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Part of Barnstaple for over 700 years

From the 13th century, until 1961, the Bridge Trust was responsible for the Long Bridge over the River Taw; repairing, restoring, maintaining and improving one of the most important bridges in the area and a vital part of Barnstaple's infrastructure since the middle ages.

Although it is no longer responsible for the Long Bridge, the Bridge Trust continues to play a large part in Barnstaple life, though you may never have heard of us!!

The Bridge Trust is one of the largest property owners in Barnstaple and, although much of the income generated by our Grade II listed heritage buildings is applied to their upkeep and repair, nevertheless for many years, until 2017, the Trust gave away tens of thousands of pounds annually (nearly £600,000 from 2012 to 2017) to local groups, organisations and individuals.

High Street decline and changes in business practice, coupled with increasing repair costs has meant that, since 2017, we have, very reluctantly, had to suspend regular large grant giving. We continue to provide Samaritan Grants to those most in need in the Barnstaple area.

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Boutport Street - 1950's

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Barnstaple Quay

Retirement Presentations - Ian Scott and Arnold Bradbury

Brief History of the Bridge Trust in Barnstaple

The Bridge Trust in Barnstaple can trace its origins back over 700 years when, in the late 1200’s, Sir Henry de Tracey, Lord of Barnstaple, was thrown out of the Catholic church for an unknown crime. In those days expulsion from the church was a serious matter, you could not marry, nor could your body be buried in consecrated ground. The price demanded of Henry to be re-admitted to the church was to make a
donation to the Long Bridge over the River Taw, for its maintenance and repair and to build a chapel to St Thomas at the end of the Bridge. The chapel has long disappeared, but the Long Bridge is still there and so is the Bridge Trust.

For many centuries the Trust was responsible for maintaining the Bridge using the income from its properties in the town. In 1961 the Bridge passed to the Government and a new charity formed, ‘The Bridge Trust’. Today we own four of Barnstaple’s heritage (Grade 2 listed) properties, including the iconic Bridge Chambers on the banks of the River Taw next to the Long Bridge.

From 1961 the Trust gave away around £100,000 annually to organisations and individuals in its area of benefit (defined as a 5 mile radius of Barnstaple Guildhall). Between 2014 and 2017 our records show that we assisted nearly 200 organisations and charities in the area with grants totalling over £300,00 including, Children’s Hospice (£5,000), CAB (£9750), CLIC Sargeant (£7,000), GO North Devon (£5000), North Devon Hospice (£19,000), Samaritans (£3,000), Pathfield School (£7,250) and many more.

In 2017, with many of our properties empty and with reducing income, reluctantly, we had to suspend almost all our grant programmes except those for the neediest in our area (so we still give away several £1,000’s annually those ‘in need’ through our Samaritan Fund).

The Bridge Trust has been around for a long time but many residents of Barnstaple have never heard of us because, from at least 1961, until 2017 it was the Trust’s policy not to advertise its philanthropy, no cheque presentations, no plaques on buildings thanking the Trust for a grant and no social media trumpeting. Why, nobody now working with the Trust knows!

Parts of our property portfolio need re-purposing to maximise income generation in the future and to provide facilities for the people of Barnstaple. This will require substantial funding both from the Trust itself and external funders.

As the Trust faces the challenges of the next 700 years we are seeking to recruit more people to secure our future and so we can return to being able to support Barnstaple and its people, as we always have.