Building a Bridge in 1794 on the Heveningham-Ubbeston Road by Veronica Baker-Smith
On June 23rd 1794, Robert Baldry and Richard Randall drew up an agreement for the building of "a new and substantial Bridge of brickwork over the River or Rivulet dividing the parishes of Ubbeston and Heveningham at and for the sum of seventy-six pounds". The two men were the Surveyors of Ubbeston, responsible for the supervision of all buildings within the village, and Robert Baldry was especially well placed to oversee this particular work since he had built the present Old Rectory for his own use eighteen years before (his initials can still be see on the chimney stack).
The former wooden bridge over the Blyth, after some years of decay, had finally been swept away by floods in the winter of 1793–94, thus cutting "the King’s Highway" between Heveningham and Cratfield along what is now known as the Low Road. The present road forking right to Huntingfield did not then exist, but it was to Huntingfield that they turned for advice – it had recently built its own brick bridge and the design was now copied. Contributions were invited from prominent members of the community: Sir Joshua Vanneck, as befitted the owner of Heveningham Hall, offered £10, the two Rectors gave £5 each from the glebe lands and five Ubbeston men and ten from Heveningham underwrote the rest. It may be noted that two of the Heveningham men were illiterate and signed with a cross.
Detailed estimates were drawn up. The bricklayers? work, including materials, came to £28 15s 7d. Fourteen thousand red bricks were bought in Halesworth for £1 7s 6d per thousand and the bricklayers were paid £1 8s per rod – about 4,500 bricks – for laying them. They received an additional 2s in the beer money. "Tarras" mortar was used, a special grade employed for work in contact with water. The forty–eight coping stones were a special order and cost 1s each, as much as three dozen bricks. Oak supports salvaged from the old bridge were reused – valuable building material was never thrown away.
Labour costs were carefully controlled. Landowners and farmers from the two villages volunteered their men for so many days? work and were paid accordingly, a careful division being made between the cost of men employed during harvest-time and after the harvest was in. Richard Randall charged 3s 6d for "time spent at meetings".
The bridge was completed on schedule on October 20th and the accounts were authorized. Then George Simpson, the owner of Ubbeston Hall, had a brainwave – maybe the then equivalent of the Rivers Authority was liable for the cost so that everyone could have their money back. He wrote a hopeful letter to this effect, and was doubtless disappointed to receive the reply, "My very kindest regards to Mrs Simpson, but the whole burden of the Bridge must lay upon
Parish records in Suffolk County Record Office, Ipswich.
Veronica Baker-Smith, Ubbeston, March 1995
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