POINTHORNE FARM, STONEYWAY CLAPPER BRIDGE
Author: Winston Hollins, Stoke-on-Trent Museum Archaeological Society
The clapper bridge lies on the footpath which runs in an approximately North East to South West direction from Pointhorne Farm to The Homestead. It is about 150 metres North of the Hollington to Rocester road. It crosses the Croxden Brook.
Although about half the bridge is lost the full structure can be suggested from what remains. The foundation of the bridge consists of stone slabs laid end to end and side by side. We believe this was originally a ford, the bridge being built using the ford stones as footings.
It probably had 5 shearwaters consisting of slabs of stone laid end to end. Originally probably only two layers of stone were required giving a total height of about 70 cm.
Across these, rough hewn sand stones were laid. These were approximately 1 metre long, 35 cm wide and 25 cm deep (see below for break down of stone sizes). The end of the stones are not square, and this may have been deliberate. About 10 to 12 of these stones were laid side by side to give a total bridge width of over 4 mteres. This produced a crossing which is within 2 cm of being level. It is clear that many repairs have been carried out on the bridge in the past using different stone (including a stone field drain outlet). The whole is of dry stone construction.
It is possible that there was a small parapet on each side (one side still shows one, although it is held in position by concrete and it is not clear if it is an original feature). It is also possible that the surface was covered with pea gravel.
The approaches to the bridge are also of interest. On the North side the approach widens to 8 metres in a length of 8 metres. The edging is of carefully laid dressed stone (it is mortared in places but this is probably a fairly recent repair). The sizes of the dressed stone is very variable. The main surface of the approaches is made of stone debris upto 30 cm across. This approach is approximately horizontal. Drainage channels were built to pass under the approach. Their exit holes can be seen in the dressed stone of the edging.
On the South side of the stream the approach widens in a similar fashion but seems to be built of irregular stone and again surfaced with stone debris. Here the approach falls quite steeply (1 in 10). The start of the approach is very close to the drain believed to be dug (or redug) in 1370. Before the bridge was built it would have been very steep indeed getting down to the ford. The suggestion is that digging the drain (to extend the water meadows) would have made the ford impractical by steepening the approach, and this could eventually have led to the building of the bridge.
Sizes of stones:
1. Clapper stones:
The sizes of the bridging stones vary, and three distinct groups were recognised by their varying lengths:
FIRST GROUP: 100 cm long, 40 cm wide, 30 cm deep;
SECOND GROUP: 90 cm long, 24-35 cm wide, 30 cm deep;
THIRD GROUP: 75-80 cm long, 23-30 cm wide, 22-25 cm deep.
2. Shearwater stones:
Length 26-70 cm, width 32-42 cm, thickness 8-40 cm.
These vary tremendously, probably because they have been replaced when damage to the bridge was repaired. It also looks like, in places, an extra layer of stone has been added when the base stones subsided.
3. Base stones (probably these stones originally were the surface of a ford):
Length 26-70 cm, width 22-35 cm, thickness 8-30 cm.
The following is an extract from the Croxden Chronicles:
“The ditches were renewed in 1370 from WYLKEN WAY beginning near the corner of the abbey wall as far as WETH’nBALGH and then brought as far as LONGHADLOND and then from LONGHADLOND as far as head of LEBAY-CHECKLEY and from said head nearly to the ford in the road which is called STONEY WAY between our territory and that of Rocester. The distance amounted to 280 perches; each perch costing four pence, the ditches cost seven marks in all (i.e. 93/4).”
1 perch is 5 and a half yards. The total distance is 1540 yards.
This statement could suggest that the clapper bridge lay on the stoney way. It is possible that the distance of 1540 yards places the clapper bridge in the correct position. Some investigation into this will be done.
Members of Stoke-on-Trent Museum Archaeological Society took on the task of clearing and recording the clapper bridge with the help and encouragement of Mr. and Mrs. C. Hall and their family, who farm the Pointhorne farm. This took six Sundays from April to June 2005.
Jeremy Milln (an archaeologist with the National Trust) kindly visited the site and made the following statement about it:
“The bridge is a scarce survivor of a type of construction known as far back as the Bronze Age. Its ‘clapper’ stones are quarried blocks spanning closely spaced shearwaters, entirely, so it seems, of ‘drystone’ construction. It is marvellous as an essay in local vernacular; its stone of the local Hollington, and its creation that of local labour.”
Clapper Bridge - From Wikipedia.
Monument Class Description - Clapper Bridges - General description, dates and suggested interpretation from English Heritage.
Stoke-on-Trent Museum Archaeological Society, September 2006.