A 13th century stone gated bridge, unique in Britain for its design and state of preservation, and only one of three such structures left in Europe. It was built primarily as a means of defence and possessed a portcullis and sentry rampart. A number of developments have brought it to its present picturesque appearance.
Monnow Bridge was built towards the end of the 13th century on the site of an earlier timber bridge, the remains of which have recently been discovered. The new bridge had a defensive gate with portcullis and was in turn defended on the Welsh side by a ditch and rampart called the Clawdd Ddu or Black Dyke. It enclosed a faubourg or false borough called Overmonnow. In this it resembled the southern defence of Hereford.
Although the bridge has the appearance of being defensive, it was ineffectual as the Monnow is neither wide nor deep and can easily be crossed on foot upstream. On one of the few occasions it was attacked in the Civil War this is what happened and the defenders found themselves quickly surrounded.
The bridge's chief use has been commercial, something to which it was not particularly suited, and this has led to many alterations. Over the years it has been used for toll collection, as a guard room for the Militia, as a Bridewell, as a lock-up, as a store house and as a private dwelling.
Amongst the many alterations have been, the raising of the roof, the insertion of an attic and the building of an additional house on the town side. The bridge itself was widened and the walls of the gatehouse pierced in the 19th century for pedestrian use.
Courtesy of Keith Kissack.