skip to Main Content

Discover the Historic Market Town of Wadebridge

Nestled a little inland at the furthest reaches of the tidal Camel estuary and sheltered from the wilds of the north coast is the historic town of Wadebridge. This bustling little market town is often overlooked by visitors and locals alike, making it an ideal place to explore away from the crowds!

Just a few miles from Padstow, and easy to reach at the end of the Camel Trail, Wadebridge remains a friendly town almost untouched by tourism. It first became a market town more than 700 years ago in 1313 and takes its name from the Old English ‘wad’ meaning ‘ford’ with the bridge part of the name being added later.

Wadebridge is bursting with independent, family-run shops, many of which have been there for generations – from The Wadebridge Bookshop, that opened over 30 years ago, to the butcher shop, Williams’, established in 1967, the Bakery, Malcolm Barnecutt’s opened in 1930 and Victoria Antiques, also opened over 35 years ago.

The finest bridge in Cornwall

The town is perhaps most famous as the home of the Royal Cornwall Show, held here each year in June, but its other main attraction, beyond the busy high street, is its magnificent bridge. This ancient 15th century bridge spans the River Camel in 13 elegant arches and is considered the finest bridge in Cornwall.

Built between 1461 and 1475 construction was organised by the then vicar of Egloshayle, John Lovybond, who raised funds from local landowners and opened a new quarry to supply the necessary stone. The bridge was constructed to replace a very unsatisfactory ford and ferry that John Leland, King Henry VIII’s surveyor, noted as being a “great jeopardy” to horses. Amazingly local legend has it that the bridge was supported on bales of wool which were sunk into the deep mud of the riverbed to stabilise the foundations. However, it seems likely that this story comes from the fact that much of the money raised for its construction came from taxes levied on wool passing through the town.

Since its completion the bridge has been at the heart of events in Wadebridge, a witness to history. When the Catholic priest, Cuthbert Mayne, was hung, drawn and quartered at Launceston in 1577, one of the quarters of his body was displayed on the bridge. During the Civil War Oliver Cromwell visited Wadebridge in 1646 and held the bridge with his troops.

When it was first built the bridge stretched some 17 spans but was only 9ft wide and in July 1845 the wagons of Wombwell’s Travelling Menagerie of Wild Beasts, which included lions and tigers, became stuck on the bridge for an hour and a half and soon after plans were made to widen it!

In 1901 the first motor car recorded in the town crossed the bridge which was by then well over 400 years old. Traffic still crosses this historic bridge to this day and it is safe to say that it is a highlight of any visit to this lovely rural town.

Other Articles