Whitchurch Bridge is a toll bridge that carries the B471 road over the River Thames in England. It links the villages of Pangbourne in Berkshire, and Whitchurch-on-Thames in Oxfordshire – crossing the river just downstream of Whitchurch Lock. It is one of two remaining private toll bridges across the Thames, the other being Swinford Toll Bridge. The bridge has a weight limit of 7.5 tonnes[n 1] and is a Grade II listed structure.[2][n 2] Its 1792-built, now unrelated, residential toll house is also listed.[3]

Whitchurch Bridge
Whitchurch Bridge as seen from Pangbourne Meadow
Coordinates51°29′12.5″N 1°05′06.5″W / 51.486806°N 1.085139°W / 51.486806; -1.085139
CarriesB471 road & Thames Path
CrossesRiver Thames
LocalePangbourne, West Berkshire / Whitchurch-on-Thames, South Oxfordshire
Maintained byCompany of Proprietors of Whitchurch Bridge (The)
Heritage statusGrade II listed
DesignAtkins, largely to earlier designs
Total length82.1 metres (269 ft)
Width5.18 metres (17.0 ft) plus 1.3-metre footway (pavement)
Height13 feet 7 inches (4.14 m)[1]
No. of spans4
Clearance abovelimited by rail bridge to south at: 11 feet 7 inches (3.53 m)
Clearance below12 feet 7 inches (3.84 m) (at normal high, winter levels)
OpenedNovember 1792, rebuilt to new design opened early 1853, ditto early 1902, re-laid version opened 19 September 2014
Closedfor a few months before re-opening dates listed above
Toll60p for cars
£4 for vehicles of over 3.5 tonnes

The bridge is owned and maintained by The Company of Proprietors of Whitchurch Bridge, who are themselves owned by the General Estates Company, who also own Bathampton Toll Bridge across the River Avon to the east of Bath.[4] Tolls currently range from 60p for cars to £4 for vehicles of over 3.5 tonnes. Pedestrians, cyclists and motorcycles cross for free. A pre-paid multiple-use Bridge Card can be bought that provides cost savings on tolls.[citation needed]

The Thames Path crosses the river on Whitchurch Bridge. In the downstream (easterly) direction the path passes along the southern bank of the Thames through Pangbourne Meadow. In the upstream (westerly) direction it takes a more inland route through Hartslock on the north side of the river.[5]

History edit

A bridge has stood here since 1792 when it replaced a ferry.[6] The structure was renewed in 1852–3, 1902 and most recently in 2014. The original charges ranged from a halfpenny (1480 of a pound) per pedestrian, sheep, lamb, boar, sow or pig to twopence for each wheel of a vehicle and twopence for the drawing animal (though one and a half if an ass), so a 124 of a pound for a horse-drawn four-wheeled vehicle (equivalent to £5 in 2021).[6][7] Horses and persons using the lock for barge hauling were exempt.[7]

Whitchurch Bridge Act 1792
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act for building a Bridge, at or near the Ferry over the River Thames, from Whitchurch in the County of Oxford, to the opposite Shore in the Parish of Pangbourn, in the County of Berks.
Citation32 Geo. 3. c. 97
Royal assent11 June 1792
Status: Current legislation
Whitchurch Bridge Act 1988
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act to modify the Transport Charges &c. (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1954 in its application to the bridge undertaking of the Company of Proprietors of Whitchurch Bridge; to confer other powers on the proprietors and to amend or repeal certain of the local statutory provisions applicable to them; and for other purposes.
Citation1988 c. vi
Royal assent15 March 1988
Status: Current legislation
Text of statute as originally enacted

The Company of Proprietors of Whitchurch Bridge was promoted by a consortium of ten subscribers, and was authorised by the Whitchurch Bridge Act 1792 (32 Geo. 3. c. 97). Under this act, and the Whitchurch Bridge Act 1988, it has a duty to maintain the bridge "forever in good and sufficient repair" and to replace it if it becomes unsafe.[6] In November 2008 the owners' predicted a renewal was vital within a decade and so announced application to the Department for Transport to double the toll for cars to 40p.[8] This met with more local opposition than registered support.[8][9] A public inquiry was held in June 2009 and the toll increase was approved in October 2009; the new toll came into force on 26 October 2009.[10]

From October 2013 a complete reconstruction took place, with new and stronger piling and steel spans. The white lattice iron girders of the 1902 structure were refurbished and incorporated in the design. The contractor was Balfour Beatty, the designer Atkins and the project manager Oxfordshire County Council. During reconstruction the bridge was closed to vehicles, but a temporary footbridge was provided. The project was delayed for several months by exceptional flood flows in the Thames and the new bridge was finally opened on 19 September 2014. A blessing ceremony was conducted five days later by the Bishop of Oxford, during which a 1902 De Dion-Bouton was driven across the bridge, carrying Bridge Company directors and a descendant of one of the original bridge promoters of 1792.[6]

As a result of the delays and consequent overspend on the reconstruction, the company proposed a further toll increase and a public enquiry was held on 19 May 2015. It considered 293 written objections but approved the request to increase tolls to 60p for cars and £4 for vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes, on 12 August. In 2019 it was announced that the Company of Proprietors of Whitchurch Bridge had been sold to the General Estates Company, who previously held a minority stake in the company since the late 1920s.[4][11]

Gallery edit

See also edit

Notes and references edit

Footnotes edit

  1. ^ As does the village to the north
  2. ^ The mainstream, lowest category of listed structure/building.

Citations edit

  1. ^ River Thames Alliance. Bridge heights on the River Thames.
  2. ^ Historic England. "Whitchurch Bridge (1261775)". National Heritage List for England.
  3. ^ Historic England. "The Tollhouse, Whitchurch Bridge, built 1792 (1261743)". National Heritage List for England.
  4. ^ a b "Toll bridge sold for first time since being built in 1792". Henley Standard. 27 February 2019. Archived from the original on 8 July 2022. Retrieved 7 July 2022.
  5. ^ Explorer 159: Reading, Wokingham & Pangbourne (Map). Ordnance Survey. ISBN 9780319243527.
  6. ^ a b c d Owners' website: History at the Wayback Machine (archived 2016-04-05)
  7. ^ a b Owners' website: Whitchurch Bridge Act 1792 transcribed and annotated with headings and headnotes from a manuscript copy by Simon Mumford at the Wayback Machine (archived 2015-01-31)
  8. ^ a b Henley Standard Item on November 2008 toll increase application
  9. ^ BBC News Protest over plans to raise toll
  10. ^ BBC News Toll bridge charge to be doubled
  11. ^ Hyde, Nathan (28 July 2015). "Whitchurch Bridge 50 per cent toll increase approved". getreading. Trinity Mirror Southern. Retrieved 22 December 2015.

External links edit

Next bridge upstream River Thames Next bridge downstream
Gatehampton Railway Bridge (railway) Whitchurch Bridge
Grid reference SU636768
Reading Festival Bridge (intermittently present)
Caversham Bridge (road)
Next bridge upstream Thames Path Next bridge downstream
northern bank
Goring and Streatley Bridge
Whitchurch Bridge
Grid reference SU6361676833
southern bank
Sonning Bridge