Project Info


The River Wye



Wilton, Bridstow, Sunday 5th February

On the afternoon of 5th February over thirty members of the group, led by Heather Hurley, walked around Wilton near Ross-on-Wye. The walk, of approximately 3.5 miles, started from Wilton Road car park, examined the hollow-way leading to the old ford at Wilton, then crossed Wilton Bridge to the site of the 18th century barge quays there.

Since time immemorial the Wye has been navigable, but not until 1662 was a serious attempt made to establish the Wye as a commercial waterway. In the 1720s Defoe noted that Ross had ‘a good trade on the river Wye’ and in the 1820s Charles Heath wrote that Wilton ‘might properly be called the quay or wharf to Ross, by furnishing a convenient accommodation for the shipping and landing of goods sent up and down the river.’ Barges carried a variety of goods from coal to cases of wine, bricks to barrels of cider and hoops to hat boxes. Under the terms of the 1809 Act a horse towing path was established, and the following is recorded ‘Barges first Hauled by Horses on the River Wye Tuesday the fifteenth of January 1811. The first through Wilton Bridge was Jonathan Cromptons Barge the Henry, William Hoskyns Master with Coal. Second J Cromptons Fanny, Thomas Jones Master with Two Horses each’. A 147 ton barge ‘Lively’ and the 65 ton ‘Wilton were owned by William Porter a Wilton corn factor, and the 17 ton ‘Rival’ was built at Wilton in 1804. The river trade began to decline after the completion of the Hereford to Gloucester Canal in 1845, and ceased after the opening of the Railway in 1855. The former site of the quay and wharves belonged to the Manor of Wilton, and were purchased by the Council in 1977 to provide a Village Green. Heather Hurley


The walk began at the base of the rocky outcrop below the church and the Prospect at Ross-on-Wye where an ancient trackway leads down to the old ford at Bridstow which was the only crossing of the Wye before the bridge at Wilton was built in the 16th century. The lane leads almost directly from the Iron Age fort on Chase Hill to the crossing over the Wye. It was in use long before Ross or Wilton were established as settlements and survives partly as Cleeve Lane and a public footpath.



After crossing Wilton Bridge the group gathered at the site of some of the wharves which served the area when the Wye carried many barges.


This hollow-way running north from Wilton was once the main road from Hereford to Ross. Abandoned since the realignment of the turnpike road in 1794 to avoid the awkward bends around Wilton it once led from the present Whitecross Farm on the present A49 to the old ford.


From Wilton the group followed the ancient hollow-way (still a road) which led from the ford to the parish church of Bridstow.


St Bridget's Church, Bridstow was Lann San Freit (sometimes Lann San Bregit) before the arrival of the English in whose language the name means 'Holy place of St Bride'. In 1066 Herewald, bishop of Llandaff, appointed Guollguinn as priest here and after him his son Ioann (It was not uncommon for priests to be married and sons sometimes succeeded fathers in an incumbency).



Heather Hurley at the tomb of a previous occupier of her current home at Hoarwithy.



Walking back to Wilton via a footpath by the Wells Brook and to Wilton Castle. The path here runs besides a lynchet - a bank forming an ancient field boundary.



The group visited Wilton Castle by kind permission of the owner



The southern wall of Wilton Castle with Ross church, on the other side of the Wye, in the background.


Click image to view Wilton Castle page


Coming events - click image




Back to TOP


Wye Valley Events pages

maintained by Archenfield Archaeology Ltd


This project was part-financed by the European Union (EAGGF) and DEFRA through the Herefordshire Rivers LEADER+ Programme.