Monday, 26 February 2018

Old Leckwith Bridge

Situated at the bottom of Leckwith Hill on the boundary between the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff is old Leckwith bridge. This graceful triple-arched medieval stone built bridge, complete with triangular shaped recesses for pedestrians, has survived into the twenty first century remarkably intact and is flanked by the 'new' Leckwith bridge; this somewhat over shadows old Leckwith bridge to the extent that many people are wholly unaware of its existence.

                                                   (Leckwith bridge as it is today)

Leckwith Bridge derives its name from the village of Leckwith which is located at the top of Leckwith Hill. Leckwith village began its existence as a demesne manor belonging to Robert Fitzhamon, the first Norman lord of Glamorgan, during the late eleventh century. It's likely that an earlier wooden built bridge once existed prior to the construction of the present old Leckwith bridge which would have been needed to help facilitate the transport of agrarian produce to Cardiff castle.

Old Leckwith bridge has spanned the River Ely since the late medieval period with references being made to its existence dating as far back as the middle of the fifteenth century. Antiquarian John Leland mentioned Leckwith bridge on his journey through South Wales in 1536 and repairs were made to the bridge during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries testifying to its importance for commerce and the local community.

 (A late nineteenth century view of Leckwith bridge when Leckwith and its surrounding area were still rural

During the eighteenth century it would appear that the responsibility for the repair and maintenance of not only Leckwith bridge, but also the road which ran in both directions from it, was placed upon the inhabitants of the local community-a burden that they probably resented. In the year 1725 the inhabitants of Leckwith were ordered to repair the bridge and highway as ‘the causeway leading from Cardiff to Leckwith bridge, from the south Leckwith bridge to the stone bridge which divides the parishes of Llandaff and Leckwith to be out of repaire and ought to be repaired by the said inhabitants of Leckwith.’ 

The meandering road which ran through Leckwith Village and across the bridge was a busy one as throughout the centuries horses, carts and their riders would have trundled their way through Leckwith from the many small ports which were dotted along the coastline of lower Glamorgan and across Leckwith Bridge through the lonely marshes of Canton Common and on to Cardiff, an arduous journey at the best of times.

(Photograph dating to the early twentieth century showing the old road running through Leckwith village)

This slow paced way of life remained unchanged for centuries until the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century changed South Wales forever. By the early twentieth century with increasing traffic and use of the motor car, old Leckwith Bridge quickly became obsolete and was eventually replaced with a new single arched concrete bridge in 1935.  The sound of clopping hoof -beats and the grinding of carts superseded by the revving of motor engines and the rumbling of heavy traffic.  
Old Leckwith Bridge is Grade II listen monument and can still be accessed by foot or by car.

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