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Extracts from "Haversham Estate And the Parish I Grew Up In" by David C. Brightman April 2000

Early 1900s - Haversham planks in the background
The road to Haversham before the Estate was built
Early 1900s - Haversham planks in the background
The road to Haversham before the Estate was built

Because of the development of Haversham Estate it was decided the road to Haversham needed raising up and widening and also to widen the bridge. A quote was received and accepted for £11,666 on 28th February 1937, work started in June 1937.Two years later the new bridge was washed away!

Anton Cadman & Kathllen Burt

Wolverton Express Friday 20 October 1939

Haversham Road Bridge Collapses

The most severe storm to have visited North Bucks within living memory occurred in the early hours of Wednesday morning and left in its train a flood country side and wrought damage and loss of farm stock.
Torrential rain started shortly after midnight and continued until nearly eight o’clock and was accomplished by vivid flashes of lightening and heavy claps of thunder. At about 5.30 many residents of Wolverton and district jumped from their beds when what they took to be bombs dropping were the heaviest claps of thunder during the storm.
During the morning hours nearly three inches of rain fell and this would represent 477 tons per acre, and, to give readers an idea of this space, it would represent an area similar to the playground of the Wolverton Boys’ School.
The most serious damage resulting from the storm was the collapse of the road bridge spanning the River Ouse on the Wolverton – Hanslope – and Northampton road. This bridge was reconstructed in the spring of 1938.
The first indication of an inability of the bridge to withstand the terrific pressures of flood water racing through the arches came during the morning when a portion of the near-side bridge gave way, and at 12.25 the whole of the roadway spanning the Ouse collapsed.
An eye-witness of the occurrence described the happening as the centre of the bridge “just slithering over” into the water.
This had very serious consequences, for this meant that Haversham became isolated. Workmen who had crossed in the morning for their employment at Wolverton were unable to return for their midday meal, whilst housewives who had visited Wolverton for shopping purposes during the morning hours also found their way barred upon their return. Some climbed the railway embankment and passed over the Viaduct at their own risk and reached their homes via Field Farm.
The Wolverton-Haversham road was closed for vehicular traffic from the Old Road, and this meant that vehicles, to reach Haversham from Wolverton had to travel via Roade owing to other roads being impassable.

Wolverton Express 27th October 1939

Temporary Haversham Road Bridge

At the monthly meeting of the Newport Rural District Council on Wednesday, Mr. W. G. Ansell, the representative for Haversham, raised the subject of providing a temporary bridge for pedestrians over the River Ouse on the Haversham Road. The bridge spanning the river was swept away during the extensive floods of last week. Mr. Ansell informed the Council that after a week without a bridge people of Haversham had to journey seven miles to get to Wolverton – via Castlethorpe and Stony Stratford.
On Tuesday a gang of men arrived to put up a temporary bridge for vehicles but he was informed that it could not be ready in less than a fortnight.
Mr. Ansell said he asked if any instructions had been given for a temporary footbridge to which he received a negative reply.
He pointed out that being so meant the ratepayers being isolated for a fortnight and a mother would have to push a perambulator for fourteen miles to get to Wolverton and back. He urged that the Council to get in touch with the County Surveyor to erect a footbridge as speedily as possible.
The Chairman (Colonel J.P. Wyness):
I cannot image it being possible to put up a footbridge with a few poles to give connection to Wolverton.
Mr. Ansell: If the Buckinghamshire County Council cannot do it surely a military detachment could.
The Chairman: We will put it up to the authority as an urgent matter for a temporary footbridge being provided for pedestrians.
It was decided that Mr. E.D. Sykes and Colonel J. Williams act as delegates to meet the County Surveyor on the subject.

Wolverton Express 27th October 1939



AT £4,000

Among the items of expenditure sanctioned by the Bucks County Council at the quarterly meeting at Aylesbury yesterday (Thursday) was £4,000 for the erection of a temporary steel bridge over the River Ouse, on the Haversham Road, Wolverton.
The destruction of the old bridge by the extensive floods recently was reviewed in the report of the Highways, Bridges, and Boundaries Committee, and the report of this Committee was as follows:-
“The bridge over the River Ouse on the Wolverton-Haversham road was completely washed away by the floods on Wednesday, 18th October, about 12.25 p.m. the river having risen about 11 feet above normal summer level.
“The flooding and volume of water at Haversham was far greater than elsewhere in the immediate neighbourhood owing to the Grand Union Canal Company opening their sluices in order to release water, and if this had not been done it might have caused extensive and dangerous breaches in their Bradwell bank and aqueduct at the canal-river cross upstream.


“This bridge,” the report continued, “was built between 1837 and 1840 in connection with an alteration in the railway. It consisted of two brick semi-circular arches, each 33ft. 8in (skew) span. In 1938 it was widened on the east side (downstream) by approximately 9ft. the level of the Haversham Road being raised an average of 3ft. 3ins. (maximum 5ft 0ins) for a distance of approximately 1,800ft. at the cost of £13,274 11s 9d., towards which the Ministry of Transport contributed 50 per cent. In widening it, the old structure was not interfered with, except for the rebuilding of the parapets.
“In raising the level of the Haversham Road in 1938, 10 culverts were built giving a total waterway of 580 square feet (approved by the Ministry of Transport and the Great Ouse Catchment Board). In addition an extra culvert with a capacity of 60 square feet was provided to give an additional margin.
“On Friday 20th October, an inspection was made with the Divisional Road Engineer of the Ministry of Transport, when it was agreed as an immediate method of restoring the line of communication between Wolverton and Haversham, to obtain from Messrs. Aubrey Watson Ltd. Contractors, Westminster, a section of their bow-string open-web steel bridge 61ft., clear span, which they had recently used for a temporary road diversion in connection with the building of a new bridge at Weedon for the Northamptonshire County Council.
“After discussing the problem on the site with Messrs. Aubrey Watson Ltd., they agreed to carry out the works on the following basis: (1) Wages and insurance of all men, including contractors, resident agent, plus 15 per cent and any head office supervision charges: (2) Costs of all materials, plus 10 per cent: (3) Schedule rates for all plant in accordance with Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors’ scale. They were instructed to proceed on these terms, with the approval of the County Emergency Committee.
“This bridge will be temporary (12 feet carriageway and 4 feet footpath). It had been decided to purchase the steelwork so that it can be taken into stock for future emergency use after a new permanent bridge has been constructed. A temporary footbridge, 3 feet wide was in position by 30th October

Wolverton Express 3rd November 1939


Since the Haversham Road Bridge was washed away on Wednesday, 18th October, workmen have been busily engaged erecting a footbridge over the river for the benefit of residents of Haversham getting to Wolverton for their work and shopping. This footbridge was opened for the use of the public on Monday last.

Wolverton Express 1st December 1939


Cause of Disaster

The Haversham road river bridge was opened to vehicular traffic last weekend and views as to the cause of the disaster were expressed at this meeting.

At the outset Councillor A. Brown expressed appreciation of the action of the County Surveyor in getting on with the job of erection of a temporary footbridge. For a time, he said, Haversham was cut off, and some men had to walk four or five miles instead of a mile to their employment at Wolverton. The Surveyor got on with the job quickly.
Councillor Bryant: There must be some reason why this new bridge went like it did.
Ald. N. W. Gurney replied that in the first place it was an unimportant road, and the Ministry would not make a grant to build a new bridge. All they did was to widen the bridge nine feet. During the flood the Canal Company opened their sluices and let down a wall of water. It seemed to him that nothing could stand against it.
(It was explained to the Highways Committee report that if the Canal Company had not released the water it might have caused extensive and dangerous breaches in their Bradwell bank and aqueduct at the canal-river crossing upstream).
Alderman Gurney also said the Haversham road had been raised. In its previous condition the water would have gone over the road. The whole of the pressure went against the bridge.
The new steel bridge, a temporary structure, erected at a cost of £4,000, had been opened.
Councillor Brown did not think it was fair to cast blame anywhere in this particular case. The tremendous pressure against the bridge was greater than it had been built to withstand.
Councillor L. O. Bull said he knew it was quite easy to be wise after an event, but as a local resident he thought the reason was that the road was very high and acted as a breakwater. Formerly the road was low and the water could sweep over for a width of three hundred yards. He had since stepped the width over the culverts and it was approximately twenty yards, consequently not being sufficient waterway and more pressure was exerted on the bridge.

Extracts from "Haversham Estate And the Parish I Grew Up In" by David C. Brightman April 2000


Haversham bridge was washed away Wednesday 18th October 1939

Haversham bridge was washed away Wednesday 18th October 1939

This first bridge was built when the course of the river was altered during construction of the Viaducts in 1838, and long before The Estate was thought of, we do know there was a bridge thereabouts called Mead Mill Bridge from a survey done in 1777. Meads Mill was probably demolished when the river was diverted and straightened out like it is today. These 1939 floods washed up a complete hollow willow tree trunk which lay around for many years, Mr Hinde of 6 Wolverton Road gradually hacked away at it for firewood.

Children looking at the floods - towards Wolverton
Children looking at the floods - towards Haversham
Children looking at the floods - towards Wolverton
Children looking at the floods - towards Haversham

Wolverton Express 25th April 1958


A number of explosions have been taking place at Haversham during this week in order to remove some of the 250 tons of brick and mortar which are obstructing the contractors who have started work on a new bridge and road over the river.

The obstruction is part of the old bridge washed away by floods in October 1939. In order to inspect it and set the charges a diver is working in a frogman’s outfit in about 6 ft. of water.

On Monday afternoon, about 70 tons of the old bridge were removed before blasting had to be stopped for the day because of the number of children watching. On Wednesday, another 70 tons were removed and the road was closed from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. to allow work through the night.

Unexpected Delay

A spokesman for the contractors, Caffin and Co., of London, said on Wednesday that they did not know the old bridge was there. “It has out us back about a month on the programme, it was something we didn’t bargain for, but we are making a bit of headway now,” he said.

In order to carry out work the have to work in the water with compressed air breakers. The old bridge is being blown into small pieces and scooped out by a crane.

The thickness of the solid brick in the river varies from 2 ft. to about 3 ft.6 ins. When the obstructions have been removed the men will drive a coffer dam into the bank on the Wolverton side of the bridge and pump water out. Work will then begin on the first of four bridge supports, two fo which will be in the river.

The present bridge was built as a temporary measure eighteen years ago.

Hundreds of dead fish have resulted from the explosions, and some of the fish have been eaten by some men working on the job.

Removing of the bailey bridge & building of the present bridge

Extracts from "Haversham Estate And the Parish I Grew Up In" by David C. Brightman April 2000

This Bailey type bridge was in daily use until the present bridge was built in 1958/9, construction was slow as flooding swept away wooden materials and held up work. Mr Arthur ‘Chick’ Saunders was the night watchman. The site and tools huts were on the grass verge, which was about 3ft to 4ft wider then, if you look today you can see the tarmac the old road width, and the footpath side was about 18” wider as well. In October 1989 new rubber bearings were put under the river bridge, this was quite a job as the bridge was jacked up and new parts were inserted this was done of course during the flood season and now in January 1998 more strengthening has been completed, again of course, in the flood season, and crash barriers are to be installed in the spring of 1998.

During the early years the annual floods were looked forward to because then our games took on a nautical flavour. Most of our adventures took lace on the field at the bottom of the New Allotments, these at the time were rented, I believe by Mr Webb of Crossroads Farm.

Ron Thorn and Michael Cruwys had canoes of a kind, (at least they floated), which was more than could be said for David Ferguson’s home made affair, this was a wooden frame covered with an old tarpaulin sheet painted with tar. If you didn’t put your feet on a crossbar you went straight through the bottom! This was used for a few seasons on the river, but in the end had a Viking funeral, heaped up with smouldering grass and sent off towards the unsuspecting rival Bradwell territory, it never made it, it sank about 100 yards past the bridge by the old pebble beach which has now gone, not by natural forces, but by the courtesy of the Anglia Water Board who regularly dredge the river.

Flooding at Haversham

At least the floods go down quicker, but the water levels always appear to be a lot lower these days, or we have a lot less rain, and definitely a lot less snow, if any at all.

When flood water in the field receded and was only about 12” deep, and if it wasn’t too cold, you jumped in and pushed until it was your go in the canoe. Ron Thorn’s canoe was a bit peculiar as it had been left in the sun to dry out and had a warped bow, so it always went to the right, or starboard, to be precise. This was offset by 3 paddles to the right and 2 to the left to keep it straight.

Mike Cruwys canoe was too good for us kids so only his best mates went in that. We found out that the farm type gate could be lifted off its hinges and just about supported one kid, but the wood was just below the surface and it looked as though you were walking on water. One year we put a couple of straw bales on the gate, which you couldn’t see, this looked most peculiar drifting and on fire!

It would have been nice to have a camera, or even some film for a camera in those days. Any film which was available was expensive, ex-w.d. and usually out of date, and with unpredictable results. When the floods receded they left behind a few drowned moles, which we took to a man in Wolverton or Sid Newman of 14 Wolverton Road, who gave us a shilling each, that was a lot of money to us as the Empire Cinema or the Palace was 7 pence a ticket, 2 pence for a Walls ice cream and 3 pence for a bag of chips from the little streets shop, and then we walked home in the dark. The chips lasted to about the bottom of the Drill Hall hill, but we had our monies worth.

Skating at Haversham
Skating at Haversham

The flood waters when frozen, was our skating and hockey rink for a few days. I only remember the river twice being frozen all over, but the ice would not support our weight, however Max, the dog found it great fun. The sandpits at Cosgrove, where it was stagnant water would bear our weight and the canal, and also the straight ditch by the Viaducts. The flood water under the ice would recede and leave large slabs of ice in the fields for a long time. During these years the water troughs at Castlethorpe were still in use, and surplus water came down through the gap between the Viaducts, this froze and formed long icicles which gave us hours of entertainment throwing stones or firing airgun pellets at them or trying to hit them with a catapult to dislodge or break them off. When a big one, about 6ft long and a foot thick was dislodged you ran for it, as ice from 50ft went everywhere at high velocity!

In 1948-9 a Gas pipe was laid to the Estate, this is the 8” pipe which runs under the bridge and along the left hand side of the road. We used to hang ropes from this to swing over the river and drop into the swimming spot called The Pikehole where we were told by Brian Poynter a huge pike lurked! And of course we believed him. But the river in the late 40s was much different than it is today, and was usually, between the bridge and the Viaducts choked with bulrushes and other river type plants.

A punt on the river bank
A punt on the river bank

One year starting near the bridge, and leaving a few yards of weeds, we gradually pulled up or cut most of the bulrushes as far as the Viaduct and let them drift down the river, this was heaped up and made a good secondary bridge, at least you could walk across without getting wet feet, but it soon broke up and went downstream where it blocked the river at the shallows near where Bradwell brook enters the River Ouse.

From Haversham Bridge 20th January 1918
From Haversham Bridge 20th January 1918