camera icon, links to background image information
Banburyshire’s Ancient Sites:

The Cherwell Bridge, Banbury Lane

Many people don’t know it’s there: A Medieval stone bridge; buried beneath a Victorian brick bridge; that most travel over every day without a thought. It is one of the oldest standing structures in the town, and directly related to the story of the town’s historic development.

Banbury Lane Bridge (image 1), 3rd September 2012
A Medieval stone bridge, buried beneath a Victorian brick bridge, 3rd September 2012.

The Medieval bridge over the River Cherwell marks an ancient border, spanning Iron Age tribes, Medieval Kingdoms, and modern local authorities. It marks the point where an ancient East-West cross country route – from The Wash, to the Cotswold Escarpment overlooking the River Severn

Running through the town from here, ‘The Cotswold Ridgeway’ traces a line West across the hills to The Cotswolds; in the opposite direction, ‘Banbury Lane’ crosses the rolling hills to the crossing of the River Nene in Northampton, intersecting the ancient routes to the east coast.

This small section of what was once a much larger bridge (two of original seven arches remain) shows the important that this route had in Medieval times.

Summary for ‘The Cherwell Bridge, Banbury Lane’:

Location: Bridge Street, Banbury

Classification: ‘Medieval’.

Condition: Two of the original seven Medieval arches of the bridge remain, buried beneath a large Victorian bridge carrying the modern road.

Access: In a public park, but accessing the bridge is hazardous due to the deep mud and broken bottles/litter in the Millstream.

OS Grid Ref.: SP460405

Further information:

Walks posts or videos for this site:

This road is ‘old’. Perhaps prehistoric, by the early Medieval is was a major route running east to west across what was still not yet ‘England’. with the coming of the Danes, the Cherwell valley marked the frontier of ‘The Danelaw’ – a reality that Banbury is a Saxon town but with a Danish style triangular rather than square market place (one corner of which runs down to this bridge).

In effect, Banbury was created in the Twelfth Century by the Bishop of Lincoln as a ‘business park’ (some things, it seem, never change) – an independent borough outside of the normal feudal order. In the Thirteenth Century, the Bishop paid for this bridge to be erected in order to make crossing the floodplain of the River Cherwell easier.

That bridge remained in place until 1850. Then the Great Western Railway demolished five of the seven arches, and erected a brick bridge over the top of the Medieval structure to accommodate the much wider road that exists today.

Though the stone arches are impressive, getting close is dangerous. From when I played under there as a kid, the Millstream has silted-up, and the deep mud contains cans and broken glass. For that reason it’s best to look from a distance rather than get up-close. Much of the water in the Millstream at this point consists of the flow from the old town’s storm sewer – which does add a certain fragrance after heavy rain.

The Medieval Cherwell bridge is the oldest standing structure in the town, and yet few people realise its there. It’s a monument not only to the foundation of the modern town, but also the the changing priorities of modern England as ancient east-west routes declines when London became the centre of gravity for the nation after the Fifteenth Century.

The Free Range Network logo
Creative Commons CC-BY-SA-NC logo