Context 170 - December 2021

28 C O N T E X T 1 7 0 : D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 1 More serious attempts were made in the early 19th century. In August 1815 Mary Yorke wrote about the project to replace the Haw ferry lower down the river with a bridge. She weighed the advantages and disadvantages of the scheme, later noting it would damage ‘her’ ferry, and was also apprehensive that this would cause the meadows to flood as far as Upton.The possibility was again considered in 1818. She and her son, Joseph, wished to have the ‘direction of the Road through our own Estates’, an indication of her alert man- agement of the estate after her husband’s death. InTewkesbury three sites were under considera- tion: at one or other of the ferries or to the north at the Mythe; all would involve a road through the Forthampton estate. ‘A little controversy where the Bridge is to be erected upon my Estate will do no harm – I say it shall be at my ferry – the Tewkesbury [people] wish to place it a little below my Bee hive, nearer Mr Dowdeswell’s Ferry [the Upper Lode]… I am to be paid for my Ferry, & the Lands theTurnpike Road is to go through. If it was to go over at the spot the Tewkesbury People wish it to do – they must raise a high causeway across the Meadow called the Ham, which would cost them 4900£’ (L30/11/339/472). The Beehive was the summer house on Cork Hill, where the family and visitors enjoyed the view of the river and of Tewkesbury Ham while drinking tea. Later she wrote: ‘My Neighbour General Dowdeswell is a very reserved Man, & keeps no sort of Company, of course is alarmed at the thought of a Bridge between himself & his constituents at Tewkesbury – who then might be coming to him in a few minutes at all Hours – in all manner: Horse – Foot – Chaise & in all states drunk or sober – in short he hears of it with Terror’ (L30/11/339/474). By 1822 the site for the Severn bridge was close to a decision. Mary Yorke, although aged about 80 years, correctly assessed the practicalities and ‘was apt to think’ that the most northerly site at the Mythe was the most likely. She saw the laying of the foundation stone on 8 September 1823 from her summer house, not very long before she died. For Tewkesbury there were still difficulties because the foundations in the alluvial bed of the river were considered inadequate. In December 1823 Thomas Telford was called in, and while he confirmed that the site at the Mythe was the right choice, the design of the bridge was not. He designed an iron bridge with a single span, and cutwaters to allow flood water to pass. The beautiful bridge was opened in 1826, still stands and is in use, although now restricted to one stream of traffic at a time. It spelled the end of the ferries. A ferryman occasionally still takes people across to the Lower Lode hotel in the summer. The Upper Lode ferry was completely lost when in 1853 an act of parliament approved the construction of a weir and lock at that point. This created a new river channel across a big river meander, and leaving the ferryman’s house, the Dowdeswell Arms, marooned on the Forthampton side of the river, where it can still be seen. The Lower Lode as it appears today from the Tewkesbury side of the Severn. The ferry house is a hotel. The Mythe bridge, designed by Thomas Telford, opened in 1826. Far right: The Severn weir at the Upper Lode, and a lock and basin, were finished in 1858. The old course of the river was blocked off, leaving the Dowdeswell Arms on the west side. Illustrations of Forthampton Court appear with the generous permission of the owner. Anthea Jones was head of history and director of studies at Cheltenham Ladies’ College. Now retired, she is the author of several books on Gloucestershire history, most recently Johannes Kip: the Gloucestershire engravings (Hobnob Press in association with the Gloucestershire Gardens and Landscape Trust). Sources Victoria History of the County of Gloucester VIII (1968) Bennett, James, The History of Tewkesbury (1830, reprinted Alan Sutton 1976) Jones, Anthea, Tewkesbury (1987, second edition 2003)

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