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This is part of a document of 1811, levying a special rate on a list of properties in Thelbridge, East Worlington, Woolfardisworthy and Drayford, for the repair of Drayford and East Worlington bridges.

The Drayford properties charged were:

Thomas Partridge for part of Stuckleys 1s 3d three farthings
John Vicary for part of Stuckleys 10d
Thomas Partridge for Trixes 4d one farthing
William Nichols for Warrens 4d one farthing
William Nichols for Mays and Cobleys 6d one farthing
Susan Carnall for part of Stockham 6d halfpenny
William White for Drayford Mills 5d one farthing
4s 4d one farthing

Thos Partridge and Wm Bennett - Tythingmen
October ye 16th 1811
Allowed by us J B Karslake and ?

The Tythingmen were Parish Officers appointed by the Manor Court to carry out a range of responsibilities. The above list were only responsible for Drayford Bridge, together with the occupant of Rock (in East Worlington parish).

By the year 1900 the old narrow bridge at Drayford had served its purpose for centuries. It is marked on Donne's Map of Devon in 1765, and is likely to have existed long before that. It lies at the junction of the parishes of Witheridge and East Worlington, and is on the most direct route from South Molton to Exeter, known in those days as "The Great Road to Exeter". It became a Turnpike Road in 1759, but nothing was done to widen the bridge, and most wheeled traffic had to use the ford beside it. But at the start of the 20th century steam and internal combustion engines were changing transport, and there were those who thought Drayford should have a modern bridge, particularly since a new one had just been built at West Worlington. There were others who saw motor vehicles as merely a passing fashion, and believed that anything on two wheels should continue to use the ford.

At a meeting of the South Molton Rural District Council on November 15th 1913 a letter was read from the County Council asking for a meeting about Drayford Bridge. Councillor Thorne was sarcastic: "Some years ago the County Council talked of spending £1600 on this bridge, but nobody would have anything to do with it. In that was too much then, why spend £2000 now? The water is no higher than it was before. They had a new surveyor and they want a fantastical bridge. We could build one cheaper".

The District rejected the County's plan as it made no arrangement to deal with the water of the Adworthy Brook, which flowed across the road at the bottom of the village. Eventually the County agreed to deal with the brook and the river, and to restrict the bridge width to 12ft as the District requested, and offered £1000 towards the cost on condition that the District built it. As it was a County road this annoyed local councillors, who did not like the tone of the County's letters. On being asked what traffic was to do while the bridge was being built, the County had replied, "traffic must go some other way", and one local councillor had suggested "take it across in an aeroplane".

In March the District were told that they would have to build the bridge and that they would not get a penny of the County's money until the work was completed. The District Councillors were furious and refused, demanding that the County pay the grant by instalments on receipt of surveyor's certificates of completion of stages of work. The County said they never paid by instalments, but suddenly gave way and on April 4th 1914 agreed. Plans were accepted on May 20th and the Agreement was signed in June. The lowest of three tenders was accepted, the figure of £1212 3s 8d submitted by Messrs Fothergill Bros, Exeter. The District had tried to buy Coombe Quarry but without success, and the owner, Mr G Cutcliffe of Coombe House, agreed to sell 450 yards of stone to the Council for the bridge at six pence a yard.

The final agreement was signed on July 4th and it was expected that the bridge would be quickly built. An inscribed stone was made ready (to be seen on the downstream parapet):

However, the outbreak of war in the first week of August threw their plans into disarray. By the autumn, 12 of Fothergill's men had left on military service, and wartime rail congestion was blamed for the London and South Western Railway's delays in delivering materials. But by mid March the job was done and on March 20th 1915 the contractor's final account was paid, with a saving on the contract price of £100 due to the discovery of a bed of rock requiring less concrete.

On April 3rd the South Molton Gazette reported: New Bridge at Drayford - Opening Ceremony.

"On Monday 29th March 1915 a new bridge, erected over the river at Drayford, between Witheridge and Worlington was formally opened by Mrs Sanders, wife of Mr James Sanders, County Councillor and J P of South Molton, in the presence of a large gathering. The new bridge is a handsome structure of stone, with brick arches and coigns of Dartmoor granite. Begun last July the work was carried out by Messrs Fothergill Bros of Exeter, and in spite of the delay by men leaving their work to join the Colours, the Contract was completed within a month of the specified time. A procession marshalled by Acting Superintendent Newberry passed over the bridge, and, removing an ornamental rope, Mrs Sanders formally declared it open to the public. The structure was "christened" by dashing a bottle of champagne against the centre of one of the parapet walls. School children who took part in the procession led in singing the National Anthem. Cheers were give for the King and also for Mrs Sanders. Photographs of the ceremony were taken by Messrs Chandler and Co of Exeter. As the school children left they were presented with oranges. A large company was afterwards entertained to luncheon at Town Farm, the residence of Mr Smyth, Chairman of the Rural District Council".

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Last Edited 05/08/2006    Copyright © 2000-2006 Witheridge

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