Monnow Bridge - History and Facts | History Hit

Monnow Bridge

Monmouth, Wales, United Kingdom

Monnow Bridge is a 13th century fortified bridge and the only one in Britain whose gate tower still stands in place.

Peta Stamper

26 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Monnow Bridge

Monnow Bridge in Wales is a 13th century fortified bridge and the only one in Britain whose gate tower still stands in place. A picturesque stone construction with three archways over the River Monnow, Monnow Bridge can be dated back to 1272, while the tower was built later sometime between 1297 and 1315. Today, pedestrians can walk along Monnow Bridge although the tower is not open to the public.

Monnow Bridge history

Monmouth was a significant Roman settlement, the site of Blestium border fort and a centre for ironwork. While the Romans may have built a bridge over the River Wye it was not until the Norman invasion that the Monnow had a permanent crossing. Norman lord William FitzOsbern built a castle nearby where the rivers met around 1070.

In the 12th century a wooden bridge was constructed – discovered during archaeological work in the 1980s – from trees cut down between 1123 and 1169. This bridge was possibly damaged during the 1233 Battle of Monmouth between supporters Henry II and Richard Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. Although the specific site of the battle is debated among historians.

Monnow’s stone bridge was completed around the late 13th century in a period of increased bridge-building as international trade began to flourish. The gatehouse atop the bridge, known as Monnow Gate, was constructed shortly after the bridge in the late 13th or early 14th century. The gatehouse was the result of a medieval tax or ‘murage’ raised by Edward I to provide funds to fortify Monmouth for his nephew, Henry of Lancaster.

The arch gate formed part of the city walls and as such was built with machicolations: defensive balconies with open floors that allowed defenders to drop stones on attackers. The gate’s second purpose was to collect tolls from those going to market.

During the English Civil War the town changes hands between the Royalists and Parliamentarian forces and by 1705 the bridge and gatehouse were in need of repair. The building turned into a dwelling while retaining its commercial role in monitoring trade. By the 19th century, the gatehouse had been abandoned and has remained largely unchanged since 1832 when the gatehouse roof was reconstructed.

Monnow Bridge today

Today, Monnow Bridge and its gatehouse are owned by Monmouthshire Council Council. The bridge is open to public access 1 day a week, allowing you to walk underneath the gatehouse and over the 35 metre-long medieval bridge that traces back to Monmouth’s Roman history.

As you do so, you will notice that the bridge is made of different types of stone – 7 in total. Also note the arrow slits in the gatehouse tower, testifying to the bridge’s purpose as fortification.

Getting to Monnow Bridge

Monnow Bridge is located just off the A40, a 45 minute drive north via the A449 from Cardiff. There is nearby car parking at Rockfield Road Carpark, a 5 minute walk from the bridge turning left at the roundabouts.

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