The Bridge Builders


The patron said ‘Use my own features for both
Jefforye Barbur and John Howchion –
my rugged chin and chiselled cheek.
Have them dressed as merchants in gowns,
passing a bag of gold, tenderly, so all is done
as God commanded for the advancement of Abingdon.

Master Painter, with your art, show how their munificence
transformed the muddy treacherous River Thames,
bringing masons and skilled artisans from afar
to cut rocks, mix mortar, and fix stones
to create the many arches from the Causeway
to uphold the Burford and the Abingdon Bridge.

Show St Helens and St Nicolas Church, where we worship.
Show the Long Alley Almshouses, recently transformed,
with the bright cupola that our gold has wrought,
bringing light upon the panelled meeting room
where this painting will hang in perpetuity,
beside Sir John Mason, Thomas Tesdale, and Edward the King.’

Note: Abingdon Bridge was built around 1416-17. The Bridge Builders painting is from about 1607. The print above is taken from Christ’s  Hospital Abingdon by Arthur E. Preston. All Right Reserved. A colour image, without the historic frame, can be seen on the Town Council Website.

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