Ivybridge

took its name from ‘ye bridge which lieth over ye Erme, being much inclined to ivy’.

Sir William Pole, Devon historian.

Welcome to Ivybridge Uncovered

A Mill Town Heritage

The Ivybridge Heritage & Archives Group aims to celebrate the rich history of Ivybridge and is dedicated to promoting a lively interest in the Town’s background and development by researching, collecting and preserving archives and photographic records of this unique Mill Town.

The History of Ivybridge

The remains of stone-age hut circles can be found on Harford Moor, above Ivybridge, but the ivy-covered bridge, after which the town was later named, was first recorded in 1250; it is possible that it existed as a river crossing prior to the Doomsday Book of 1086. An early ‘King’s Highway’ from Exeter to Trematon Castle near Saltash, the 12th Century crossing may have been constructed by the monks of Plympton Priory (founded in 1121) to give them access to their lands at Wrangaton, Dean Prior and Buckfastleigh.

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Mar22.14

Our aim is to celebrate the rich history of Ivybridge and is dedicated to promoting a lively interest in the Town’s background and development by researching, collecting and preserving archives and photographic records of this unique Mill Town.

THE HISTORY OF IVYBRIDGE >
Mar22.14

Our aim is to celebrate the rich history of Ivybridge and is dedicated to promoting a lively interest in the Town’s background and development by researching, collecting and preserving archives and photographic records of this unique Mill Town.

THE HISTORY OF IVYBRIDGE >
Mar22.14

Ivybridge Heritage & Archives Group aims to celebrate the rich history of Ivybridge and is dedicated to promoting a lively interest in the Town’s background and development by researching, collecting and preserving archives and photographic records of this unique Mill Town.

THE HISTORY OF IVYBRIDGE >

Upgrading the rail network

1848 marked the arrival of the ‘Iron Road’ in Ivybridge when the South Devon Railway line constructed by Brunel was officially opened on 5 May. The line from Totnes, to the then, temporary terminus at Laira was built in most part as a single track in Brunel’s unique broad gauge (7ft 0.25in). The extra distance between the rails he thought would provide both extra speed and comfort to the passengers.

 

However, by 1890 this stretch of the line had become one the few remaining portions which had not been double tracked. Tenders for the necessary work would also see the discontinuance of broad gauge in favour of standard gauge, or narrow gauge as they called it. Between 1876 and 1890 a large proportion of the Great Western Railway had been converted to standard gauge so this had become a necessary requirement. Passengers were told that the alterations to the line would offer ‘considerable benefit in the form of extra trains and notably later ones.’ Travel time from London to Plymouth would also be reduced to around five and half hours. The ‘Flying Dutchman’ at the time was achieving a time of 6 hours 15 minutes.

 

The proposed scheme included the replacement of five viaducts between Hemerdon and Brent and a new bridge at Monksmoor. The most significant being the Slade, Blachford and Ivybridge viaducts. There was also a second tunnel at Marley to be excavated and constructed. A new railway station was also contemplated for Ivybridge which was to be located a little further down the line to avoid the steep hill to reach the present one. In conjunction with these changes a new branch line would also be constructed between Brent and Kingsbridge.

 

Messrs. S. Pearson and Sons of Victoria Street, Westminster were contracted by Great Western Railway to undertake the reconstruction and doubling of the main line between Rattery and Hemerdon, with F. T. Hopkinson in charge of the work. Overseeing the project was James C. Inglis, the Chief Engineer of the GWR.

Sir James Charles Inglis (1851-1911)

James Inglis was born in Aberdeen on 9 September, 1851.

The call of engineering came to him early, during the heyday of steam engineering and railway construction.

In January 1885 he took up a role as assistant to the chief engineer of the South Devon and Cornwall Railways.

In 1887 he became resident engineer of the dock works at Millbay in Plymouth for the Great Western Railway. However, he did not continue long in the employment of the Great Western Railway and took up practice on his own account. The connection with the railway remained and during the ensuing years he was commissioned to work with GWR.

He continued in practice until 1892 at which time he became assistant engineer to the Great Western Railway and four months later he was promoted to Chief Engineer.

With such a vast undertaking a large number of navvies were employed by the company.

 ‘Wherever one went groups of navvies were to be met with, the men either going to work, retiring from the same, or seeking employment. Huts are also to be seen in every direction, notably near Marley tunnels, and the viaducts. These viaducts are being widened one after another’.

 

It was estimated that there were around 400 men engaged locally in the double tracking of railway line. This large influx of navvies prompted the local clergy In Ivybridge to provide a ‘Navvy Mission Room’ to cater for their moral and spiritual welfare. Due to the very nature of their work these men were regarded as an isolated class so having a meeting place was beneficial. Church services were regularly provided as well as temperance meetings, which encouraged the consumption of alcohol in moderation or total abstinence. Other activities which focussed on the general welfare of the men and their families were also provided. The Navvy Mission Room was located opposite the parish church and during the Great Blizzard of 1891 it suffered extensive damage to the roof. This was later repaired thanks to the generosity of the contractors of the railway.

 

The progression of the work was not without it problems. The contractors encountered disputes with some of the workers whilst extreme weather, particularly the winter of 1891 curtailed construction. The local masons also decided to strike over grievances connected with piecework and the use of externally sourced dressed stone. The original design of granite arches for the new viaduct had to be changed to bricks in consequence. Ivybridge also saw the arrival of 19 Dublin stonecutters to assist in the work. The granite used for the construction of the viaducts was quarried locally in Ivybridge.

 

Several of the original viaducts were of considerable length and it was important that the trains continued to operate as the replacement infrastructure progressed. The stone piers on the original viaducts were found to act as perfect staging when introducing the steel girders on to the new structures.

 

By the beginning of 1892 work had proceeded well and it was reported that there was

‘every likelihood of the Kingsbridge line being completed before the doubling of the railway between Totnes and Plympton, notwithstanding that the latter was taken in hand before the contract was let for the branch from Brent to Kingsbridge’.

 

The doubling of the line was ‘comparatively speaking, light work’, compared to the construction of the viaducts. The engineers staked out the direction of the track deliberately avoiding gradients where possible. This meant there were some deviations from the previous line with some of the awkward curves straightened. The longitudinal sleepers used on the broad gauge line were removed and cross sleepers laid, as was now the norm.

The new viaduct with the piers of the old structure visible between the arches.

The double tracking to the west of Ivybridge viaduct was completed on 11 June 1893 and from the far side of the viaduct to the east on 13 August 1893 with ‘the arrangements for “slewing” well planned, and carried out by around 200 workmen in rather less than five hours’.

 

The complete double tracking of the line between Newton Abbot and Plymouth was finished a few weeks later. The branch line to Kingsbridge was opened in December 1893 and Wrangaton Railway Station which had been renamed Kingsbridge Road Station reverted to its original name on the same day.

Saint Swithin’s Day, according to the enduring legend, is a day that supposedly determines the weather for the next forty days.

 

This all stems from events which took place after his death on 2 July 862. Swithin at the time requested that his final resting place should be outside, where his grave could be accessible to members of the parish and also the rainfall from the heavens. His wishes were met for over 100 years but in 971 with the monastic reform movement placing religion was once at the forefront, it was decreed that Swithin was to be the patron saint of the restored Cathedral at Winchester. His body was therefore removed from its simple grave and interred in the new Cathedral on 15 July 971. A shrine to the Saint remains in the modern Winchester Cathedral to this day.

 

According to the legend, forty days of terrible weather followed, suggesting that St Swithin was not impressed with the new arrangements.

Saint Swithin’s Day, according to the enduring legend, is a day that supposedly determines the weather for the next forty days.

 

This all stems from events which took place after his death on 2 July 862. Swithin at the time requested that his final resting place should be outside, where his grave could be accessible to members of the parish and also the rainfall from the heavens. His wishes were met for over 100 years but in 971 with the monastic reform movement placing religion was once at the forefront, it was decreed that Swithin was to be the patron saint of the restored Cathedral at Winchester. His body was therefore removed from its simple grave and interred in the new Cathedral on 15 July 971. A shrine to the Saint remains in the modern Winchester Cathedral to this day.

 

According to the legend, forty days of terrible weather followed, suggesting that St Swithin was not impressed with the new arrangements.

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HERITAGE DONOR CARD

To help preserve historical documents, objects and photographs, we have created a Heritage Donor Card for individuals to make donations of such items to Ivybridge Heritage & Archives Group. Please go to our ‘Links’ page for further information.

COPYRIGHT

All rights, including copyright, in the content of these pages are owned or controlled for these purposes by Ivybridge Heritage & Archives Group.

IHAG2021

HERITAGE DONOR CARD

To help preserve historical documents, objects and photographs, we have created a Heritage Donor Card for individuals to make donations of such items to Ivybridge Heritage & Archives Group. Please go to our ‘Links’ page for further information.

COPYRIGHT

All rights, including copyright, in the content of these pages are owned or controlled for these purposes by Ivybridge Heritage & Archives Group.

IHAG2021