and the embankment on the Childe Okeford side was giving way.”

Apart from these occasional records of the bridge requiring repair, the events surrounding Hayward Bridge caused deep scars in the County psyche and the story grew with the telling. So, for example, when the Chairman of the Bridge committee in 1850, the Revd. G P Cambridge, recounted the tale the amount spent on the bridge had been increased to £10,000 [£574k].

In 1855 there was what we might call a middle class rebellion at the costs the rate payers had to bear. In the course of a public meeting held at Dorchester,

“Mr Manfield criticised the magistrates who “gave little attention to the expense for there was a cant phrase abroad “the county pays”. He remembered some 25 years ago a certain bridge called Hayward Bridge which was constantly out of repair and it caused an enormous expense to the county. First there was an inefficient plan ‘never mind the county pays; draw up another”; then there was an inefficient surveyor and inefficient justices and the cry was still the same”

As another ten years passed without any mention of the bridge things seem to have settled down somewhat but an interesting light is cast on the fate of Lady Hayward Charity.

The Chairman of the Bridge Committee, reporting at the Epiphany Sessions, noted that the “Hayward Bridge trustees had desired him to state that in consequence of the death of their dear friend Mr Ker Seymer and the long absence of Sir Edward Baker [by virtue of illness] they had been unable to hold a meeting of the trustees.”

In other words the charity was still in existence in 1865 and furthermore it appears to have been actively contributing to the repair costs. Mr Edwin Smith, probably a son or grandson of Septimus Smith, reported that;

“The expense of the repairs had been from £3 [£175] to £6 [£350] a year and that there were ample funds to meet this cost….there would be a considerable sum to hand over to the county… The Gross income from the land mentioned was not quite £40 [£2.5k] a year…sometimes they got £30 [£1.75k] and sometimes not so much, for the purposes of the bridge.”

Another report from 1880 seems to indicate a demarcation of responsibility between the county and the trustees over parts of the bridge. Note the comment about the ‘county boundary’;

“A flood arch and the fencing to the roadway over the same outside the county boundary on the north side of Hayward Bridge is out of repair and the county have been requested to repair it as having been erected by the Hayward Bridge Trustees. By Section 183 of standing orders it appears the county are liable to repair.”

The same report also noted that the salary of the Surveyor of Bridges remained at £200 [£13k]. Three years later there were extensive floods across the county which caused considerable damage to numerous bridges but for once Hayward Bridge was not affected.

The End of Lady Hayward Charity

In the 31st July 1884 edition of the Dorset County Chronicle appeared the following notice;

“Charity Commission

In the Matter of the CHARITY known as the “HAYFORD-BRIDGE TRUST” in the Parish of SHILLINGSTONE in the County of Dorset; and in the matter of “The Charitable Trusts Acts 1853-1869”

By direction of the Board of Charity Commissioners for England and Wales, Notice is hereby given, That a proposal has been submitted to them by the Trustees of this Charity for the SALE of the PROPERTY of the CHARITY mentioned in the subjoined Schedule for the sum of £1040 15s 3d [£68,882.55p] ”

The only problem being that nobody had bothered to tell the County, as the record of the Michaelmas Quarter Sessions [16th October 1884] reveals;

“The Clerk of the Peace has reported to your committee [the Bridge committee] that, seeing a notice 24 in the county papers as to the proposed sale of the property forming Lady Hayward Charity…he ascertained particulars of the proposal and communicated with the Chairman of the Quarter Sessions thereon.”

The land concerned consisted of:

“I. A piece of Land and Cottages situate in Bere Marsh in the said Parish of Shillingstone consisting of –

1. A close of Land called “Stiles Mead” or “Bridge Ground” consisting of 4A 3R or thereabouts, and now in the occupation of Mr Cox.

2. Three Cottages with the Gardens adjoining thereto

3. Two Cottages and Gardens at Cuckoo-Bridge now in the occupation of Mrs Lawrence

4. Two Cottages and Gardens, adjoining the last mentioned premises and a Tenement in the occupation of Mrs Wilson


II. A piece of Land containing 20 perches or thereabout, situate in the Parish of Child Okeford in the County of Dorset and now in the occupation of Mr Ker Seymer”

As a consequence of his discovery the Clerk got together with Mr Smith, the clerk to the feoffees, and found that the county had been in receipt of several sums of money over the past twenty years viz;

1866£136 [£7.8k]
1868£50 [£3k]
1869£30 [£2k]
1871£50 [£3k]
1874£75 [£5k]
1878£100 [£6.7k]
1883£100 [£6.7k]
Balance in Hand 1884£60 [£4k]

By the time all deductions for maintenance of the various properties were removed, the average income to the county over the 18 years was £33 [£2k] per annum. It seems that the intention of the feoffees was to sell the land for a fixed price of £1040 [£68,882.55p]. This money would then be handed to the “Official Trustee of Charitable Funds” who would then invest the money, “the interest of which invested produces at 2 ¾ Consols £28 12s showing a loss of county income of say £10 per annum”.

However, as Smith pointed out, the cottages were getting older and their maintenance costs getting greater and that in the circumstances Viscount Portman, for the trustees, and Mr Floyer MP, chairman of the court, felt that it was a good deal. No objection was raised; the lands sold; and the money disappeared into the depths of the Charity Commission. The Dorset History Centre catalogue has records of accounts rendered by the Charity Commission on account of the Hayward Bridge Trust up until 1926. A search of the current Charity Commission does not list any charity of this name.

Finally in our account of the 19th century history of the bridge the following year, 1885, the Chairman of the Bridge Committee asked the Sessions for £30 [£2k] for urgent repairs to Hayward Bridge. He got his money but was told not to make too many ‘Urgent’ requests in the future.

Into the 20th Century

As the years passed references to Hayward Bridge reduce in number and the sources of our knowledge change. We turn to the Minutes of the newly formed Child Okeford Parish Council.

On April 19th 1899 the parish council wrote to the Clerk of the Dorset Council;

“The Parish Council of Child Okeford unanimously agree that Hayward Bridge should be opened for Locomotives as great inconvenience is caused by the present arrangements and as the Bridge is not considered safe it should be made suitable for Locomotive Traffic”

What the response of the County was is not known but on 17th January 1901 a further problem was raised at the monthly parish council meeting;

“A question was brought forward by Councillor J G Brymer as to the narrowness of Haywards Lane. The Clerk was requested to write to the District Councillor and to the Clerk of the County Council as follows. Having regard to the very heavy traffic in Hayward Lane this Council are of the opinion that it is absolutely necessary this Road should be widened.”

The question was raised again at the Annual Parish meeting of the same year,

“A Discussion ensued with respect to Inconvenience experienced by the increased Traffic in Hayward Lane. The lane in question being Exceeding narrow at Certain places. It was agreed that Councillor J G Brymer should have an Interview with the Hon C M Portman respecting the same and if necessary the Clerk of the Parish Council should write to Mr W Fletcher The County Surveyor respecting the Question brought forward.”

This time it appears that something was being done. In July 1901 the minutes make reference to a “Proposed Improvement” plan and incidentally raised the question as to which was the main road through the village:

– the current Hayward Lane which ran around the back of the main street in the village


– what, after the opening of Shillingstone Station on 31st August 1863, later became known as Station Road (although we do not know when).

“A Discussion with reference to The Proposed Improvement of Hayward Lane was resumed and it was resolved that the Clerk be instructed to write to Mr W Fletcher of Wimborne The County Surveyor asking him for an Estimate as soon as he can possibly give one for widening Hayward Lane as discussed by him with Revd J G Brymer also to inform the Council which he considers the Main Road Either by the Road Passing the Union Arms Inn or by the Road Passing Child Okeford House”

The answer to the latter question was “The Council [County] decided that the main Road is that by Miss Denison”. Miss Denison lived at Child Okeford House.

By April 1902 the council agreed that nothing more be said about the road widening as the County Council was discussing “the whole Question with a view to Repairing or Building a New Bridge at the present site of Hayward bridge.”

It is not known when the decision to build a new bridge was made by County but on the 19th June 1903 the Western Gazette carried the following notice,



NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN, that the above Bridge WILL BE CLOSED for both VEHICULAR and PASSENGER TRAFFIC on and from Tuesday the 7th of July 1903 until Further Notice, for RECONSTRUCTION.

A TEMPORARY FOOTBRIDGE will be provided for the use of Pedestrians and the County Council will not object to Light Vehicular Traffic passing over their rented land in the neighbourhood of the Bridge for the purpose of crossing the Stream by the Ancient Ford at the travellers own risk.

Dated, this fifteenth day of June 1903


Clerk of the County Council

The Parish Council wrote to the County Council Works Committee in July,

“The Parish Council of Child Okeford desire to point out that the County Council That the Traffic which passed over Hayward Bridge is greater than that over any Road in the Sturminster Newton Division.

The inconvenience caused by the Temporary absence of this Bridge is therefore very serious and widespread. They therefore strongly urge the County Council to put pressure on the Contractor to Employ a Sufficient Staff of Men and push forward the Erection of the New Bridge with the least possible delay.”

There was not much the County could say to that other than to offer reassurance.

.Another notice published in the Western Gazette of the 24th July 1903 gives a bit more information about the reconstruction.


HAYWARD BRIDGE – This bridge, which forms the connecting link between Shillingstone Station and Childe Okeford with the adjacent villages, having been lately condemned as unsafe for heavy traffic was recently closed to the public. A portion of the field adjoining has been railed off, a temporary wooden bridge has been constructed across the river [Stour] for passengers and light traffic but heavy traffic must pass over the old ford if they care to risk it. Work has been carried on at the ford to render it easily passable. A pathway each side has been smoothed and toned [sic] and the ford itself made firm for the traffic. This closing of the bridge has diverted considerably [sic] the usual heavy traffic ordinarily passing between Child Okeford and the railway station, many employers not caring to face the risk of the ford with their heavy teams. Mr Curtis of Stalbridge has the contract for the bridge to replace the old one.”

The Northern Aspect of the 1903 version of Hayward Bridge.

The new bridge was a complete break with the past. Of all the major bridges between Sturminster and Wimborne, and possibly beyond, it was the only stone bridge to be replaced by a metal one. No doubt there were advantages. An iron bridge, whilst heavy, must have been lighter than a stone one and put less pressure on the central pier. It would also have been easier to widen than an existing stone one and must have been considerably cheaper.

Work did not proceed entirely smoothly,

Western Gazette 21st August 1903


STARTLING ACCIDENT – On Tuesday afternoon a somewhat startling accident happened at Hayward Bridge, near the Railway Station, by which a man named Fudge received some severe injuries and two or three others fortunately escaped with a ducking. The men were engaged in the work of removing the old bridge leading over the water to Child Okeford when without warning, the temporary scaffolding, which had been erected to support one of the arches, collapsed. The men and the large stones fell into the water underneath. In falling, Fudge apparently got squeezed between two blocks of stone. Mr Fletcher jun., of Wimborne who is superintending the work fell in the midst of the debris but fortunately escaped with a shaking. It is understood that the injured man is doing well.”

The southern aspect of Hayward Bridge.
Oddly enough there are no notices of the reopening of the bridge which was remarkably durable. It was to survive 113 years until its replacement in 2016.

The 21st Century Bridge

The following is taken from what I presume to be a press release by the council concerning the need to replace Hayward bridge in 2016.

“Risk assessment calculations for the strength of the deck were carried out in December 1997, and these calculations limited the maximum load capacity of the bridge to 38 tonne vehicles (which itself was substandard). The condition of the bridge has worsened significantly since 1997. A further inspection was completed in August 2013 and the assessment now limits the maximum load capacity of the bridge to 26 tonne vehicles.

A project was undertaken in 2012 to investigate the below water condition of the bridge abutments and central pier, and to complete all repairs needed below the waterline. A temporary dam was installed in two halves, allowing dewatering and the exposure of the river bed and the foundations of the bridge. This project was successfully completed at the end of September 2012.

The south west retaining wall was reported to have ‘failed’ in the 1997 assessment report. In 2010 further movement resulted in a depression and cracks forming in the highway surface. The south west wall is now braced with temporary supports.

An inspection carried out in 2001 noted bank erosion at the base of all of the walls. Current inspections show rotation of all retaining walls of varying degrees of severity. Ties located between the east wing walls appear to be restraining further moment at present, but long term safety needs to be addressed.”

Work on the bridge was announced in a similar notice;

“Hayward Main Bridge replacement 2016

Hayward Main Bridge, which links Child Okeford and Shillingstone in north Dorset, is being replaced this year.

The bridge carries Bere Marsh Road/Hayward Lane over the River Stour and will be closed from Monday 4 April until Friday 14 October while it has a new deck built. Businesses in the area are open as usual.

The bridge is essentially on borrowed time due to the progressive corrosion of its deck and beams , as well as there being other issues:

  • the south west retaining wall was reported to have ‘failed’ in the 1997 assessment report (currently being held up with temporary supports)

  • the existing railings alongside the causeway and across the bridge are lightweight and ornamental in nature. There are no vehicle restraint systems in place on the bridge to prevent vehicles from running off the embankments, or the bridge itself

Work taking place includes:

  • removal of the existing corroded deck and main beams

  • installing new steel beams and concrete bridge deck

  • refurbishing the existing stone masonry abutments and central pier above water level

  • installing new vehicle restraint parapets on the bridge and on around 20m of the approach embankments

  • refurbishing the wing walls/retaining walls. Where necessary the walls will be taken down, a reinforced concrete retaining wall will be installed and the masonry will be re-built to face the new wall

  • keeping the current bridge wrought iron railings and installing them on the approach embankments

The signed diversion will take drivers along Duck Street and onto the A350 to Blandford. Walkers and cyclists will be able to use other foot bridges in the area – one north and one south of Hayward Main Bridge.

Due to the scale of the work, Raymond Brown Ltd will be carrying out the work on behalf of Dorset County Council. This will ensure that essential maintenance to other structures in the county can still be carried out while this £1.5 million major project is underway.”

Latest news – 15 September

The project is progressing well and the scheme remains on programme to be finished by 14 October.

  • the concrete bridge deck has been cast and the shuttering that temporarily supported it has been removed. The temporary falsework, that allowed the deck cantilever to be cast, has also been removed

  • the bridge parapet has been installed and work is underway installing the safety fence on the approaches to the bridge

  • work has started installing the kerbs and highway drainage

  • stonework to the abutment parapets and approach roads remains ongoing and should be complete in the next couple of weeks

  • work to finish over the coming weeks includes waterproofing the bridge deck, installing movement joints and surfacing the approaches and bridge deck

Work to date includes:

  • temporary falsework and permanent formwork installed and steel reinforcement for the concrete deck fixed in place

  • 122 tonnes of concrete poured into this formwork to create the concrete bridge deck

  • masonry parapets built back up using a combination of reclaimed and new stone

  • the south west gravity retaining wall has been built and clad in stone recovered from the old wall

  • the west safety fence foundations have been laid

  • the bearing shelves have been cast, and the bearings have been fabricated and socketed to the concrete shelf

  • the steel beams – which have been manufactured off-site – have been craned into position and bolted together

  • work is now focussing on preparing the formwork for casting the concrete bridge deck

  • works compound set up (for welfare facilities and to store materials)

  • 260 stainless steel anchors put into stonework to support scaffolding

  • scaffolding erected

  • reinforced platform constructed for works crane

  • dismantling and removal of old bridge deck

  • old abutments and central pier broken down (to enable the construction of the new beam supports)

  • casting of new supports

  • original masonry removed and set aside for reuse

  • excavations dug for new vehicle safety fences”

The actual rebuilding of the bridge can be seen on You Tube

On the 14th October 2016, fortunately a fine day, a group of villagers, members of Child Okeford and Shillingstone parish council, the Rector of Child Okeford and the village school met to celebrate the opening of the new bridge. It is the 5th bridge on the site that we know of and so far at £1.5 million the most expensive so far. Who knows how many more Hayward Bridges will there be in the future I wonder?

Villagers on the way to the opening
Blessing (or about to) the new bridge is the Revd. Lydia Cook
Preparing to cut the ribbon, Martin Rudd, chairman of Child Okeford parish council, and Tim Kennard, vice chairman Shillingstone parish council


This research could not have been undertaken without access to the Quarter Sessions records that were digitized by Ancestry on behalf of the Dorset History Centre. Thanks are due to Libraries West who have granted free access from home to Ancestry during the various lockdowns due to the Covid-19 virus.

Thanks to John Davies and Jane Macbeth for copies of originals in their possession of the 1903 Hayward Bridge. All other pictures are by the author.

An especial thanks to David Pope for creating the maps on pages 1 and 11.

Kevin Pearce

Appendix 1 The Court of Quarter Sessions.

Much of the work in this document has been compiled from the records of Dorset’s Quarter Sessions. First established in 1348 they were held every quarter at Epiphany [January] Easter, Midsummer and Michaelmas. They heard some criminal trials before a jury and the records of the outcomes of these are recorded in a ‘Book of Pleas’. They do not concern us here.

A typical Quarter Session was held on the 20th April 1819 . The sessions revolved around the county. This one was held at Sherborne but they were also held at Bridport, Blandford, Shaftesbury [Shaston] and of course Dorchester.

This sessions was held before Thomas Pickard [Chairman] , William Morton Pitt, Edward Berkeley Portman, Francis John Browne, James Frampton , John Herbert Browne, Henry Seymer, John Goodforde, Thomas Bowyer Bower and Charlton Bryan Woolaston all of whom were ‘Esquires’. They sat with Morgan Jones, Samuel How, Harry Farr Yeatman, Francis Gosforth, John Parsons, Edward Walter West and John Bastard who were all ‘clerks’ or clergyman. They were tasked with keeping “the Peace of our Said Lord the King in and for the County aforesaid and also to ear and Determine divers Felonies, Trespasses and other Misdemeanours done and perpetrated in the same County.”

The actions that concern us in this account relate to the civil duties of the Quarter Sessions recorded in what were called ‘Order Books’. These duties included making decisions about:

  • Repairing roads and bridges

  • Stopping up and diversions of highways including footpaths

  • Repairing county buildings, principally the Gaol, County Hall and in Dorset the Bridewell House of Correction in Sherborne.

  • They also prepared what they called ‘Calenders’, what we would call lists, of the prisoners, their punishments and health. Ironically prisoners got more health care than the general population at this time

  • Licencing of lunatic asylums which in 1819 was a private institution located in Halstock

  • Licencing of ale houses [at least until the 1820s.

  • Setting the County rates to pay for all of the above. In the 18th century these were often hypothecated rates. That is to say they were a ‘Bridge rate’, ‘Highway rate’ and so on.

In the 1888 the Local Government Act created County Councils which took on most of these responsibilities and the records of the Quarter Sessions become far less interesting. I wish I could say the records of the County Councils become more interesting but they don’t and as yet have not been digitized any of the Genealogy companies.

Appendix 2.

Transcript of the Indenture of Sale of Bridge lands in Shillingstone ; 1680.

In both transcriptions I have retained the original spelling which quite often differs from the modern equivalent. Likewise the lack of grammar and irregular capitalisation reflect the originals.

“This indenture made the Seventh Day of June in the Two and Thirtyth years of the reign of our Sovereign Lord Charles the Second by the Grace of God of England Scotland France and Ireland King and Defender of the faith and in the years or our Lord God according to the computation of the Church of England One thousand Six hundred and Eighty Between Sir John Morton of Milborne St Andrew in the County of Dorsett Knight Barronett and Robert Coker of Mapowder in the Said County of Dorsett Esq the Surviving ffeoffees of the houses and Lands called Bridge Lands belonging to the Supportation and maintenance of the great Bridge called Hayford also Hayward Bridge with the way leading to the same lying more or less to the Villages and parishes of Shillingston and Childe Okeford in the said County of Dorset of the one parte And Thomas Speke of Iwerne Courtney John Tregonwell of Milton Abbas Robert Seymer of Handford George Ryves of Ranston Thomas Trenchard of Woolton Son and heir of Thomas Trenchard Robert Coker Son & heir apparent of Robert Coker aforesaid Richard Fownes of Steepleton John Trenchard of Lytchett John Ryves of Fivehead Nevell Edward Saintloe of Little Funtmell and Richard Swayne of Tarrant Gunfield in the said County of Dorset Esqs of the other parte Witnesseth that the said John Morton and Robert Coker doo [sic] hereby acknowledge and thereof and therefrom and of and from every part and parcel there of acknowledge exonerate and discharge the said Thomas Speke John Tregonwell Robert Seymer George Ryves Thomas Trenchard Robert Coker Richard Fownes John Trenchard John Ryves Edward Saintloe and Richard Swayne their executors administrators and Assignes by these presents and for divers other good ### and considerations from the said John Morton and Robert Coker thereunto of ##### ##### Have demised granted & bargained and Sold and by these presents doo demise grant bargain with Sell unto the said Thomas Speke John Tregonwell Robert Seymer George Ryves Thomas Trenchard Robert Coker Richard Fownes John Trenchard John Ryves Edward Saintloe and Richard Swayne all that Cottage or dwelling house and orchard a Curtelage with two hamletts or parcells of Land with their appurtenances situate lying and being near Hayford also Hayward Bridge within the parish of Shilling Okeford in the said County of Dorset with pastures of feeding for two Kyne two horses a sow and for same upon the Comon with Marsh there called Beers Marsh and also one Close Called Castwell Situate and being in the parish of Childe Okeford in the Said County of Dorsett which premises sometymes were in the tenure or occupation of William Frenthes Lottie Frenthes and John Frenthes their Assignee or Assigns and now or late in the tenure or occupation of Robert Tilly and Thomas Hiskock their Assignee or Assignes And also one other Cottage lately ### and one parcell of Land to the same adjoyning called Corkwell containing by estimation one acre with its apppurtenances lying in the East Side of the said Common called Beers Marsh within the said parish of Shilling Okeford Sometymes in the possession or occupation of [ blank] Wilkins Widdow and Anthony Galpin or one of them their or one of their Assignee or Assignes and now or late in the tenure or occupation of Joseph Fry his Assignee or Assignes And also one Close of meadow or pasture called Styells mead situate lyeing and being within the said parish of Shilling Okeford and mannor of Beers in the said County of Dorsett heretofore in the occupation of John Fry and Stephen Fry or one of them their or one of their Assignee and Assignes and now or late in the tenure or occupation of Thomas Hiskock aforesaid his Assignee or Assignes And all and Singular the ### #### #### and remainders ### of the premises and of ### parts and parcell thereof And also all other houses Cottages Land and Tenements of them the said John Morton and Robert Coker belonging to the maintenance of the said Bridge called Hayford also Hayward Bridge lying or being in the severall parishes of Childe Okeford Shilling Okeford in Beere Marsh in the said County of Dorsett now or late in the tenure or occupation of Edward Browne Robert Fry Richard Fry and [blank] Soper widdow or any or either of them their or any or other or their Assignee or Assignes and all wayes pathes passages easements profitts emoluments and Commoditys whatsoever to the premieses or to any part thereof belonging or otherwise appertaining or attested reputed or taken every part parcell or member thereof and the #### #### remainder and remainders of all and singular the premises and the rents and Services incident due and belonging to such #### and ### To Have and to hold the said Cottage or Dwelling house and all and Singular other the premises with their appurtenaces and the #### and #### remainder and remainders rents and Services and every part and parcell thereof unto the said Thomas Speke John Tregonwell Robert Seymer George Ryves Thomas Trenchard Robert Coker Richard Fownes John Trenchard John Ryves Edward Saintloe and Richard Swayne their Executors Administrators and assignes from the day of the date these presents for by during and unto the full term of Six whole months from thereto next ending and fully to be completed and ended IN WITNESS thereof the parties aforesaid to these present indentures of interchangeably have set their hands and Seals #####”

Appendix 3.

Transcript of the sale of lands in 1758

This indenture made the thirtieth day of June in the Thirty Second Year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Second by the grace of God of Great Britain France and Ireland King Defender of the faith and so forth and in the Year of our Lord One Thousand seven hundred and fifty eight Between Charles Brune of Plumber in the County of Dorset Esq and Thomas Fownes of Netherington in the County of Wilts Esq Surviving Trustees of the Houses and Lands called Bridg [sic[ Lands appropriated to the Support and Maintenance of the Great Bridge called Hayford otherwise Hayward Bridge upon the Stour and Ways and Avenues leading to and from the same near the Villages or Parishes of Shilling Okeford and Child Okeford in the said County of Dorsett of the one part and George Pitt of Stratfield Saye in the County of Southampton Esq Edward Halter of Stalbridge in the said County of Dorsett Esq George Trenchard of Lytchett Matravers in the same County Esq Julius Berkford of Stepleton in the same County Henry Seymer of Handford in the same county Esq George Chaffin the Younger of Chettle in the same County Esq Thomas Bower of Iwerne Minster of the same County Esq and Richard Bingham of Melcomb in the same County Esq of the other part Witnesseth that the said Charles Brune and Thomas Fownes for and in consideration of the sum of five Shillings cash of Lawfull Money of Great Britain to them in hand at or before the execution of these presents well and truly paid by the said George Pitt Edward halter George Trenchard Julius Berkford Henry Seymer George Chaffin Thomas Bower and Richard Bingham the receipt whereof they the said Charles Brune and Thomas Fownes do hereby acknowledge have and each of them hath Bargained and Sold and by these presents do and each of them Doth Bargain and Sell unto the said George Pitt Edward Halter George Trenchard Julius Berkford Henry Seymer George Chaffin Thomas Bower and Richard Bingham their Executors Administrators and Assigns All Those two Messuages or Dwellinghouses with the Gardens Orchards and Banksides thereunto adjoining and belonging Situate lying and being in Beer Marsh within the Parish of Shilling Okeford aforesaid heretofore in the possession of Joseph Fry and now in the possession use or Occupation of William Fry and Joseph fry Containing in the whole by Estimation three quarters of an acre or thereabouts be it more or less And also all those four other cottages and small gardens to the same severally belonging Situate lying and Being in Beer Marsh aforesaid near a Bridge there called Cuckolds [sic]Bridge one of which is now in the possession of Allen Guy two others in the Possession of Allen Saw### and the other in the possession of Richard Cox and also those Two pieces or parcells of Meadow or pasture lying adjacent to or near unto the new Dwellinghouse of Henry Kaines in Beer Marsh aforesaid called by the name or sign of the Lamb containing by Estimation four acres and three quarters be the same more or less and also all that Close called East Well Situate and being within the parish of Child Okeford aforesaid between the Kings Highway and the River Stower containing by Estimation half an acre more or less and also all that small piece of Land heretofore purchased and Adjacent to the Lands of the Said George Trenchard on the South and the Kings Highway on the North part thereof containing by estimation Thirty poles or perches be the same more or less and Also all that Close of Meadow or Pasture Commonly called or Known by the name of [ left blank] Containing by Estimation Three quarters of an Acre be it more or less which two last inclosed Closes are now in the Possession or Occupation of [Left Blank] Crane in Lieu and Satisfaction for the Damage done to and Sustained by him as Tennant to the Said George Trenchard by Travellers or Passengers to and from the said Bridge during the time of Highwaters together with Common of pasture with Two Cows in the Common of Beer Marsh aforesaid at Such Usual times of the Years as other the Tennants or Inhabitants of the Mannor of Beer Marsh have usually entered upon and Broke up the same Common and also for One Sow and her ### to go and Depasture there as in Ancient time hath been Accustomed And all Ways paths passages Waters Watercourses Trees Woods Underwoods and the Land Ground and Soil thereof Easements Proffits Commoditys and Hereditaments whatsoever to the same Messuage Cottages Closes Lands and Premises belonging or in any wise appertaining or therewithall now or at any time heretofore held occupied or Enjoyed or Adopted reputed deemed Esteemed or taken for or as part parcel and Member thereof and the reversion and reversions remainder and Remainders of all and Singular the same Premises and all unto Duties and Services Incident due or belonging thereunto To Have and to hold the said Messuages Cottages Closes Lands Hereditaments and premises before hereby bargained and sold or mentioned or Intended so to be with their and every of their Rights members and Appurtenances unto the said George Pitt Edward Halter George Trenchard Julius Berkford Henry Seymer George Chaffin Thomas Bower and Richard Bingham their Executors Administrators and Assigns from the day next before the day of the date of those presents for by and during and unto the full End and Term of one whole year from the use next ensuing and Fully to be compleat and ended Yielding and Paying therefore the rent or sum of one Shilling of Lawfull Money of Great Britain on the last day of the said term hereby granted if Lawfully demanded to the intent that by virtue of these presents and of the Statute for Transferring Uses into possession that they the said George Pitt Edward Halter George Trenchard Julius Berkford Henry Seymer George Chaffin Thomas Bower and Richard Bingham may be in Actual Possession of the said premises and thereby enable to take a grant and Release of the Freehold and Inheritance of all and Singular the said premises to them their heirs and assigns forever by Indenture intended to bear date the day next after the day of the date herof In Witness whereof the parties first above named to these present Indentures Interchangeably have set their hands and seals the day and year first above written”


1 Disregarding any temporary bridges erected whilst the main bridge was replaced.

2 “History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset”, Hutchins J., First edition 1774, 3rd edition 1865

3 Nicholas Crane “The Making of the British Landscape”

4 A forest at this time does not indicate a heavily wooded area but an area given over to hunting by the King

5 Probably Shillingstone, given the direction of the perambulation

6 Mills indicates this might be a ‘misprint’. In 1155 today’s Shillingstone was known as Akeford Eskelin

7 PRO – Public Records Office

8 Not mentioned in Mills

9 The townlet of Sturminster stands in a valley and is no great thing, and the building of it is mean i.e. poor quality. There is a very good market. It stands on the left bank of [the] Stour. There is a very fair bridge of 6 arches at the town end made of later times chiefly by the Vicar of Sturminster and the people of Shillingston again [H]eyford bridge on the right bank on the way to Blandford. [H]eyford bridge [is] 2 miles beneath [from or below] Sturminster.

10 Boswell “Civil Divisions of the County of Dorset”, 1833

11 Tanner J R “Tudor Constitutional Documents”, 1922.

12 This is not the bridge by Sturminster Mill on the A357. Kings Mill Bridge crosses the Stour on the road between Marnhull and Warrbridge.

13 Note the absence of the modern ‘e’ at the end of the name.

14 Note there is no punctuation of any kind in the original document.

15 Plural of cow i.e. cattle.

16 Full transcriptions are to be found in the appendix. All spelling and grammar no matter how eccentric is original.

17 See appendix 3

18 This was the Highways act o f 1773.

19 As money will form a large part of the story after this time the modern equivalent sum is given in brackets after the actual payment. There are various methods of calculating the modern equivalents of historic amounts but in this case I have used the National Archives Currency Converter. As the value of money changed during the 19th century it is calculated for the decade nearest that of the actual record. For example £100 was worth £4600 or thereabouts in 1810 but £5700 in 1820. For sums of ten shillings or above I have rounded upwards to the nearest whole pound, for sums lower than ten shillings I have rounded down.

20 Heavy Horses

21 Sir John Wyldbore Smith, Baronet Thomas Horlock Bastard ,James John Farquaharson, Thomas Bowyer Bower, David Okeden ,Parry Okeden ,George Thomson, Jacob Esquires, Harry Farr Yeatman, William Frederick Grove and John Bastard

22 The meaning of scapelled has not been found.

23 This refers to a particular legal device. Broadly speaking an indictment could be brought under common law by anybody whereas a presentment was a statement made by a Magistrate. Thus a commoner could indict a parish for non-repair of a road but a Justice of the Peace seeing the road would make a presentment that the road was in a state of disrepair. The indictment would have to be tried before a Jury whereas a presentment was taken at face value. In this case the presentment appears to be a statement by Boswell to the original court [that had found against the county] that the bridge had been repaired.

24 My underlining.