Bridges, Fords and Ferries
Forded crossing points across major rivers were important in
the siting and development of early riverside settlements and
had been used at Glasbury, Boughrood and Hay, possibly till the
late 19th / early 20th century when bridge-building techniques
were able to cope with the destructive power of the more serious
floods. Prior to this the existing bridges were often partially
destroyed or sometimes swept away altogether, when fords would
again be brought back into common use.
The ferries also pre-dated the major bridges and often ran by
the forded crossings, being used to ferry both people and goods.
They were also invaluable at higher water levels when the fords
would be impassable to people and livestock. They could also be
an exciting and sometimes hazardous experience for the passengers
The bridge is on the A438 and provides a major artery for the
transport of both goods and tourists as they journey from the
Midlands and the North en route to West and South Wales. The bridge
has always been a major crossing of the Wye, yet paradoxically
this main 'A' class road gives priority to the B4350 coming from
Hay-on-Wye at its southern extremity. This causes an occasional
but bearable traffic jam at peak holiday times.
Historically a ferry across the Wye at Glasbury was mentioned
as early as 1311, whereas the first reference to a bridge is in
1665, possibly upstream of the present bridge and near the mouth
of the Llynfi. The ferries ran until the mid nineteenth century
competing for custom with the bridges and sometimes replacing
them when they were in-operative due to temporary damage or total
There was a timber bridge which fell in 1738 and this was replaced
by another timber bridge, both probably being near the Abbots
ferry. This one lasted about 40 years before being replaced by
a fine seven arched stone bridge in 1777. The bridge was built
by Thomas Edwards ( sometimes landlord of the Three Cocks Inn
) under the direction of William Edwards , his father, who had
built ' the great bridge on the Taff ' ( the old bridge at Pontypridd
The stone bridge was located where the present bridge stands but
unfortunately was destroyed by the extreme flooding of 1795 and
once again a wooden bridge was constructed in 1800.
Note that at this time Glasbury Parish spanned both sides of the
R.Wye and was regulated as being in Radnorshire, but in 1844 the
County Boundary was altered, after which the entirety of the Glasbury
Parish located to the south of the river was annexed to Breconshire.
In 1850 the wooden bridge was damaged rendering it useful for
foot passengers only and the ferry was brought back into regular
usage. After a celebrated legal dispute (
click here for details ) a replacement bridge was constructed,
with stone piers on the Breconshire side and wooden supports,
largely untouched, on the Radnorshire or northern side, with relative
costs being an important consideration for this unusual compromise.
The bridge cost Brecon £2000 whereas the increase in rateable
value was only £470, ( presumably from the part of Glasbury
deemed to be in Brecon ? )
Inevitably the compromise became unsafe and a concrete bridge
was constructed in 1922. This in turn was incorporated in the
existing bridge in 1966, when it was doubled in width to cater
for the marked increase in both haulage and tourist traffic.
The Boughrood Bridge was built in 1838 - 42 by the de Wintons
of the Maesllwch Estate to carry coal, coke, lime and other goods
into southern Radnorshire. It replaced the earlier ford and the
ferry and was a substantial stone bridge with four segmental arches,
with semi-circular arches at the approach. A two storey toll house
was added to the northern end in 1843 and the occupants in 1850
combined the collection of tolls with a cobbling business - it
was common practice for the toll-people to have a secondary source
of income, especially so if they were supporting a large family.
In 1875 it was run by James Portnell.
The Boughrood Bridge toll continued to be levied until 1934.
29 10 2014
Pike - for confirmation on the seven arched bridge at Glasbury
CPAT "The Middle Wye Valley,
Transport and Communication Landscapes"
Powys Digital History Project
“The Picturesque Views on the River
Wye from its source at Plinlimmon Hill to its junction with the
Severn at Chepstow With observations on the public
building and other works of art, in its vicinity" by Samuel
Ireland, London. Published by R. Faulder, New Bond St and
T Egerton, Whitehall. 1797.
"Welsh Country Workers Housing 1775-1885" by J Lowe