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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Bridging the Gap at Frogmore

Frogmore is a small village in South Devon at the head of the Frogmore Creek. Once a small tidal port where barges travelled with agricultural produce and minerals, it is now more commonly associated with tourism. There were coal unloading facilities and Lime Kilns and local quarries provided stone for building.

Today it lies on the main coastal road between Kingsbridge and Dartmouth but as recently as the 1840's this part of Devon was more accessible by boat than by road. It was around that time that Frogmore was linked by a new road to Kingsbridge three miles away.

I am not sure of the age of the bridge at Frogmore, at least two hundred years old I suspect, and I have heard tell that a ford existed before it. After all there was nowhere to go when the roads were narrow, steep, and of poor quality and most bridges were not wide enough for wheeled transport. Land transport was mostly by packhorse.

So as you can see Frogmore Bridge in the summer is an attraction where water sports and of course crabbing take place.

When the tourists go home, in winter, it can look more like this. So you can see that it is also a storm barrier too. This was storm Eunice 2/2/22.

However, it was even more recently that it was bypassed by the main coastal traffic. Prior to World War II the main road from Kingsbridge involved a dogleg, coming from the west, turning right over the bridge and swinging around in a curve north to eventually turn east to Chillington and Dartmouth.

During the war, this area of the South Hams was a major preparation and assembly point for the US Army, as they built up to D-Day. Much heavy equipment such as tanks were required to go through the village to Slapton Beach where the invasion forces rehearsed for D-Day. The bridge was considered too old and narrow to be used for this traffic. As a consequence the US Army built this stretch of road below, which still forms the main coast road today. This took a lot of pressure off the bridge ever since.

A few weeks ago a car had an accident on the bridge, undermining part of the wall on the sea side. Repairing it is a bit of a logistical problem as you can imagine, having to deal with high tides, storms and all the weather January can throw its way. The bridge was closed for the duration.

Although the bridge is not listed as an historic monument (maybe it should be?), it is still repaired in the traditional way, although using modern mortar, not lime mortar. The team doing the work carefully dismantled the wall keeping the original stones.

Scaffolding had to be erected in the water, to carry out the work. The art and skill of masonry hasn't changed much over the years and this scene would be familiar to those who lived here hundreds of years ago. They might be awed by the "ghetto blaster" and the vibrant "Hi Vis" clothing though. The plumbline and trowel, however, are still the main equipment.

The portable toilet too, is a modern feature.

A day or so later and there was just a small gap left. Still with musical accompaniment.

Here are the tools of the trade, that haven't changed.

Miracle of miracles, even the original moss is still intact. That is how careful they have been. So thank you to everyone who was involved in restoring this local landmark to its former glory. Your dedication and attention to detail are much appreciated.

Will the crabbers be back in a few months? And will they notice?

If anyone has any more precise information about the history of the bridge, please contact me and I can update it here.

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John Durham
John Durham
Feb 01, 2023

As always, I love the masonry work, especially seeing the care they took to save and replace the original stones. Well work the effort and expense, I'd say.

Chris Coffin
Chris Coffin
Jun 18, 2023
Replying to

Thanks for this Gethin, it answers a question I have had since we came to Frogmore in 2007, when and why was the "bypass"built?

We have a booklet on local history which suggests that before this the American forces knocked the parapets off the bridge so they could get tank transporters across.

Also it is not obvious why the bridge was built in the first place. But from looking at a variety of old maps I am assuming that before the Turnpike Road was consructed the only route to Chillington was along Mill Lane which would make more sense.

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