The beautiful Town Bridge dates from the 13th Century and was widened in 1769. The large tower at the end was known as a 'blind house' and was to lock up for the drunk and disorderly in the 17th Century. The tower replaced a Medieval Chapel.
Barton Grange Farm is a range of Medieval buildings which surround the 14th Century Tithe Barn. This was the Grange of the nuns of Shaftesbury Abbey who had been granted the manor of Bradford by King Ethelred in AD 1001.
Near the entrance to Grange farm you will see the Ancient Packhorse bridge and a network of paths around the Barton Farm Country Park.
There is a great riverside path which leads to the Tithe Barn and Barton Farm Country Park. Along the way you can admire some great affluent riverside properties, ancient bridges and acres of great English Countryside.
The Shambles is a great Medieval street where a meat Market was once held. Nowadays it is awash with pretty half timbered buildings which house some lovely independent shops and cafe's - I can highly recommend the freshly baked produce from the bakery there!
The Tithe Barn is a great old Building and really was the highlight of my visit to Bradford. We took the picturesque riverside path alongside the River Avon which after a short walk will take you to Barton Farm Country Park where the Tithe Barn is situated.
The Barn was built in the early 14th century as part of the medieval farmstead belonging to Shaftesbury Abbey. Its function was to store the produce of the home farm and also the tithes (a tenth of their produce) from the tenant farmers.
The Barn is 168 feet long and is built of stone with a massive, very impressive timber framed roof which spans 33 feet beneath the stone tiles weighing 100 tons. Look out for the great wooden doors and cobbled floors.
The Tithe Barn is being looked after by English Heritage. Admission is free and it is open daily between 10.30am and 4pm - Closed 25th December.
The Saxon Church of St. Laurence is a fabulous ancient building dated from the early 11th Century. It is of national importance as one of the most complete Saxon buildings still in existence.
It is most likely to have been built by the nuns of Shaftesbury Abbey after they acquired the manor of Bradford. At a time of Viking raids along the south coast, it would represent for them an inland refuge and place of safety.
For centuries the Saxon church was lost, hidden behind buildings of various other establishments. It was used in 1715 as an 'ossuary', a skull and bone house, and in the 1800's as a free school for boys. You can still see the blackening on the nave walls from the kitchen fire.
There are some great features inside the Church, original Saxon windows, carved angels and intricate stone carved font. It is also worth noting the great arcading and entrance porch on the exterior of the building.
The Church of St Laurence is still used as a place of worship but is generally open daily between 10am and 4 pm.
The Tourist Information is situated in a great building right next to some pretty riverside gardens. It is a good idea to start your visit to Bradford here. You can pick up some informative leaflets and maps of the town for free. They also have a nice shop selling souvenirs and books.
After our short tour of Bradford-on-Avon, it was time to continue our journey toward Cornwall on this perfect sunny day for a cross-country drive. Not very long after pulling out of town, we crossed the border into Somerset County and almost immediately came across the ruins of Farleigh Castle sitting undisturbed by human life right beside the A366 highway.
I pulled off the road into a small spot marked for tour coaches and we got out to have a look. It turns out that these were the remains of a manor house built in the 1300s and sold to Sir Thomas Hungerford in 1369. Sir Thomas was a skilled lawyer and represented the King in these parts when matters of land succession had to be dealt with. Although he became the first Speaker of the House of Commons, he did get into a bit of a bind by fortifying the place without Royal permission, but received a pardon for this in 1377! The walls still standing in these photographs were built by his son in the early 1400s as he enclosed the original works, with the gatehouse and curtain walls still protecting the interior courtyard. As is often the case with hereditary situations, the Hungerford clan grip on this property came to an end in 1686 after over 300-years in the family. Sir Edward Hungerford had become embroiled on the wrong side in the 1685 Monmouth Rebellion when Protestants in this part of England tried to unseat King James II, the Roman Catholic successor to King Charles II. It was all over in five weeks and it appears that Sir Edward was implicated in the plot. He had to buy his life by giving up the estate and it then fell into ruin and was partially torn down for building materials.
I know how he feels, because we were run off the property too!! Shortly after we began wandering around, a couple of local farmers drove through on their tractor and said they would advise us to move the car out of the way because they were "driving an 'erd of cattle" through the gate in a few minutes time! I would hate to have to explain those damages to Hertz!
It was customary in medieval times to build small chapels on bridges in order to meet the needs of travellers, allowing them to give thanks for arriving safely after what could have been a long and tiring trip. One of these was incorporated into the design of the Bradford Bridge and it is one of only six chapels like this surviving to the present in England. Many of the original chapels were doomed to destruction after the 1547 Act of Dissolution of the Colleges and Chantries (fall-out from King Henry VIII and his battle with the Pope) pensioned off the priests and left the chapels with no 'official' purpose in life. The Bradford Bridge chapel was one of the lucky ones because it was an integral part of the bridge's construction, so it had to be maintained. Rather than leave it empty and useless, the chapel was converted to serve as the town lock-up (jail) where drunkards and others could 'cool their heels'. Atop the structure is a beautiful piece of work called the 'Bradford Gudgeon' (see second photo for a close-up). A 'gudgeon' is a device attached to a surface that allows something else to rotate, in this case it allowed an ancient weather vane topped by a golden fish to 'do its thing'. This attachment to the jail led to the local saying that someone was 'under the fish and over the water', meaning that he was in the lock-up !
It was a frosty but bright Monday morning as we set out on our stroll from the Swan Hotel, in fact the difference between the sunlit parts and the shaded valley bottom made photography a bit difficult, as you can see! The town's name actually derives from Saxon times when there was a 'broad ford' here which allowed people to cross the Avon River. Eventually, in the Norman period, records indicate that sometime in the late 1200s, a stone bridge was built here to make life a little easier. Two of those old spans still exist, with one partially visible to the left of the stone tower in this photo. However, because the original bridge was a single-lane affair without guardrails of any sort, a plaque on the bridge says that construction was undertaken in 1769 to modernize it with a second lane and parapets to prevent passengers from inadvertently falling into the Avon. The stone tower actually started life as a medieval chapel (see next Tip).
The second photo shows the view to the right up the Avon River as we started our walk across the bridge from the Swan Hotel side. We had been somewhere in those narrow streets on the hillside the night before in our search for accommodations!