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Eynsham Parish Council

Swinford Bridge

Swinford Bridge

View Slideshow >>

Swine-ford, ferry and bridge 1299-2010. Image © Peter Emery. The following notes and images draw heavily on a presentation by Fred W Wright, MA, DM, FRCP, resident of Eynsham since 1963 and attendee at toll bridge inquiries in 1983 and 1994. Please note, what follows is not necessarily endorsed by Eynsham Parish Council.

SWYNFORD BRIDGE is in the parish of Cumnor and the Vale of White Horse; it was transferred from Berkshire to Oxfordshire in 1974.

  • 1299 the ferry was recognised as belonging to the abbot of Abingdon; from then on Eynsham Abbey paid bread (perslofs) and beer to the ferryman while the abbot of Abingdon paid 1s/ year for use of the Eynsham river bank - Eynsham Record 4 (1987) pages 11-14).
  • Following dissolution of the abbeys in 1538, the Vicar of Cumnor asserted his rights over the river and held an annual beating of the bounds to collect his dues - Eynsham Record 10 (1993) pages 34-5.
  • In 1636 £800 of treasury ‘ship’ money was lost in crossing the river and 3 or 4 Welsh sheriffs were drowned when the ferry boat capsized.
  • In 1752 papers in the Wastie Family collection refer to a wooden ‘toll bridge’ at Swinford belonging to the Goodenough family, built by Thomas Keen of Hanborough, which "did not last". This may however, have bridged the Limb and Chil brooks by Eynsham Wharf and the Talbot Inn.
  • In 1764 John Wesley nearly drowned in crossing the ford, when his horse stumbled on the causeway then wholly submerged to a considerable depth.
  • 1765 Willoughby Bertie, Earl of Abingdon acquired the ferry and land on either side of the river for approximately £10,000. In the same year “... the good Earl thought he would make the passage of (George III)’s carriage easier across the ferry … In fact the ferry got stuck, and the Royal Coach went into the River and the King got very wet.” (Neill Marten MP for Banbury, 18 March 1962)
  • schedule of charges at Swinford Bridge1767 Swynford Bridge Act. The bridge was constructed by John Townsend and opened on 4 August 1769, with an adjacent Inn designed by Sir Robert Taylor. For a slide showing tolls including every horse, gelding, mare, mule or ass, etc ... click on the link View Slideshow >> above
  • In 1774 the bridge was damaged by floods - the worst in living memory! Tolls failed to raise the predicted sums, the earl of Abingdon went bankrupt and the inn became derelict. Its base is now incorporated in the two cottages on the site.
  • In 1835 tolls for pedestrians were abolished.
  • On decimalisation in 1971 the charge for cars and lorries under 6 tonnes became 2p. Pedal cyclists were excused a fee (previously ½d) and motorcyclists 1p - usually not collected.
  • In 1979 ownership of the bridge passed to Ronald Hole, a retired BBC TV producer, and his wife Joyce. The structure had been falling into disrepair, particularly from acid rain damaging the stone, and the estimate from Joslins of Long Hanborough was £273,809.
  • In 1981 Mr and Mrs Michael Cox bought the bridge for £100,000. To finance the loan and to provide for repairs they increased the toll for cars to 10p but were forced to reduce it again after a High Court writ by Oxfordshire CC. Further attempts ended with an Inquiry at Witney in March 1983, when the Inspector commented “I find it unsatisfactory that the owners are permitted to repair the bridge but are not required to do so.”
  • In 1985 the bridge was placed on the market at about £275,000 and advertised by Humberts as “AN HISTORIC TOLL BRIDGE REPRESENTING A UNIQUE TAX SHELTER, FREE OF ALL CAPITAL TAXATION AND PRODUCING A SUBSTANTIAL INCOME NOT ASSESSABLE FOR ANY INCOME TAX.” It was purchased by Mrs Mary G Smith of Tiddington, who also owned the toll bridge at Whitney on Wye with a car toll of 50p.
  • A further Inquiry, requested by the new owner, was held in April 1994. At Fred Wright’s suggestion, it was agreed that a toll increase of 3p should be allocated to cover repairs and OCC should monitor the funds. Repairs to the stonework etc. are shown in the slides; the toll is probably still the lowest in the country - read more >>
  • The booth for toll collectors was also erected in the 1990’s, after some were run down and injured by motorists - it is now reinforced at both ends with thick steel bars! And remains a popular spot for charity collections on bank holidays, as you will see in the slides.
  • On 3 December 2009 the bridge was sold by auction for £1,08m to an as yet unknown buyer. Problems may yet remain regarding the accounts for expenses, ‘operating surpluses’ and returns on capital made since 2003 and especially the 2p (general) and 3p (repair) accounts which should have been separate but are only shown as such in 2008-2009.
  • In September 2010 carriageway repairs on Oxford Road and the toll bridge involved lengthy diversions and shuttle services - read more >>


PRE-1994 TOLL
POST-1994 TOLL
1
Motor cycle, with or without sidecar
1p
Motor cycle, with or without sidecar
2p
2
Car, goods vehicle not exceeding 6 tonnes gross weight, minibus, trailer
2p
Car, goods vehicle with 2 axles, minibus, trailer
5p
3
Single deck bus
5p
Single deck bus
12p
4
Double deck bus
12p
Double deck bus
20p
5
Goods vehicle exceeding 6 tonnes gross weight
2p
Goods vehicle with more than 2 axles
Plus for each 2 tonnes gross weight in excess of 6 tonnes
2p
- per axle
10p

FURTHER READING

  • Andrews-richard
    Photo: Brian Atkins 24/05/1992

    Re-enacting a ritual described by Benjamin Buckler in 1759 to assert Cumnor's ownership of the full river breadth. The occasion required a substitute ferry-boat and ferry-man, both having become redundant when the bridge was built.

    Here the 'ferry' is returning to the Cumnor bank, with the 'ferryman', two parishioners and Revd ND Durand who is holding an Eynsham reed and Swinford Bridge in the background. Report and image from Eynsham Record 10 (1993) page 34-35.

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    From inception to achivement - opened in 1769.

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    From Samuel Ireland's Picturesque Views on the River Thames 1792. The inn designed by Sir Robert Taylor was intended as a staging post for coaches.

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    Photo: Oxford Mail 

    You still had to pay for every crossing, even in the old days.

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    For every carriage whatsoever with 4 wheels, 4 pence ...

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    The toll for cars was increased from 4d to 5d in 1955 under the Locomotive Act of 1861 - the engine being a substitute for the horse.

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    Photo: Packer 1910- 

    Oxford Road; Eynsham toll gate with bus looking west; image © Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive

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    The toll collector shown here was David Woodward of Eynsham; a booth for toll collectors was not erected until the 1990s.

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    November 1995: pensioner Charlie Siret is angry about the toll. Complaints were reported in the New York Times as early as 1969.

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    the bridge was falling into considerable disrepair, particularly from acid rain damaging the stonework

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    Photo: Sue Chapman 

    Date: mid-1990s? with the booth for toll collectors already in place.

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    in this case, for a new Village Hall. Charity collections, held on most public holidays, are generously supported.

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    Photo: Eynsham Online 01/03/2010

    Stonemasons Joslins return to fix another section.

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    Photo: Eynsham Online 12/09/2010

    this time to the road surface only