Shrewsbury English Bridge

Has been described as a Certain Fortified Bridge

There are masonry footings remains

NameShrewsbury English Bridge
Alternative NamesOld Stone Bridge; Monks Bridge; Abbey Bridge; East Bridge
Historic CountryShropshire
Modern AuthorityShropshire
1974 AuthorityShropshire
Civil ParishShrewsbury

The predecessor of the English Bridge of 1769-1775 was a medieval structure divided into two distinct sections. The bridge over the main Severn channel from Wyle Cop to Coleham Island was generally known as the Stone Bridge; eastwards, from Coleham Island, over the former eastern channel of the Severn, to Abbey Foregate, it was known as the Monks' Bridge or the Abbey Bridge; the distinction between the two very broadly reflects the respective jurisdictions of the town and the abbey as defined at law in the early 16th century, after a protracted series of disputes. The bridge(s) were almost certainly in place by, but perhaps not long before, 1121, when two charters of Henry I to the abbey refer to the two bridges at Shrewsbury, probably this one and the St George's (Welsh) Bridge; a timber predecessor of Saxon date is highly probable, though there is no supporting evidence, other than the pre-Conquest development of the Foregate suburb. A 19th-century sighting of stone walls in the middle of Wyle Cop suggest that the Stone and Monks' Bridges had a combined length of at least 290 metres (950 feet). A W Ward maintained (p.19) that the Stone Bridge had six arches of varying spans, including the drawbridge, and the Monks' Bridge eleven, though this is probably based on late sources that may underestimate the extent of the structure already buried by encroachment and reclamation at the Wyle Cop end. The last pier on the Stone Bridge towards Coleham Island supported the Stone Gate or East Gate, east of which was the drawbridge. The East Gate, used as a prison, was badly damaged by floodwaters and debris in 1545 (Ward p.20). The drawbridge was replaced by a solid arch in 1732 (Ward p.25). The bridges were demolished in stages between 1769 and c.1772

The part of Coleham Island affected by the work was removed in 1769-72; in 1771-2 the arches of the Abbey Bridge were being demolished, and the channel around and under them infilled with the debris and material from Coleham Island (Ward pp.55, 58). Substantial remains of the Abbey Bridge can be expected to survive beneath the present roadway east of Coleham Head, towards the north side of Abbey Foregate in the area of nos.7-8. Substantial remains have been seen under Coleham Head itself: a 'mass of solid masonry' several feet thick was reported 'exactly opposite the west end of the Congregational {now United Reform} Church in 1897 (Phillips). Substantial remains of the Stone Bridge are likely to survive under the centre of the roadway at the bottom of Wyle Cop, opposite nos. 35-40. A detailed MS plan (?by Thomas Farnolls Pritchard) exists of the bridges at Coleham Island in the 18th century, including the buildings upon it, the site of a possible mill to the north of it, and a section through the roadway at the parish boundary. This was used by Ward to produce a reconstruction plan of the bridge, on which the UAD cartography is in part based.

Parts of the old bridge structure lie under the current roadway at the bottom of Wyle Cop and may extend southwards as far as the pavement. (Shropshire HER)

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 2* listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSJ496123
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  • Ward, A.W., 1935, The Bridges of Shrewsbury (Shrewsbury: Wilding and Sons)
  • Owen, H.,1808, Some Account of the Ancient and Present State of Shrewsbury (Shrewsbury: P. Sandford) p. 78-9 online copy


  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1908, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 81 online copy
  • Speed, John, 1611-12, The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain online copy)


  • Harrison, D., McKeague, P. and Watson, B., 2010, 'England's fortified medieval bridges and bridge chapels: a new survey' Medieval Settlement Research Vol. 25 p. 45-51 online copy
  • Ward, A.W., 1949/50, 'The Stone (or East) and the Abbey Bridges, Shrewsbury, in 1765' Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 53.2 p. 251
  • Phillips, W., 1897 May 21, 'Foundations of the Old Stone Bridge' Shropshire Notes and Queries Ser 2, Vol. 6 p. 54

Primary Sources

  • Rees, U. (ed), 1975, The Cartulary of Shrewsbury Abbey (National Library of Wales) No 42, No 47b


  • Bruce Watson, 2013 Sept, Gazetteer of fortified bridges (working list kindly shared with Gatehouse)