Another of the Dartmoor clapper bridge stars is the Teignhead Farm clapper which is located just below the now deserted farmstead. Since the 19th century the old bridge has been the subject of paintings by numerous artists such as Widgery and Brittan. The early postcard manufacturers also saw fit to use the clapper in several of their moorland series. As always the clapper bridge provided a remote subject in a rugged landscape which featured heavily in the search for the ‘picturesque’, hence its popularity. The clapper bridge spans the North Teign river as it flows past the old farmstead of Teignhead, the lease for which was first granted in 1808. This lease was granted to two men, messrs Crawford and Fleming who in turn employed an Irishman called Rodgers as their agent. It can be assumed that it was Rodgers who built the clapper bridge sometime in the early 1800s. Tradition has it that the stones used in building the structure were brought down from Manga Hill on sleds when it lay under snow. In 1826 the river Teign was in spate and this resulted in some of the slabs becoming dislodged thus becoming in need of repair. Today the bridge consists of three openings comprising of nine imposts, the two outer ones being about 2.9m long and the central one measuring 3m long. The bridge was specifically built wide enough to allow a loaded packhorse to pass over it and so is about 2.5m wide. Prior to the building of Teignhead Farm an old peat track ran from the turf ties on the north moor to Teigncombe Farm when it then made its way along the lanes to Chagford. Once the farm and bridge were built the traffic steadily increased and the 5 mile stretch from Teignhead Farm to Teigncombe Gate became known as the ‘Teignhead Road’.
J. Ll. W. Page, writing in 1895 gives the following account of the Teignhead Clapper: “Passing down the western declivity we again strike the North Teign, spanned, just below the shepherd’s cottage on the opposite hill, by another specimen of the rugged ‘clapper’ bridge. This structure known as Teign Head Bridge, has three openings, and although Rowe calls it ‘primitive cyclopean,’ probably owing to the fact that ‘in character it is similar to Postbridge,’ it cannot, in Mr Ormerod’s opinion, nor indeed mine, lay claim to a greater age than that of the cottage to which the track over it leads. In fact, I have recently discovered the actual, or, at any rate, the approximate, period at which it was built. In the course of a conversation with the shepherd, I learnt that the grandfather of an old man now living at Belstone assisted in its construction, so that it seems improbable that it can be more than 150 years old. The angles are but little weathered, a sure sign that the structure van boast no antiquity. Nevertheless, it is very picturesque, and might, to the casual observer, have stood for a thousand years at least. It has a length of twenty seven feet, and its four piers support three rows of narrow slabs, each about nine feet in length”. p.199.
This description pretty well ties in with what the clapper is all about although Page’s construction date is a trifle early. William Crossing however was a trifle less complimentary with his impression: “Teign Head clapper, though a good example, being in a very perfect state of preservation, lacks the interest attached to many, besides being much less venerable in appearance. There are two piers forming three openings, the entire length of the structure being over twenty-seven feet, and the roadway is less than five feet above the bed of the stream. It is approached at each end by a ruined causeway“. p.239-240.
Crossing, W. 1990, Crossing’s Guide to Dartmoor. Newton Abbot: Peninsula Press.
Page, J. Ll. W. 1895. An Exploration of Dartmoor. London: Seeley & Co.