Coordinates: 50°31′01″N 4°50′06″W / 50.517°N 4.835°W / 50.517; -4.835
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Looking along The Platt towards Wadebridge Town Hall
Wadebridge is located in Cornwall
Location within Cornwall
Population7,900 (2011)
OS grid referenceSW990725
Civil parish
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtPL27
Dialling code01208
PoliceDevon and Cornwall
AmbulanceSouth Western
UK Parliament
List of places
50°31′01″N 4°50′06″W / 50.517°N 4.835°W / 50.517; -4.835
The Old Bridge
Looking towards the Methodist church from the bridge

Wadebridge (/ˈwdbrɪ/; Cornish: Ponswad[3]) is a town and civil parish in north Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. The town straddles the River Camel five miles (eight kilometres) upstream from Padstow.[4] The permanent population was 6,222 in the census of 2001, increasing to 7,900 in the 2011 census.[5] There are two electoral wards in the town (East and West). Their total population is 8,272.[6][7]

Originally known as Wade, it was a dangerous fording point across the river until a bridge was built here in the 15th century, after which the name changed to its present form. The bridge was strategically important during the English Civil War, and Oliver Cromwell went there to take it. Since then, it has been widened twice and refurbished in 1991.

Wadebridge was served by a railway station between 1834 and 1967; part of the line now forms the Camel Trail, a recreational route for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. The town used to be a road traffic bottleneck on the A39 road until it was bypassed in 1991, and the main shopping street, Molesworth Street, is now pedestrianised.

The town has a secondary school where several notable sports-people were educated. The Royal Cornwall Show is a three-day agricultural show held at the nearby Royal Cornwall Showground every June, and the 5-day Cornwall Folk Festival takes place around the August Bank Holiday.


Early history[edit]

The initial settlement of Wade (the name of Wadebridge before the bridge was built)[8] came about due to a ford in the River Camel (Camel probably meaning "crooked one"[9]). The early crossing had a chapel on each side of the river, "King's" chapel on the north side and "St Michael's" on the south side. People would pray for a safe crossing at one of the chapels before wading across at low tide, once they had made it the other side they would give thanks to God in the other chapel. In 1312, a licence was granted for a market at Wade by Edward II who also granted two fairs annually; on the feast of Saint Vitalis and at Michaelmas.[10] Wade was part of the parish of St Breock and the river separated it from the neighbouring parish of Egloshayle.[citation needed]

At some time the ford was supplemented by a ferry[11] until the Reverend Thomas Lovibond (the vicar of Egloshayle) became distressed at the number of humans and animals that died during the crossing of the River Camel so he planned the building of a bridge which was completed in 1468. Wade then became known as Wadebridge. When John Leland travelled through Cornwall in the early 16th century he wrote that the piers were resting on packs of wool.[12] Begun in 1468 and completed in 1485, the bridge was traditionally known as the "Bridge on Wool" because it was reputedly built on wool sacks. In fact, however, it has been proven to be founded directly on the underlying bedrock.[13]

The bridge was a strategic position in the English Civil War as in 1646 Oliver Cromwell came with 500 Dragoons and 1,000 horsemen to take the bridge.[14] When the bridge was first completed tolls were charged for its maintenance. In 1853, it was widened from 3 to 5 metres (10 to 16 feet). A second widening took place in 1952[11] and then in 1963 it was again widened taking it to 12 m (39 ft).


The Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway from Wadebridge to Wenfordbridge with branch lines to Bodmin and Ruthernbridge[15] was built at a cost of £35,000 following a study commissioned in 1831 by local landowner Sir William Molesworth of Pencarrow. The line was intended to carry sand from the Camel Estuary to inland farms for use as fertiliser. It was opened on 30 September 1834 with the locomotive Camel pulling a train load of 400 passengers (one of the first railways in Britain to carry passengers). When the company ordered its second locomotive it came with a name plate already affixed. It had been named the Elephant as the makers had failed to realise that the first engine had been named after the river and not an animal.[16]

The last passenger train left Wadebridge railway station in 1967 following railway cutbacks. The old railway trackbed is now the Camel Trail, and the Bodmin and Wenford Railway heritage railway runs on part of the route.


Wadebridge was the highest navigable town on the River Camel providing the main trade route before the building of the railway, and coasters would bring goods from Bristol and coal from South Wales. Timber was also imported from the Baltic,[17] while stone from inland was sent to destination throughout England. The first locomotives used on the railway were also imported through the quay, being manufactured by Neath Abbey Ironworks,[16] and the railway initially linked with river traffic well having been designed to distribute sand from the river to the local farms via a "sand dock" constructed upstream of the bridge at the point where the Treguddick Brook (Polmorla Brook) flows into the River Camel. This commodity, brought up from Padstow in barges, had previously been taken as far as Michaelstow and Blisland using pack animals.[18]

In 1843 apart from the dock for the barges bringing sand for onward movement there was another dock capable of holding 5 vessels and construction of a breakwater was considered, while in 1880 there were quays on both sides of the river below the bridge with that on the west bank being served by the railway although the "sand dock" had been filled in by 1895.[19][20][17] In the 1900s vessels such as the M.V. Florence brought cargos including slag (for fertiliser), grain and coal, and flour was also a regular cargo brought from Ranks at Avonmouth. However, in the 1950s the river silted badly so that the ketch Agnes was possibly the last vessel to bring cargo to Wadebridge when she was recorded there in 1955.[17]

Eddystone Road[edit]

In 1877, after cracks appeared in the rock on which the Eddystone Lighthouse was positioned, a new lighthouse was commissioned from James Nicholas Douglass. Granite quarried from De Lank quarry was brought down to Wadebridge where stonemasons dovetailed each segment of stone not only to each other but also to the courses above and below. As each layer was completed and checked to fit with the layer above, it was sent out to the Eddystone rocks by sea. The lighthouse was completed in 1882. This resulted in the road where the masons worked being called Eddystone Road.

World War I[edit]

During World War I Wadebridge was home to refugees from the Netherlands and Belgium. In order to support them, a property in Park Street was converted into a Calvinist chapel.[21]

World War II[edit]

Despite the rural nature of the area and the lack of military installations, during World War II there was a single recorded air raid when three bombs were dropped on the hill above Fernleigh Road. Residents report hearing the bombs whistling as they fell and landed in a field above the nearest houses. There were no casualties and only minor damage.[22]

21st century[edit]

In 2003, the Perch Garage murders occurred outside the town on the A39 road (Atlantic Highway).[23]


Wadebridge is in the constituency of North Cornwall which is currently held by the Conservative MP Scott Mann. The main offices of the former North Cornwall District Council were at Trenant Road in the town. Wadebridge Town Council is based at Wadebridge Town Hall which was officially opened by Sir Paul Molesworth as the Molesworth Hall and Exchange on 23 May 1988.[24]

Historically Wadebridge was part of St Columb Rural District Council until the creation of Wadebridge Urban District Council in April 1898.[17]


The town straddles the River Camel, five miles (eight kilometres) upstream from Padstow;[4] the town centre being on the west bank of the river.

On St. Swithin's day 1965, there was a flood in Wadebridge town centre after five and a half inches of rain fell in four and a half hours around high tide. The Swan Hotel on The Platt was flooded to a depth of one and a half feet.[18]


For many years, Wadebridge was a traffic-congested town, through which the route of the A39 trunk road passed; however, in 1991, the Wadebridge bypass was opened, together with the Egloshayle bypass, enabling the two settlements to regain much of their former charm. The main shopping street in Wadebridge (Molesworth Street) has subsequently been pedestrianised through construction of an inner link road, allowing traffic-free shopping.

Local bus services are operated by Go Cornwall Bus and Kernow, with routes to Boscastle, Bude, Launceston, Padstow and Truro.

Wadebridge no longer has its own national railway station, since its closure in 1967. The nearest is now Bodmin Parkway, on the Cornish Main Line, which is served by services to Plymouth, Cardiff, London Paddington and Penzance.

Culture and community[edit]

The Challenge Bridge

The Molesworth Arms is one of the oldest Inns in Wadebridge. Previously known as The Fox, The King's Arms and The Fountain, this coaching Inn got its current name in 1817.

Since 2014 the first of the annual events in and around Wadebridge has been the MayPlay festival, a weekend of free children's activities.

The Royal Cornwall Agricultural Show is held at the Royal Cornwall Showground, 1+12 miles (2.5 kilometres) west of Wadebridge over three days in early June each year. The show began in 1793 at Bodmin and was then held every year in East and West Cornwall alternately until 1960 when it came to its present site. The showground, run by the Royal Cornwall Agricultural Association, is used for many different functions from Scout Jamborees to point-to-point horse racing.

The Big Lunch, organised by the local chamber of commerce, is a free street party in the pedestrianised part of Molesworth St in the centre of Wadebridge, where around 500–750 people get together to share food, chat, and enjoy music and other entertainment. The idea grew out of a project by the Eden Project, and was started by a former local councillor, Harriet Wild. In 2012 it also served as a celebration of the Queen's Jubilee.

Later in June, the Wadebridge Lions organise a Beer Festival, with brews from across Cornwall, and plenty of live music.

July sees the Rock Oyster Festival on fields just outside the town on the Camel River. Oysters are, of course, on the menu, along with bands from the local area, the South West and further afield.

Wadebridge Carnival is held annually in August, with a Carnival Queen and there is the Eglos Craft Fayre at Egloshayle Church.

The Cornwall Folk Festival,[25] one of the UK's longest-running folk festivals started in 1972, now runs for fives days around the August Bank Holiday. The focus is on contemporary folk music, bluegrass music, Americana (music), celtic music and acoustic music, with the likes of Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Gretchen Peters, Scotland's Eddi Reader MBE and Dougie Maclean OBE, The Unthanks, Martin Carthy MBE and Irish singer Cara Dillon rubbing shoulders with Cornish and bands. The "musician's musician" Wiz Jones and father of the Lakeman clan (Seth Lakeman, Sam Lakeman and Sean Lakeman) Geoff Lakeman are the festival's patrons. The festival was featured in the German travel documentary Wunderschön in Spring 2023.[26]

Depending on the tides, the Camel River Festival is held around August or September. The main attraction is a set of raft races on the river, with bar, food, stalls and more live music.

In October, The Bikelights procession through the town centre showcases decorated bicycles and involves many youngsters.

In November the Prime Stock Show and the Garden Produce Association and Chrysanthemum Show are held.

A footbridge called the Challenge Bridge links the Egloshayle playing fields to the Jubilee fields on the other side of the river. The bridge was constructed in 1991 by Anneka Rice and her team for the TV series "Challenge Anneka". Locally, the bridge is known as Anneka's Bridge, but its real name is the Bailey Bridge.

The newspaper is a local edition of the weekly Cornish Guardian.

The town is twinned with Langueux (Langaeg) in Brittany, France.[27]

In April 2013 Wadebridge was short-listed as one of Britain's top eco-towns[28] and is home to Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network a grass roots enterprise aiming to make the town the first solar powered and renewable energy powered town in the UK.[29]

Wadebridge and District Museum opened in 2007 and moved to their current location on Chapel Lane in 2013.[30]


The town has two primary schools which have academy status, Wadebridge Primary Academy which OfSTED graded as a ‘GOOD’ school in November 2012 and St. Breock Primary School. There is also a secondary school, Wadebridge School.

There are two health care practices: the Wadebridge and Camel Estuary Practice and the Bridge Medical Centre. There has been a group practice in Wadebridge since the early 20th century; many of the early doctors had their surgeries operating from their homes.

In the 1901 census the population of Wadebridge was 3470,[17] while in 2001 the population was 6222.[31]


Cornish wrestling[edit]

Wadebridge has been a centre for Cornish wrestling for centuries.[32] Places used for Cornish wrestling tournaments include:

  • Bodieve Park, including the Interceltic games in 1965[33] and 1967.[34]
  • Cricket Ground, including the Interceltic games in 2006[35] and 2008.[36]
  • Gonvena Manor House.[37]
  • Old Bowling Green, Trevanson Street.[38]

Wadebridge hosted the Interceltic games in 1965,[33] 1967,[34] 2006,[35] 2008[36] and 2010.


Wadebridge is home to sporting clubs including Wadebridge Town Football Club who play at Bodieve park, Wadebridge Camels, who play at the Molesworth Field in Egloshayle, and Wadebridge Cricket Club, whose main ground has been in Egloshayle Park since the 1950s. The town has a leisure centre with a programme of sports and pursuits including Cornish wrestling.


The Camel estuary offers a range of water sports, including sailing, water skiing, windsurfing, surfing and kite surfing. Golf courses close by include Trevose and Saint Enodoc and St Kew.

Notable people[edit]

The gentleman scientist and surgeon Sir Goldsworthy Gurney, who invented the Bude-Light, lived in Wadebridge from 1814 to 1820. A street (Goldsworthy Way) has been named after him. Francis Hurdon (1834–1914), a prominent figure in Canadian politics, was educated in the town.

In media, Michael White, journalist, associate editor and former political editor of The Guardian was born here in 1945.[39] Andrew Ridgeley, member of the pop music duo, Wham! and his partner Keren Woodward, from the group Bananarama, lived in a converted farmhouse near the town.[citation needed]

Sergeant Steven Roberts, the first soldier to die in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, was born in Wadebridge.[40]

In sport, Olly Barkley, the England rugby union international player, was raised in the town, as was Michaela Breeze, the Commonwealth weightlifting champion. Both were educated at Wadebridge School, as was Annabel Vernon, the 2007 World Rowing Champion Women's Quad Sculls.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Cornwall County Council Website". Cornwall County Council. Retrieved 18 July 2021.
  2. ^ "Wadebridge Town Council Website". Wadebridge Town Council. Retrieved 17 July 2021.
  3. ^ "List of Place-names agreed by the MAGA Signage Panel" (PDF). Cornish Language Partnership. May 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 July 2014. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  4. ^ a b Ordnance Survey: Landranger map sheet 200 Newquay & Bodmin ISBN 978-0-319-22938-5
  5. ^ "Town population 2011". Archived from the original on 5 February 2015. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  6. ^ "Wadebridge West population 2011". Archived from the original on 15 February 2015. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  7. ^ "Wadebridge east population 2011". Archived from the original on 15 February 2015. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  8. ^ Mills, A. D. (1996). The Popular Dictionary of English Place-Names. Parragon Book Service Ltd and Magpie Books. p. 342. ISBN 0-7525-1851-8.
  9. ^ Mills, A. D. (1996). The Popular Dictionary of English Place-Names. Parragon Book Service Ltd and Magpie Books. p. 65. ISBN 0-7525-1851-8.
  10. ^ "CORNWALL". GAZETTEER OF MARKETS AND FAIRS IN ENGLAND AND WALES TO 1516. Centre for Metropolitan History. 17 November 2006. Retrieved 5 December 2021.
  11. ^ a b Kentley, Eric. Cornwall's Bridge & Viaduct Heritage. Twelveheads Heritage. Truro: Twelveheads Press. ISBN 090629458-4.
  12. ^ Pevsner, N. (1970) Cornwall; 2nd ed., revised by Enid Radcliffe. Harmondsworth: Penguin, p. 238
  13. ^ "Wadebridge cycle the Camel Trail to Padstow". cornishlight.co.uk. Archived from the original on 15 August 2010.
  14. ^ Kestrel. "Wadebridge North Cornwall". www.thisisnorthcornwall.com. Archived from the original on 28 October 2006.
  15. ^ Fairclough, Tony (1970). The Story of Cornwall's Railways. Truro: Tor Mark Press. p. 12.
  16. ^ a b Fairclough, Tony; Alan, Wills (1979). Southern Branch Line special No. 1: Bodmin and Wadebridge 1834–1978. Truro: D Bradford Barton. ISBN 0 85153 343 4.
  17. ^ a b c d e Wroe, David (1995). An Illustrated History of the North Cornwall Railway. Caernarfon: Irwell Press. ISBN 1-871608-63-5.
  18. ^ a b Duxbury, Brenda; Williams, Michael (1987). The River Camel. St Teath: Bossiney Books. ISBN 0 948158 26 3.
  19. ^ "A Topographical Dictionary of England. Originally published by S Lewis, London, 1848". British History Online. University of London. Retrieved 21 May 2022.
  20. ^ Mitchell, Vic; Smith, Keith (1996). Branch Lines Around Bodmin. Midhurst: Middleton Press. ISBN 1 873793 83 9.
  21. ^ Hambly, Hilda (1992). North Cornwall Reflections. Bossiney Books. p. 82. ISBN 0 948158 79 4.>
  22. ^ Hambly, Hilda (1992). North Cornwall Reflections. Bossiney Books. p. 87. ISBN 0 948158 79 4.>
  23. ^ "Wadebridge garage murder: Victim 'predicted' killer's identity". BBC News. 8 October 2017. Retrieved 5 August 2023.
  24. ^ "Molesworth Hall and Exchange". Royal Cornwall Gazette. 24 May 1888. p. 8.
  25. ^ "Cornwall Folk Festival, Wadebridge, August 2018". www.cornwallfolkfestival.com. Archived from the original on 14 May 2008.
  26. ^ Cornwall Folk Festival featured in German TV travel programme Wunderschön!. Festival section appears around 14:40 -- https://www.ardmediathek.de/video/wunderschoen/wunderschoen-cornwall-wilde-kueste-gruenes-herz/wdr/Y3JpZDovL3dkci5kZS9CZWl0cmFnLTA4YjZlNDU3LWZjMWEtNDJlNS1iNWFmLWMyMjk1NmU1ZjQ2MQ
  27. ^ "Twinning". Archived from the original on 4 May 2009. Retrieved 25 May 2009.
  28. ^ "Wadebridge short-listed as top eco-towns | West Country (W) - ITV News". itv.com. 2013. Archived from the original on 27 April 2013. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  29. ^ "Cornish town aims to be UK's first to adopt solar power - struggle becomes YouTube series - Environment". The Independent. 27 May 2011. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 7 July 2011.
  30. ^ "Wadebridge & District Museum". Retrieved 5 December 2021.
  31. ^ "Table KS01 Usual resident population". Office for National Statistics. 17 June 2004. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2015.
  32. ^ Royal Cornwall Gazette, 20 June 1818.
  33. ^ a b Cornish Guardian, 19 August 1965.
  34. ^ a b Cornish Guardian, 9 July 2014.
  35. ^ a b The Western Morning News, 25 July 2006.
  36. ^ a b The Western Morning News, 29 July 2008.
  37. ^ Cornish Guardian, 6 June 1946.
  38. ^ Cornish Guardian, 12 July 1962.
  39. ^ "Michael White's political blog: February 7". The Guardian. London. 7 February 2008. Archived from the original on 30 June 2007. Retrieved 27 May 2010.
  40. ^ "BBC NEWS | England | Bradford | Kit delays led to soldier's death". BBC News. London: BBC. 18 December 2006. Archived from the original on 7 September 2017. Retrieved 12 May 2013.


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