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Although the law of the land could not compel the building of a bridge where none had been standing, it always sought to enforce the repair of an existing bridge on whoever they considered should accept this responsibility. The early quarter sessions records that have been preserved for Essex have frequent entries showing controversy that took place in deciding who was liable to carry out the repairs. Included in these was the maintenance of the bridge at Chipping Hill. It was in a manor belonging to the crown so it was that Queen Elizabeth I should be held responsible for the repair in 1580. Also that 'Chipping Witham bridge is in great disrepair and the Queen God save her Grace is proper owner and Mr Harvey is farmer and we do not know who should make it but the Queen'. However, in 1581 it was recorded that it might also be the responsibility of the county.


Many of the early bridges were made of timber and were only suitable for pedestrians or travellers on horseback, not being wide enough to take wheeled traffic. In October 1786 a grant was made by the quarter sessions towards the expense of building the Chipping Hill bridge in brick so that it could accommodate the passage of carriages. By 1860 most of the bridges crossing the highways had become the responsibility of the County.

Chipping Hill Bridge is listed Grade II, described as 'Built 1770 by Charles Malyon and Samuel Humpherys, Witham bricklayers. Red brick with stone coping. A narrow bridge with 5 arches. On each side, a plain brick parapet wit stone coping projects above the arches, carried on a round brick overhang with a brick band above'.

 

The coping has an inscription carved by two soldiers during the First World War, privates Edwards and Baylis, who were range wardens in the 7th Royal Warwick Regiment. The inscription contains the arms of the regiment, their names and their function, several names of Warwickshire towns and the date 1/6 1915 within a shield. It has now suffered the ravages of time and weather and is barely visible.

The footpath was diverted to the wooden footbridge alongside the old brick bridge in the 1970s.

Sources: Janet Gyford; Braintree & Witham Times; Maurice Smith; Witham & Countryside Society; photograph Braintree & Witham Times.

Text and Photographs: John Palombi and Cyril Taylor unless otherwise accredited. Illustrations: John Finch and Julie & John Denney. Translations: Google.com. Original Concept: Joy Vaughan, Witham Town Centre Strategy Group. Narration: John Rhodes
 

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