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Fen Bridge

A wooden arch bridge across the river Stour in Suffolk on a footpath leading from the town of East Bergholt to the little hamlet of Flatford.

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  • Wooden foot bridge across the River Stour at the bottom of Fen Lane


John Constable’s journey to school took him each day along Fen Lane and over Fenbridge that was apparently the favourite part of his journey, so much so that and he used both Fen Lane and Fen Bridge in many of his paintings between 1809-1817.

For many years the bridge has proved a popular route and excellent link from East Bergholt to Dedham.

In 1927 plans were considered to demolish both Flatford Bridge and Fen Bridge and replace them with more modern structures, fortunately this proposal was overturned by local objections.

Sadly the original bridge collapsed in the 1930’s and wasn’t replaced until 1985 at a cost of £14000 when the new and existing bridge had to be flown in by RAF Chinook helicopter because of the lack of road access.  Apparently the arrival of the helicopter landing on the snow covered meadows caused a stir with many villagers turned out to watch.

Located on the southern end of the bridge, east side, a plaque reads: “FEN BRlDGE  was opened 7th December l985 by: Mrs. Mary Wheeler, past Chairman of the Dedham Vale Joint Advisory Committee”

The bridge has bee temporarily closed by Suffolk Highways back in June following safety concerns and was previously planned to reopen in December of this year. It is not expected to reopen until Dec 2021

The bridge is the responsibility of Suffolk County Council which acknowledges the financial support of: Countryside Commission,  Babergh District Council, East Bergholt Parish Council, the East Bergholt Society, and the Dedham Vale Society.

  • 19
  • Wooden foot bridge across the River Stour at the bottom of Fen Lane

Other Images

Fen Bridge<br>

Fen Bridge

Fen Bridge 5<br>

Fen Bridge 5

Fen Bridge 3<br>

Fen Bridge 3

Comments received

4 thoughts on “Fen Bridge

  1. Paul Clark

    I remember the bridge being brought in by helicopter.But I didn’t know it was called Fen Bridge..As I remember that’s the name of the bridge that goes over the Dead river ..

    • In 1985 aged 37, I was out of work and volunteered to join the ‘Community Program’ for a year working on the Dedham Vale project mostly clearing the dead Elm trees and pollarding Willows. We did a 3 day week and received an extra £10 on our unemployment benefit. One day, we were told the following week we will be helping the Army Royal Engineers (or similar name) to erect a new bridge !

      Come the day and it turned out to be the coldest day of the year – snow was on the waterlogged ground and the river was covered in ice. We were directed to the concrete bridge supports/foundations either side of the river to help the army lower each wooden beam into slots in the concrete. The noise from the twin rotor Chinook prevented us from hearing each other, we were struggling to stay upright and somehow, the downdraft from the Chinook was literally sucking sheets of ice off the river sending it flying everywhere – I was petrified !

      The main problem was we could get one end of the beam seated correctly but as soon as they pulled the other into position on the opposite bank, this would pivot our end out again and this kept happening repeatedly. In the meantime, the ice continued to fly and inevitably the ‘bloke in charge’ told us volunteers to head for safety well away from the danger zone. In retrospect, I’m very surprised we were invited to help in the first place – insurance an’ all thart ! (In the end, the army had to give up as the Chinook could not work to the tolerances needed and later in the season when the field was less waterlogged, a crane was brought in to complete the job.). The headlines in the E.A.D.T. the following day read “A Bridge too Far” although it was deemed to be good practice for the Army.

      The wood used was called Ecki and came from Central Africa – it was so dense it would sink in water. I do not believe the Army contributed any money to the project, more likely, they offered their services free as a ‘worthwhile’ training exercise. Yes, there was a brass plate screwed into the bridge.

  2. Brian Fitzsimmons

    I recall that it was built with the financial aid of the RAF but I don’t have anything to confirm this. I believe there was an inscribed brass plate to h this effect?

    • I need to make a correction … It was the RAF and not the ARMY who initially made a start on the Fen Bridge what must have been in the Winter of 1984/5 and opened in December of 1985. The plaque nailed to the bridge was a simple aluminium plate with the inscription:
      FEN BRIDGE. Opened 7th December 1985 by: Mrs Mary Wheeler, past Chairman of the Dedham Vale Joint Advisory Committee.
      Suffolk County Council acknowledge the financial support of Countryside Commission, Baburgh District Council, East Bergholt Parish Council, East Bergholt Society, Dedham Vale Society, River Stour Trust, Holton St Mary Women’s Institute.
      and the assistance of
      7 Sqn Royal Air Force, Odiham, Joint Air Transport Establishment.

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