Bicknell’s Bridge, Somerset, England

Bicknell’s Bridge, Somerset, England

Bicknell’s bridge, formerly Bickling bridge, carries the road from Huish village to Muchelney in an area of Somerset defined by Taunton and Bridgwater, the seats of two major lines of the Bicknell family since about the 12th century (see maps). The bridge was built by the Turnpike Trust in 1829 to replace a footbridge. It carries a minor road over the River Yeo (also called the Parrett).

Who can tell us more about the bridge and why it carries our name?

I read in Wiki “Following a meeting with representatives from the Dorset and Somerset Canal, which was part of a grand scheme to link the Bristol Channel to the English Channel, a number of local businessmen obtained an Act of Parliament on 22 June 1795, which made provision for improving the river between Ilchester and Bicknell Bridge, just to the south east of Langport, and then cutting through the town along the course of the Portlake Rhine, which was then a drain, and rejoining the River Parrett below Langport lock. The act allowed the proprietors to raise £6,000 by issuing shares, and a further £2,000 in loans, if required.

“Around three quarters of the share capital had been promised before the act was obtained, and so work commenced immediately. The plans involved widening the Portlake Rhine, building a lock close to the Little Bow bridge, near the centre of the town, and making a cut to join the River Parrett again near Bicknell’s Bridge, which would include two more locks. A further four locks were to be constructed between there and Ilchester. The engineer was a local man called Josiah Easton, and good progress was made in the first six months at the Langport end of the scheme, but costs were escalating, and by October 1796, the scheme was in difficulty. The £6,000 of share capital had all been spent, but little work had been done on removing shoals from the river towards Ilchester. In 1797, outstanding debts were cleared and the scheme was effectively abandoned.

“Today, little remains of the navigation of the river. The course of the Portlake Rhine and the channel from Bicknell’s Bridge to Little Bow bridge can be made out in the landscape, but navigation on the Parrett as a whole has largely ceased because the locks have been replaced by sluices.”

Other references: 1. British History Online compid=66482. 2. Somerset Roads the Legacy of the Turnpikes – Western Division – J B Bentley & B J Murless

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