Cross Keys Swing Bridge, Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire


Historic Sutton Bridge - The Gateway To Lincolnshire

Sutton Bridge 'Gateway to Lincolnshire' sign postThis 'Our Town' slot features different buildings and landmarks of local interest, some of them being 'listed', with a brief word about their historical interest. We would welcome any further information from the residents of Sutton Bridge, particularly if there are interesting stories to tell about them.

Lincolnshire flagKnown as the 'Gateway to Lincolnshire', Sutton Bridge is a village and civil parish with a population of approximately 4000 inhabitants, situated in the South Holland district of south-eastern Lincolnshire and located on the west bank of the River Nene, close to the county borders with Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.

According to PREL (Peterborough Renewable Engergy Ltd), in their Screening and Scoping Opinion (Sept 2009), Sutton Bridge has no ‘scheduled monuments’ within 2km of their proposed development (4.4.5 (h) Page 17). Yet our town has eight listed buildings!



Park House, formerly Metalair, now offices, is an early 19th Century Grade 2 listed building built in yellow brick but now has a C20 concrete tile roof. The open porch has free standing fluted columns (Doric) at the front and plain pilasters behind. The door is partly glazed and has single glazed sash windows on either side.

Park House, Sutton bridge
Park House

The house was built by the Guy’s Hospital Estate and was intended for their resident steward. Until 1919 Guy’s Hospital owned most of Sutton Bridge. The village had developed on part of their land and the Estate also built the church and the schools.

For further information about this and the industrial history of Sutton Bridge, please see the recently published latest edition of Sutton Bridge – An Industrial History by Neil Wright with help from Beryl Jackson. It is published by the Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology, Jews’ Court, Steep Hill, Lincoln, LN2 1LS and can be obtained from them price £11.95 incl. postage.

Two unusual listed buildings in Sutton Bridge

Red Telephone Kiosk, East Bank, Sutton Bridge

A Type K6 telephone kiosk, designed in 1935 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and subsequently made by various contractors. Made in cast iron, it is a square kiosk and has a domed roof. This is the most well known of all red telephone kiosks. Its red colour was chosen so that it would be highly visible, especially in an emergency.

Red Telephone Kiosk, East Bank, Sutton Bridge
1935 Gilbert Scott Design Telephone Kiosk, East Bank, Sutton Bridge

In the 1990’s, BT replaced many of these traditional boxes with a more modern design. This led to a public outcry. In some places the red kiosks have been replaced, or disappeared. The telephone kiosk is still operational and maintained by BT.

Public notice regarding the Telephone kiosk
The Public Notice (dated 11/09/09) pasted inside the kiosk inviting adoption by the local community.

In other villages, communities have adopted their kiosk and renovated it. This has happened in Foul Anchor. The telephone kiosk has a Grade II listing.

Milestone, Long Sutton Road

Constructed in the mid 19th century, the milestone is painted ashlar (which means a block of hewn stone with straight edges). It is rectangular in shape and 0.75m tall with a moulded front, on which is inscribed: ‘Spalding…’ but the rest of the inscription is illegible. On the right-hand side it reads: ‘Sutton Bridge 1 mile’ and ‘Long Sutton 2 miles’, although this is not as clear now as it was when it was first listed.

Sutton Bridge Milestone

As can be seen from the two photographs, the milestone is no longer in an upright position and cannot be seen from the road. In order to take the photographs, we had to cut back the grass and nettles in order to be able to read the inscriptions.

Sutton Bridge Milestone close-up

While the milestone shown below is not the one mentioned in this article, it is in the centre of the parish of Sutton Bridge

Milestone in Sutton Bridge

¦ ⇑ Back to top of page ⇑ ¦


No 2 Bridge Road (now nos. 8 & 10), which is an early 19th Century red brick dwelling with a plain tile roof.

Bridge Road, Sutton Bridge
View showing No 2 Bridge Road (now nos. 8 & 10), Sutton Bridge
[Photo taken c. 1900]

Its imposing red front door makes it easily identifiable just across from the Green. The doorcase is topped with an open pediment. The door has an over light and on either side were single glazing bar sashes It has two storeys plus an attic with three bays, each with a single plain casement window. Today the building has been converted into six flats.

No 2 Bridge  Road, Sutton Bridge - (now nos. 8 & 10)
8 & 10 Bridge Road, Sutton Bridge

¦ ⇑ Back to top of page ⇑ ¦


The East and the West Bank Lighthouses in Sutton Bridge are both Grade II listed buildings. Both are described as early 19th century structures with 20th century alterations. Both are brick built, and have been rendered and colour washed. They each consist of a single central red brick stack of three storeys under a rounded lead roof plus an octagonal lantern.

The East Bank Lighthouse
The East Bank Lighthouse lantern has two single circular openings to the north and east sides.

The West Bank Lighthouse
The West Bank Lighthouse lantern has 8 circular openings, all of which are blind except for those opening to the north and south.

The early history of the Lighthouses (before Sir Peter Scott’s time)

For a long time Sutton Bridge was part of the parish of Long Sutton. Today Sutton Bridge is officially a town even though the locals still think of it as 'the Village'. It stands on land reclaimed from the estuary of the River Nene which flows into the Wash.

Since the Middle Ages land has been reclaimed from the Wash and the Nene estuary. Sea banks were built to enclose this reclaimed land. The 1640 Vermuyden embankment reduced the estuary's width to approximately 2 miles and this stretch of water was known as Cross Keys Wash or Sutton Wash. Behind this embankment were the villages of Lutton, Long Sutton, Tydd St Mary (further south) and to the east of the river, the Walpoles, including Walpole Cross Keys.

There were ferries at Foul Anchor, east of Tydd St Mary, and another ferry and ford at Walton Dam, further south. But the quickest route was to cross the sands and silt of the Cross Keys Wash. It was a long and dangerous crossing over shifting sands. It was not a pleasant journey.

After crossing the medieval sea bank at Sutton, travellers had negotiate a two mile stretch of common and marsh before arriving at the Wash House (now the Bridge Hotel) for refreshments and perhaps lodgings, while waiting for a guide to take them across to the other side. Slipways enabled travellers, who included drovers with cattle bound for Norwich, horses and passengers of all kinds, to access the river. They were guided up to their middles in water — very uncomfortable and dangerous, and rested at Cross Keys House on the Norfolk bank before continuing their journey east to Kings Lynn and beyond.

Inevitably, there were many accidents. A carriage could suddenly sink in quick sand; horses would be sucked into the soft ground and stick fast. The usual method of freeing them by tramping round and round them a few feet away from them to force them up by counter-pressure — sometimes failed, and the horses were left to drown.

Guides had helped people cross the river at this point for hundreds of years. According to a survey of the manor of Queen Elizabeth I, guides had to pay 12 pence per annum for a licence to guide people across, as it was part of the 'Queen's Highway'. There is a tombstone in Long Sutton Churchyard dedicated to William Wigglesworth who, with his horse and long staff guided folk across for 52 years. He died at 85.

The route was sufficiently busy to allow for the building of a bridge over the river at Sutton Wash. The River Welland at Fosdyke had been bridged in 1812-14 and the Ouse at Kings Lynn in 1821. So now the only gap remaining between the north and the east of England was over the River Nene.

In 1826 the Cross Keys Act was passed to build an embankment from the Wash House to the opposite bank in Norfolk with a bridge over the Nene somewhere along its length. The following year another Act was passed allowing a new channel to be cut and land to be reclaimed behind the proposed Cross Keys embankment. In 1829, another Act of Parliament allowed for the erection of two lighthouses, or beacons.

The West Lighthouse  Sutton Bridge early 20th century
The West Bank Lighthouse c. early 20th century, before it was rendered.

They were to be built at the seaward end of the new cut. They were necessary because the cut entered deep water at a point where the estuary was 3 miles wide. It was believed that shipping could easily miss the entrance to the river, even in daylight. Although called 'lighthouses' they were really landmarks because they did not have lights. The one on the west bank was only a short way from dry land, but the east lighthouse was at the end of a 3 mile long embankment that had the Nene on one side and the sands of the old estuary on the other.

[The author gratefully acknowledges the source of much of this information: Sutton Bridge — An Industrial History by Neil R Wright with help from Beryl Jackson: Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology; ISBN 978-0-903582-37-7]

Sir Peter Scott's lighthouse

Peter Scott's first encounter with the East Bank Lighthouse was in December 1929. He had commissioned a new punt-boat from a punt builder in Cambridge and with two friends, taking it turns, they brought the boat, named Kazarka, Russian for the Red-breasted goose, to an anchorage on Terrington Marsh (between Sutton Bridge and Kings Lynn). Peter Scott, at this time, was a keen wildfowler and after bagging a Pinkfoot each and three Mallards and two curlews, the two friends set out for the punt. Their intention was to take Kazarka round into the River Nene, four miles direct from where they were by road, but three times further by water at low tide. They intended to leave the punt there over Christmas. They also hoped to stalk more wildfowl.

the East Bank Lighthouse c.1935
The East Bank Lighthouse c.1935

Finding the tide receding at a rapid rate, they only just had enough time to launch the boat on a narrow trickle of water into a narrow, winding creek. The light was beginning to fade and a strong SSE wind was blowing very hard and it was beginning to drizzle. They were very hungry having had nothing to eat since early morning and Peter Scott later described it as madness that they had even decided to attempt to get into the Nene Channel, which they did not know, and in the dark. They hoped the neap tide would enable them to 'cuff a good many corners'. The alternative was to turn back and sit and wait in the dark and cold before the tide would flood them back onto the marsh.

As they approached the sea they could it was a big tide and after only just having enough time to get their gun from the front of the punt and turning up the 'hinged coamings', the huge waves lifted the boat up and water poured off the decks.

Although they could see a marked wreck on their port side (marked on the chart), they couldn't see the channel. In fact they were actually sailing away from their destination. However, as the last light faded, they came aground on a lee shore and managed to get the sail down and the oars out. Rowing was no good and the tide was still falling, so they poled onto the sandbar, where they managed to reset the sail. During this time, they had drifted and found themselves literally and figuratively in deep water ten feet and with big waves. Peter Scott wrote later that this was his 'nastiest moment'. They knew that they had to sail on. The chart they used seemed to bear little relation to where they thought they were and what they could see. By this time they were having to bale out the water that was continually being thrown into the boat.

After what seemed like a long time, and with the boat moving reasonably steadily with less water being taken on board, they decided the time had come to swim. Then, at that moment, they saw land ahead and Peter Scott was able to touch bottom with a ten-foot pole. After going ashore and stowing the mast and sail, they decided to go on rather than leave the boat and walk across the mud. Rowing was useless and so was poling, so they walked and pushed the punt but this proved useless because the punt was still taking water on board. In the end Peter sat in the stern baling out water as fast as it came in, while his friend towed using one of the breeching ropes. They ended up in a dead end with shallow water all around. By this time they could see the glow of light from Kings Lynn, Sutton Bridge and Long Sutton, and the points of lights of cars travelling on the main road about four miles away.

Laying down in the punt to get out of the wind and finding a stale ham sandwich, Peter and his companion drifted off to sleep. They awoke to find the tide beginning to flow, which enabled them to get back into the channel. The tide had subsided and after passing a series of beacons they knew they must be in the right channel. As it straightened they saw the 'old lighthouses' and heard geese not far off. They secured the boat and managed to climb up the mud slope and walked along the bank to the lighthouse relieved to be on dry land again. One of the cottagers gave them milk and they set off again to walk the three miles to Sutton Bridge, where they hired a car to take them ten miles to Lynn.

There were many visits to the Terrington and Holbeach Marshes and Peter Scott had been trying for some time to lease the disused lighthouse on the east bank of the Nene. In 1933 he applied for, and was granted, a lease for a rent of £5 per year. The lighthouse was still in use as a 'hailing post' for HM Customs and Exercise. There were two customs officers stationed at Sutton Bridge and one of them would arrive half an hour before high water and using a megaphone would hail any ship entering or leaving the river. Half an hour after high water, he would return to Sutton Bridge.

Peter Scott in front of the East Lighthouse
Peter Scott in front of the East Bank Lighthouse - the steps were removed when the garage and studio were built.

Before this, the lighthouse had been home to a man who worked on the river bank and his family. It had been condemned and unfit for human habitation and had stood vacant for several years until Peter Scott took it over. Peter Scott repointed the brickwork and lined the walls inside to make it reasonably dry. There was a reasonable roadway on the bank serving the farms and cottages but the last half mile to the lighthouse was just the grassy top of the bank. His car frequently slithered and slipped but fortunately never skidded into the river or got stuck in the mud.

The River Nene had a rise and fall of about thirty feet and at low water there was a steep slope of soft mud held together by faggots, which need constant renewing. Nowadays, further reclamations have pushed the salt marsh further north into the Wash. In the 1930s the spring tides surrounded the lighthouse and covered the saltmarsh to the foot of the bank.

Today the inside of the lighthouse is very much as it was when Peter Scott lived there. Its conical shape makes it look more like a windmill than a lighthouse. There are four floors, the bottom one is 16 feet in diameter and above it are three rooms with progressively smaller diameters. The one at the very top is about 6 feet in diameter and there is only just has enough room for a small single bed. It has two small round windows opposite each other and give marvellous views, one up river towards the port (not there in Peter Scott's time and the power station chimneys); and the other over the sea wall and the mudfalts and saltmarsh beyond. Peter Scoot looked out over the Wash and its sandbanks and saltings.

Peter Scott made his bedroom on the floor below this one. He painted 'ghostly geese' on its pale green walls, outlined in white, 'for ever circling the room'. (Today's owner sleeps in the extension to the lighthouse.) On the next floor down was a twin-bedded sitting room and the beds hung from stout ropes attached from each corner to the ceiling. When the beds were not in use, a series of blocks and tackles as used to haul the eds up to the ceiling and the room was used as a sitting room. To reach the upper rooms, you had to use ladders through trapdoors. The first floor was and still is, connected with the ground floor by a curved stairway which follows the curve of the wall. The doors are cut into this curve and look most odd when opened! It makes you feel quite giddy! This room was Peter Scott's living room and studio and was sometimes shared with a Customs Officer at high tide.

A small lean-too had been added to make a kitchen for the previous occupant and Peter Scott added a small bathroom beyond it. Outside, steps lead down to a basement. This space was occupied by a gentleman of the road called Charlie, a big friendly red-haired man who collected cockles and samphire in the summer and worked as a handyman in the winter.

The East Bank Lighthouse  in winter
The East Bank Lighthouse in winter

The East Lighthouse was Peter Scott's home until the beginning of the Second World War. During those five years he added a flat-roofed studio that overlooked the marsh. He also added a larger bedroom and a bunk room that connected with the garage and boathouse that he had constructed at first. He also made a new front entrance that led from a gravel driveway into a small hall. This last addition, he said, made it a 'proper home'.

His initial intention had been to use the lighthouse as a temporary base for wildfowling weekends but he soon began to see it as a permanent home. Before he could do this he had to pipe fresh water to it and this could only be done by making a connection to the main across the river near the West Lighthouse. It was easier than expected: he simply crossed the river in a boat with a load of pipes, connecting them together and allowing them to sag down on the bed of the river. The supply was only secure as long as no ship came up river stern first, dragging an anchor. His system worked for the next five years.

His other main intention was to keep waterfowl on the marsh around the lighthouse. He made enclosures using a fifty-foot roll of six-foot wire netting and some metal stakes bought from the hardware shop in Sutton Bridge. The wire fence was erected around small pool on the salt marsh close to the lighthouse. It was about 20 yards long and five yards wide. Fifteen geese were introduced to this enclose. However, he soon realised that something larger would be need and would mean more planning.

[The author gratefully acknowledges information gleaned from Peter Scott's autobiography, The Eye of the Wind (1961) and conversations with the present owner of the lighthouse.]


¦ ⇑ Back to top of page ⇑ ¦


This coaching inn was built in the mid 18th Century, but was re-fronted and extended in the early part of the 19th Century. It is a two storey building, and was constructed in brick and has been rendered and colourwashed. It has a slate roof and two ridge stacks. The door is partly glazed and the doorway has an overlight. To the left is a single segmented arched plain sash window with margin lights. Three similar segmented arched sashes are to the right. On the second storey, there are five similar segmental arched glazing bar sashes, with the one over the left doorway being narrower.

The New Inn as it appears today, after recently re-opening
The New Inn

The New Inn is a Grade II listed building.

2013 Update: The building under new management and was renamed as The Gathering 'Rock Pub-Cafe' P.H.

2014 Update: The building is now under new management and has been renamed as The Boathouse Bistro Bar & Tea Rooms.

¦ ⇑ Back to top of page ⇑ ¦


A handsome terrace of three Georgian houses, opposite St Matthew’s Church, built in the early 19th century, in red brick with a slate roof. The construction comprises of a double-depth plan of two and half storeys. The doorways have panelled doors, a glazed fanlight and pilastered door cases that support an open pediment. The windows are glazed bar sashes and the property also has three blind windows. The windows on the top floor follow the same pattern as below but are smaller. All the sash windows and blind openings have cambered arched flush wedge lintels.

64-68 Bridge Road, Sutton Bridge Grade II listed building
The Georgian terrace in Bridge Road

64-68 Bridge Road, Sutton Bridge  in winter
The Georgian terrace in winter, showing the double-depth side elevation

The Georgian terrace is a Grade II listed building.

¦ ⇑ Back to top of page ⇑ ¦


Cross Keys Bridge - a Grade 11* listing (previously included the Hydraulic Engine House). This bridge is the third bridge to span the River Nene at Sutton Bridge. The Cross Keys bridge, formerly a road and rail hydraulic swing bridge (now a road only bridge), was opened in 1897.

Cross Keys Bridge
Cross Keys Bridge

It was erected by A. Handyside & Co. Ltd of Derby. It is built of steel, iron and wood. The swing span has three parallel bowstring braced girders carried on a pivot pier. There are two fixed steel plate girders at either end. The bridge is topped with a wooden podium, and supports a hexagonal wood and glazed viewing room, which contains part of the hydraulic machinery which It was manufactured by Sir WG Armstrong, Whitworth & Co. Ltd. The steel girders were made by the Staffordshire Steel Co, of Bilston. A plaque on the western end of the bridge commemorates this.

Plaque on the side of Cross Keys Bridge

The hydraulic engine house (see below), now part of a private home, is across the road from the bridge and was connected underground.  Nowadays the bridge is operated by computer technology, although it is still maintained and serviced by the engineer/bridge keepers.

A similar swing bridge crosses the river Tyne, connecting Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Gateshead. The Tyne Bridge was built by Sir W G Armstrong & Co. Ltd. This bridge was built between 1873 and 1876. It opened to road traffic in June 1876 and to river traffic in July the same year.

The first bridge was built in 1830 and was designed by Sir John Rennie. It was built of oak and had a movable iron span which divided in the middle and opened upwards to allow sailing ships to pass beneath. At the same time, a toll house was built at the west end of the Bridge and the toll-keeper’s cottage was built on the east bank. (See articles below) It would not have made comfortable crossing for pedestrians because after leaving the bridge on the Norfolk side, people had to descend to the sands and this could be very dangerous when crossing the rest of the estuary, especially at night. In the autumn of 1830, boards were placed at the Clenchwarton and Walpole toll-gates to convince people that it was safe to cross the sands on foot and that guides would not be necessary This bridge lasted twenty years.

Drawing of the first Cross Keys Bridge, 1830-50, modelled on the Fosdyke Bridge

Click on image above to view enlarged

The Fosdyke bridge
The Fosdyke Bridge

The second bridge was erected in the autumn of 1850 after improvements were made to the Nene below Wisbech. It was constructed cast and wrought iron and designed by Robert Stephenson. It was built about 100 feet south of the first bridge. The roads on either side were diverted to accommodate the bridge. When the railway between King’s Lynn and Sutton Bridge was built in 1864, the railway company bought the bridge and used the southern half for their line. This saved them the expense of building another bridge just for the railway.

The second bridge across the River Nene at Sutton Bridge built in 1850 was adapted in 1864 to take the railway
The second bridge built in 1850, which was adapted in 1864 to take the railway

However, improvements to the railway line included the building of a third bridge — the swing road and rail bridge we see today, although without the railway, which was removed after the railway line closed in 1959, and later dismantled.

The building of the third bridge across the River Nene at Sutton Bridge
The third bridge was begun in 1895 and opened in 1897

The Crosskeys Bridge road and rail crossing looking towards King's Lynn
The road and rail crossing looking towards King's Lynn

By the end of the 19th century, there were between 60 and 80 trains a day crossing the bridge which was also being opened for shipping about five times daily. It opened for traffic in July 1897. (See ‘Sutton Bridge–an Industrial History, by Neil Wright [with help from Beryl Jackson] pps18-24).

An eastbound train about to cross the bridge
An eastbound train about to cross the bridge before the railway was closed in 1959

We have attempted to trace the copyright of these photographs, but without success. If anyone knows to whom they should be attributed, we shall be glad to acknowledge this.

Sutton Washway Bridge

On December 23rd, 1825, seven ‘Gentlemen’ sat round a board room table in Lynn to ‘further discuss and approve plans to build a bridge across the River Nene’ (or Nen, as it was then called). This was the General Meeting of a Committee that had been formed in November at an adjourned meeting that had originally taken place at The Bull, in Long Sutton on 31st October 1825. A Committee was formed under the chairmanship of Lord William Cavendish Bentinck. The members of the committee were: William Cavendish Bentinck, William Brown Folkes, John Prescott Blencowe, Daniel Gurney, Thomas Hoseason, Charles Hursthouse and George Prest. The appointed secretary to the Committee was Frederick Lane, Esq.

Plan of Proposed Sutton Washway Bridge – the route inking Norfolk and Lincolnshire

Click on image above to view enlarged

It was proposed to build a bridge and embankment across the Sutton Wash to provide a direct communication link between Norfolk and part of Suffolk with Lincolnshire and the North of England to transport agricultural produce from Norfolk to the North and bring ‘Lincolnshire lean stock’, and cattle from Scotland to Eastern England for fattening where turnips were grown forage. This stock was eventually sent to London. Long-wool Lincolnshire sheep were much in demand in East-Anglia for their wool produced fine cloth.

The bridge that was built cut the distance and journey times considerably—remembering that the roads were not surfaced with tarmac or concrete as our roads are today: rough stone, mud and gravel were more likely in 1825. In terms of distance, it was estimated that routes from Lynn to Stamford, Grantham and Newark (for connections to the Great North Road), via Wisbech would save 6, 19 and 24 miles respectively.  Again, by comparison with today’s distances, this was nothing. However, there were no motorised vehicles; everything was either horse-drawn or carried on foot.  At a speed of 4mph, the journey would save up to a day’s travel. Livestock droves travelled hundreds of miles. Contributions at 20d, or 1/8d* (in old money) per score for oxen, cows and neat cattle, and 10d* per score for sheep, calves and lambs taken from the drovers crossing toll bridges amounted to a tidy sum of money at money values then.

*(For conversion of old money to approximate prices today see table below)

Currency converter: 1830-2005

£.s.d. (1830) Decimal (2005)
1 shilling (12d)
2 shillings
£1 (240d/20s)

Notes to the currency Converter: the source for the table is from the National Archives— . The figures have been collated from original documents and official statistics and are for a general guide only. In addition, it should be remembered that there is no one correct monetary value in terms of ‘worth’ today. Income, wages, expenditure on commodities, rent, food etc would each have different values compared with today’s figures. Today our monetary values are calculated on a variety of measures, just as they were in the past, except by different measures.

The bridge was built by public subscription and the Committee members meeting in Lynn were among some of the first subscribers. Shares were offered at £50 each. (The committee had resolved to appoint Messrs. George and John Rennie to be the engineers. Apparently, Mr Rennie offered his services free as a result of his having to ‘abandon his chaise’ while crossing the Washway and had ‘to wade through the sea to the nearest bank’.  He could see the need for a bridge!

An investment on this scale—an estimated cost of building the bridge would amount to £50,000 (in today’s world, the cost would be approximately £25million)—would require a return on capital, which was to be provided by tolls charged to every user of the bridge in both directions.

The proposal was considered to be viable because there were already two bridges across the rivers flowing into the Wash. In 1814 Sir Joseph Banks and others had built the bridge and embankment across Fosdyke Wash. Seven years later, in 1821 a bridge was built over the Ouse at Lynn and the only link now required was a bridge to cross the Nene at the Cross Keys Wash.

The Fosdyke Bridge had proved so successful that it was agreed that the Cross Keys Bridge should be modelled on it. An Act of Parliament was required, and money had to be raised, before building could begin. The proposed costs included the building of a Toll House, in addition to the usual legal fees and repairs.

By March 1826, the list of subscribers totalled 154, with the distribution of 758 shares between them. This had raised £37,500 somewhat short of the estimated cost. In July 1826, the Secretary, Frederick Lane was instructed to write to the Earl Brownlow inviting him to invest the sum of £5,000 to make up the difference. Presumably he obliged as the first bridge was constructed in 1830.

The Sutton Washway Bridge was the first of three bridges at this spot. The second was built in 1850 and the third and adapted to take the railway in 1864. The existing one, incorporating a railway crossing,  was built in 1897.

The second bridge across the River Nene at Sutton Bridge built in 1850 was adapted in 1864 to take the railway
The Second Bridge

The building of the third bridge across the River Nene at Sutton Bridge
Third and final bridge

The tolls remained on the subsequent bridges and were not removed until 1903.

Cross Keys Bridge Toll
Celebrating the removal of the tolls.


The original Committee drew up a detailed list of the tolls to be charged. (See table below).

The success of the tolls charged at Fosdyke was the baseline for the Cross Keys Bridge tolls but with the added provision to increase them when the roads on either side had been improved.  At that time, the bridge at Fosdyke was usually out of action for up to four months every year due to impassable roads on either side.

A carriage with four wheels and driven by four horses, was charged 4 shillings. For a wagon, wain or 4-wheeled carriage driven by three horses or beasts of draught, the toll was two shillings and threepence (2/3d). At today’s prices this would be something in the region of £5.  Every foot passenger, except ‘the one having care for the carriage, wagon, or cart etc’, was charged three pence (3d).

The  list of tolls charged:

At the October 1825 General Meeting it was resolved ‘that the tolls to be taken at the proposed Bridge, shall be as follows:

For every Coach, Berlin, Landau, Charriot, Chaise, Calash, and pleasure Carriage, and for every Hearse, Litter, or other such Carriage, or Vehicle, having four Wheels and drawn by four Horses, or other Beast of Draught, the sum of Four Shillings; and for every additional Horse or other Beast of Draught, the Sum of One Shilling.

For every and any of the like Carriages or other Vehicles, as aforesaid, drawn by three Horses or Other Beast of Draught, the sum of Three Shillings.

For every and any of the like Carriages or other Vehicles, as aforesaid, and for every Chaise, Gig, Chair, Sociable, Cart, upon a spring, or springs, or with a Seat hung therein upon Slings or Braces, or other such Vehicle having less than four Wheels, and drawn by two Horses or other Beasts of Draught, the Sum of Two Shillings.

For every and any of the like Carriages or other Vehicles as last mentioned, drawn by one Horse or other Beast of Draught, the Sum of One Shilling and Six pence.

For every Waggon, Wain, Car, or other such four Wheeled Carriage or Vehicle drawn by four Horses, or other Beast of Draught, the Sum of Three Shillings, and for every additional Horse, or other Beast of Draught, the Sum of Nine Pence.

For every such Waggon, Wain, Car, or other such four Wheeled Carriage or Vehicle as last aforesaid, drawn by three Horses, or other Beast of Draught, the Sum of Two Shillings and Three Pence.

For every such Waggon, Wain, Car, or other such four Wheeled Carriage or Vehicle as last aforesaid, drawn by Two Horses, other Such Beast of Draught, the Sum of One Shilling and Six Pence.

For Every Cart, Car, or other two Wheeled Carriage or Vehicle, except as above-mentioned, drawn by One Horse or other Beast of Draught, the Sum of One Shilling.

For every Coach, or other Carriage, Waggon, or Cart fixed or fastened to and drawn with any other Coach or Carriage, Waggon or Cart, one half of the Toll payable for the Coach, Carriage, Wagon or Cart, drawing the same.

For every Horse, Mare, Gelding, or Mule, laden or unladen, or carrying one Person and not drawing, the Sum of One shilling, and for every additional Person the Sum of Three Pence.

For every Ass, laden or unladen, or carrying one Person and not drawing, the Sum of Four Pence, and for every additional Person the Sum of Three Pence.

For every Foot Passenger, other than and except such as shall bona fide belong to, and have the charge or care of any Waggon, Wain, Dray, Car or Cart, or any Horse, Beasts, or other Cattle chargeable with Toll, the Sum of Three Pence.

For every Person except the Driver, riding in ior upon any Coach, Chaise, Waggon, Cart, or other Vehicle carrying Persons for Hire, and not duly Licensed by Law so to do, the Sum of Three Pence each, to be a Charge upon such a Carriage or Conveyance, and the Horses or Cattle drawing the same, and the Goods and Chattels therein, and to be [aid by such Driver.

For every Drove of Oxen, Cows, or neat Cattle the Sum of Twenty Pence per Score, and so in proportion for any greater or less number

For every Drove of Geese or Turkies, the Sum of Five Pence per Score, and so in proportion for any great or less number.

Provided that if any such Drove of Oxen, Cows, or Neat Cattle, Calves, Swine, Sheep, or Lambs, Geese or Turkies shall be less than a Score in the whole, then no fractional part of a Score shall pay any less than Four Pence.

[The information for this article above was gleaned from archive material belonging to one of Bridgewatch’s readers, to whom we express our grateful thanks.]

¦ ⇑ Back to top of page ⇑ ¦

The Hydraulic Engine House, Grade 11*

Hydraulic Engine House, Tydd Gote Road, Sutton Bridge, was formally listed as a Grade 11* building in 1980 as part of the Cross Keys Bridge. The machinery was built in 1897 by Sir W. G. Armstrong, Whitworth & Co. Ltd. It was built in iron, red brick and has slate roofs. The ribbed iron tower has a hipped roof with overhanging eaves and consists of two storeys and has two bays. There are no ground floor openings. There are two glazing bar sashes with flat heads to the front and rear and a single similar sash on each side wall. Behind is a single storey red brick range with 3 bays. The moulded brick eaves have large wooden ventilators. There are two segmental arched doorways with planked doors, the one to the right being wider. To the left is a large segmental arched glazing bar with a fixed light. At the rears are 3 similar windows to the right of a small blocked doorway.

The Hydraulic Engine House, Sutton Bridge
The Hydraulic Engine House

The Engine House was built to contain the hydraulic machinery needed to operate the swing bridge. Originally the power came from 2 locomotive type boilers, but they were replaced by 2 electric motors. The building is connected underground to the Cross Keys Bridge.

The Hydraulic Engine House is now part of a private dwelling.

¦ ⇑ Back to top of page ⇑ ¦


Bridge House West is a Grade II listed building described as a lodge. It was built in the mid-19th century at the time the second bridge was built in 1850. An early photograph of the second bridge shows the house. The road from the bridge actually ran through what is now the front garden of the Bridge House West.

Bridge House West , Sutton Bridge
Bridge House West

The building consists of two storeys (one built into the roof space). It is constructed in red brick with ashlar dressings and quoins (or cornerstones). There are two bays: the west front has a left projecting front over which the main roof projects. The roof has fishtail tiles and sprocketed eaves and a decorative ridge. The gabled half dormer has a single casement with flush ashlar surround. The gabled porch has a chamfered pointed arched aisle doorway and a plank door.. There are some twentieth century alterations on the north side.

The present owners have lived here since 1978 and made some of the 20th century additions. It was in a bad state of repair when they bought the property. There was no inside sanitation and only a cold water tap. Previously it was let to tenants. When the railway between Sutton Bridge and King’s Lynn was built in 1864, the railway keeper lived in the house. Before that, it was a toll house like its neighbour across the river at Bridge House East, and served the second bridge. The first Toll House was no longer close enough to the roadway from the bridge, being about 100feet south of the first bridge and consequently, the roads at each end of the bridge had to be diverted to meet up with the second bridge.

At one point the District Council wanted to compulsorily purchase the building to build some public toilets, but there was a lot of local opposition to this plan and support for the present owners, including the drawing up of a petition, which attracted local and national newspaper, and television news, attention. Consequently the idea was dropped and the lodge continued to be a residence.

Bridge House West was listed after the alterations were made. Looking at the house today it is hard to see where the additions were made. Living in a listed building does have some difficulties for owners if alterations need to be done because there are special building regulations to be adhered to. Bridge House West owners think this is a good thing because it protects buildings and if other buildings in Sutton Bridge had been listed, they might still be here today. An example of this was the Station House, and the station, both of which were demolished after the railway was dismantled.

Bridge House West in Sutton Bridge today
Bridge House West today

Bridge House West is included in the proposed conservation area which is at the ‘almost-ready-for-completion’ stage but cannot be finalised at the moment because funding is not currently available. The conservation area covers an area that includes St Matthew’s Church, the Memorial Park, The Bridge Hotel and the streets behind it’ This area should be conserved as this part of Sutton Bridge is particularly interesting from an historical point of view.

¦ ⇑ Back to top of page ⇑ ¦


The first Cross Keys Bridge was finished in June 1830 before the River Nene was diverted into its new channel and was in use for about a year before the road on the embankment was completed. During this time, travellers had to pay a toll to use the bridge, even though they had to climb down to the sands to cross the rest of the estuary!

In September 1830 boards were laid at the Clenchwarton and Walpole toll-gates to indicate to travellers that it was safe to cross to the bridge at certain tides. These became known as the Lynn Boards.

Many travellers were angry at having to pay a toll to cross the bridge and walk on dangerous tidal sands before reaching it. There is a story of one person who attacked the toll-gate keeper and refused to pay. Needless to say this was not going to be tolerated.

The present owners of Bridge House East believe that their home had been built around this time and in 1997, they produced a booklet The First Toll House (Bridge House East) An Accidental History, documenting its history, which, unfortunately, is now out of print.

Bridge House East, Sutton Bridge
Bridge House East

A toll bar was built on the West Bank and a toll-keeper’s cottage (now Bridge House East) was built on the East Bank. It is a very substantial red-brick building, overlain with shingle rendering, with a slate roof and was, when it was built, the only building on that side of the river, standing between marsh and sandbanks.

With the road completed on the Norfolk side, one year after the bridge was built, the first vehicle, the Union Coach from Norwich to Newark crossed the bridge on 4th July, 1831 able to use the road on the east bank. It left from the Cross Keys Tavern in Norfolk and crossed to the Wash House Inn (now the Bridge Hotel), with celebrations at each point.

The Last Stage Coach at the Bridge Hotel, Sutton Bridge
The Last Stage Coach at the Bridge Hotel, Sutton Bridge

This photograph was taken in the 1950's. The story is that around this time, and for a number of years, a family from Lincolnshire travelled into Norfolk for their annual holiday. They would use the Bridge Hotel as a staging post to water and feed the horses, before continuing their journey. No doubt the early 19th century traveller would have used a similar method of travelling between the two counties after the first bridge was built and before the railway was built in 1864.

The major fault with the 1830 bridge was that it was built at the same time as the cut and the piles were driven into the bed before the old channel was closed up and the new channel was properly scoured by the tides. This caused scouring to the piles, making the bridge slightly unstable. Stones were thrown around the piles to strengthen them but this caused eddies on each tide, which affected the handling of the ships that passed.

When the second bridge was built in 1850 (another story) a toll house was provided on the west bank (Bridge House West) which also still stands.

Cross Keys Bridge Toll
The crowds massing on the third (existing) bridge when the toll was removed in November 1903. (Inset:Toll ticket)

Tolls ended on 4th November 1903 when the County Council agreed to maintain the embankment and the road along it. The Midland and Great Northern Railway agreed to give up the tolls for a payment of £7,000 but continued to own and maintain it. To celebrate the ending of tolls, the crowds packed the bridge to hear the official declaration.

The story of the three bridges at Sutton Bridge is the subject of a later article.

[Sources: Sutton Bridge – An Industrial History by Neil Wright with help from Beryl Jackson (SLHA 2009) The First Toll House – an Accidental History by Maureen & Peter Hunt (1997)]

¦ ⇑ Back to top of page ⇑ ¦


Two place names in Sutton Bridge - Garner’s Wharf and Garner’s Lane - originate from a family who have lived in Sutton Bridge and the local area since before the beginning of the 19th Century. Garner’s Lane leads to the farm that is owned by one branch of the Garner family.

Garner’s Wharf has, since 1996, been turned into apartments and the warehouse almost opposite Garner’s Wharf is also an apartment block, now known as Quay Flats. The two-storey warehouse was built between 1836 and 1850 and the archway (now bricked up on the riverside) gave access to a wooden quay. This projected into the river but was dismantled because it was considered unsafe.

The Warehouse at Garners Wharf, Sutton Bridge
The Warehouse c.1910: horses and carts laden with corn sacks waiting to be shipped.

The photograph, probably taken in the early part of the 20th Century, shows horses and carts load with sacks (of grain) outside the warehouse waiting to be shipped. This was when the both the warehouse and the granaries , which were apparently owned by Guy’s Hospital, were sold in 1919. It is difficult to work out the name above the archway but an earlier owner was the Sutton Bridge Corn Co. Using a magnifying class it is possible to work out that there appear to be two names on the board, which may be Gregorys & Hampson Ltd, one of the early owners of the warehouse. Judging by the lorry in the photograph with solid tyres, it suggests that the photograph was taken early in the twentieth century.

The quayside at Garner's Wharf, Sutton Bridge
The quayside (postwar) after the Warehouse and the Wharf had been purchased by Sidney Garner & Sons Ltd.

In 1940, Sidney Garner & Sons Ltd bought both buildings to carry out their corn, seed and fertiliser business. They also occupied the Old Chapel, in Bridge Road, now the Pizza take-away outlet. It was from here that they carried out the seed cleaning process, having transferred the heavy machinery to the Granaries. Leslie, one of the Garner sons explained that the process involved feeding the seed in at one end, blowing it, adding seed dressing and bagging in sacks for farmers to sow.

The warehouse was commandeered in 1940 to house troops returning from Dunkirk. It was also used as a storage depot for emergency rations.

¦ ⇑ Back to top of page ⇑ ¦

The Police House, Sutton Bridge

In the photograph, two sergeants and seven constables - that’s the size of the Police Force once upon a time in Sutton Bridge. I wonder if anyone knows their names? Before the war, a large police presence was an everyday occurrence in the village. Quite different from today’s community police that are based in Holbeach and are shared between several villages. However, the port was busier then and the need for police watchfulness was greater than today, although not everyone would necessarily agree with that. But times have changed and policing has changed too.

Sutton Bridge Police force before the War
Sutton Bridge Police Force before the War

The policemen used to live on the premises of the police station. Opposite Custom House Street, in Wharf Street, is the Old Police Station.

Sutton Bridge police house
The Police House today, now private dwellings.

After the War the police house was no longer needed and was put up for sale and Leslie Garner bought the premises and offered to sell the Police House – the Sergeant’s house - to Jack Earley, who had recently come to live in Sutton Bridge. Leslie kept the adjoining police station and lived there himself. This comprised of two cells, which were downstairs and one of which he made into a tiny kitchen. Above this was a dormitory which four single policemen shared. Leslie created a bathroom in part of this.

Because the house didn’t have a number — it was simply called the Police House — Leslie suggested that Jack should call his part 1a and he would name his part One Bee. This name can still be seen on the gate to the front entrance.

¦ ⇑ Back to top of page ⇑ ¦

The RAF Memorial at Sutton Bridge

The Royal Air Force Memorial at Sutton Bridge
The Royal Air Force Memorial at Sutton Bridge

Some people may not know that the RAF Memorial, close to the Cross Keys Swing Bridge, was erected in 1993 by the Fenland & West Norfolk Aircraft Preservation Society, working alongside Sutton Bridge Parish Council. Nor, perhaps, do they know that the propeller came from a Hurricane aircraft, Serial Number N2529, that crashed on the 21st March 1941 at Terrington St John, a few miles away.

When the old Sutton Bridge airfield site was designated an area for industrial development, the F&WNAP Society wanted to preserve the memory of the airfield and all the servicemen who trained there, and proposed the erection of a suitable memorial.

The pilot of the Hurricane, Sergeant R.W. Read from 56 Operational Training Unit, based at RAF Sutton Bridge, bailed out before his aircraft plummeted into a field, and he came down with his parachute at Tilney St Lawrence. As he descended his parachute caught on the chimney of a cottage, slamming him into a wall so hard that he was knocked unconscious. The force of the impact also stopped his watch! Local people rushed to his assistance and after removing him from his parachute harness, gave him a couple of tots of whisky, and then transported him to RAF Sutton Bridge in the back of a horse and cart. On his arrival he stated that he felt fully recovered from his ordeal (the crash or the cart ride?)!

The Royal Air Force Memorial at Sutton Bridge
Memorial to RAF Sutton Bridge with Crosskeys Bridge in the background.
Image above © Copyright Keith Evans and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Another interesting fact is that the bent tip of the propeller blade mounted on the Memorial, intentionally points towards the remains of the former site of RAF Sutton Bridge. The rest of the aircraft’s remains are in the Society’s Museum at Bambers Leisure Centre, on the B198 (Old Lynn Road), West Walton PE14 7DA, where they can be seen with many other exhibits during the opening hours of 9-30 am- 5-00pm Sat/Sun & Bank Holidays, and Wednesdays 1pm-4-30pm, from the last weekend in March until the last weekend in October, 2011.

Contacts: Museum. Tel 01945 461771. Website:

(Written from information supplied by Bill Welbourne of the Fenland & West Norfolk Aircraft Preservation Society)

¦ ⇑ Back to top of page ⇑ ¦

Sutton Bridge Churches

St Matthew’s Parish Church

Before Sutton Bridge became an ecclesiastical parish in 1843, it was part of Long Sutton parish and without its own Anglican church. The church of St Matthew’s Church was built 1841-43, and largely funded by Guy’s Hospital Trust, which had bought, in 1746, the estate of bankrupt owner, William Newland, as a source of income for its London Hospital. Some funds were also raised by public subscription. [See Sutton Bridge — an Industrial History, by Neil R Wright with help from Beryl Jackson (Society for Lincolnshire History & Archaeology: ISBN 978-0-903582-37-7) and elsewhere for the history of Guy’s Hospital and Sutton Bridge]

St Matthews Church was designed by Joseph Longland, who was resident architect of the Guys’ Hospital Estate and it was consecrated on August 29th 1843. The first stone was laid on July 28th 1841, by Benjamin Harris, who was the Treasurer at Guy’s Hospital. It is the only flint-faced church in South Lincolnshire, built in Suffolk flint (probably having come from Grimes Graves*, near Thetford in Suffolk), and with stone dressings.

*Grimes Graves was still being worked by a family of knappers in the first half of the 20th century.

It is built in the Early English style and consists of a chancel, nave, north and south porches with a tower that used to house a bell (now electronic chimes) and a clock.  Today it has many stained glass windows, including two modern windows, although when it was first built it was considered very plain, not having any stained glass windows or any dedicated side chapels at all. Also not included at that time was a high altar stone reredos, brass rail or organ, and no heating or lighting, apart from candles.

St Matthew's Church c.1900
St Matthew’s Church c.1900

The first vicar of St Matthews, the Reverend T Young, (1840-1880) tried to increase income for the church by renting out pews for fifty pounds per year. However, he left some ‘free’ and until recently this word could still be seen on some of the pews.

St Matthew’s Church also contains the RAF memorial chapel (dedicated to St Michael & St Philip) and has, in part of its churchyard, a separate War Graves section to the airman from eight countries many, who lost their lives whilst training at Sutton Bridge Airfield.

Churchyard of St Matthew, Sutton Bridge
War Graves in St Matthew's churchyard, Sutton Bridge
St Matthew's church yard
View from St Matthew's church tower of the War Graves section in the churchyard

Flags — representing the nations of the airmen

St Michael’s was the RAF chapel on the former RAF camp site at Wingland, and St Philip’s was the name of the Mission Chapel at Guy’s Head, which was built in 1869 and which was demolished shortly after WW2. Although St Philip’s Mission Chapel was used for services, it was not consecrated for sacraments. It was included in the Parish of St Matthew’s. It was not until 1956 that the RAF chapel of St Michael was incorporated into the side chapel of St Philip.

The Reredos below the East Window and behind the High Altar was commissioned in 1961.  It caused quite a stir at the time because it is the only known reredos with a beardless figure of Christ, nailed to the cross with the feet pinned separately.

The beardless Christ
The beardless Christ

Sutton Bridge Methodist Churches

During the 19th Century, as Methodism grew and scions developed, chapels reflecting these splits were built in Sutton Bridge.

A word about Methodism:

Methodism (the word derives from the Greek word methodos = pursuit of knowledge) was an off-shoot of Protestant Christianity, which had its roots in the preaching of John Wesley. It was largely a revival movement within the Church of England.

The movement developed differently throughout Britain. In Wales it was known as The Calvinistic Methodist Church, while elsewhere, another ministry under the direction of the Rev George Whitfield, became known as the Free Church of England.

During his lifetime Wesley did not wish to break away from the Church of England. In the early days of Methodism, there were many different Methodist denominations. One of these were the Primitives, who thought nothing wrong in preaching in the open air, unlike John Wesley and his followers who wished to have a building for their ministry. And so the chapels set up during Wesley’s lifetime were known as ‘Preaching Houses’. No Baptisms, Marriages and burials took place within them; these could only take place in the Parish church.

In 1836, the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel replaced an earlier one that was in existence in 1814. It had been built in Bridge Road, opposite where the Board School (still existing, though now no longer a school building) was later built in 1879. In 1856, this was described as the Wesleyan Reform church. This later was used as the Assembly rooms, as the RC church of St Dymphna (see below), as a furniture warehouse belonging to Colin Whitmore, and now demolished.

A year earlier, in 1855, the Primitive Methodist chapel (known as the Independent) was erected on the corner of Allenby’s Chase. (See map) and, later, in 1880 a schoolroom was added. The title ‘Primitive Methodist’ was usually given to Methodist lay preachers (non-ordained), so the chapel on the corner of Allenby’s Chase would have been the place where the Methodist laity could preach.

The Primitive Methodist Church
The Primitive Methodist Church on the corner of Allenby’s Chase

The building was still in use as a Methodist chapel until the late 1990’s, when it was partially demolished and the land behind it sold to developers who built a small cluster of terrace houses. The lower section of the chapel was converted into a single dwelling.

Father Mulligan
United Methodist Church, now a fast-food outlet (the inscribed stone dedications have been erased)

Ten years after the building of the Primitive Methodist church (The Independent), the Free Church built a second Methodist chapel in Bridge Road (1865), which was situated next door to the Wesleyan Chapel. In 1900 a schoolroom was added to this chapel also (This is now a private dwelling). In the latter part of the 19thC many of the smaller Methodist groups united to become the United Methodist Free churches. A further union in 1907 brought into being the United Methodist Church.

In 1932 the three main Methodist groups in Britain, the Wesleyans, the Primitive Methodists and the United Methodist Church came together to become the present day Methodist Church.

The twentieth Century saw the closure of all three chapels in Sutton Bridge. In 1932 The Wesleyan Chapel became the Assembly Rooms, where the folk of Sutton Bridge would go for their entertainment and leisure. Dances were held here, as well as meetings by the Women’s’ Union, The British Legion and where some residents remember going as children to watch Punch and Judy!

Then Mr Kildea appeared on the scene and bought the premises for his new enlarged chemist shop and to create a Roman Catholic Church (see below) for fellow Catholics living in the area. However, when he retired and moved away, he sold the premises and the Catholic Church was no longer. (see below)

The building lived on and was bought by Colin Whitmore as a furniture showroom, where he put in glazed windows to display his goods. He used this until he acquired land further west along Bridge Road, almost opposite the Post Office and built his new modern premises. Left empty, the Wesleyan Chapel became derelict and quite recently the building was demolished and the site is still awaiting development.

RC Church of Our Lady and St Dymphna, Sutton Bridge

In the late nineteen-fifties, a Northern Irish ex-Army Padre priest and an Irish Catholic chemist had the same idea — to provide a church for the Catholic Community of Sutton Bridge.

Father Mulligan, from Armagh in Northern Ireland, first came to South Holland in 1955 as assistant to Father N Ellis priest of St Norbert’s Church, Spalding. Father Mulligan had already had a distinguished career, serving as a British Army Padre for seven years (1943-1950). He was in the D-Day landings in Normandy and was mentioned in Despatches for his part in the operation. He was also decorated with the Croix de Guerre (1st Class) for his service in Belgium, from where he moved with the Army to Magdeburg (then part of Germany), just before the end of the war.

After demobilisation he worked for three years in a slum area of Manchester before moving to Storrington Priory, Sussex. It was from here that Father Mulligan came to serve the Roman Catholic population of Sutton Bridge at Our Lady and St Dymphna’s Roman Catholic Church in Sutton Bridge.

Previously the Catholic Community had to journey to King’s Lynn or the ex POW Camp chapel on the West Bank at Sutton Bridge for Mass. After the POW closed, Father Mulligan had hopes of buying and re-siting the POW Camp chapel next to the old school in Bridge Road. 

In the meantime, Mr Kildea, an Irish Catholic, who had come to live in Sutton Bridge before WW2, and who was the local pharmacist, owning his own chemist shop in Bridge Road, required larger premises. His first shop was next door to the old Cinema (previously the Oddfellows Hall ).

Father Mulligan
Father Mulligan baptising an infant at St Dymphna’s

Opposite his premises was a large building with an annexe. This building had been built as the Wesleyan Chapel, but at that time was known as the Assembly Rooms, where social functions were held.

Mr Kildea had his eye on it for three reasons: one, the annexe would house a larger chemist shop and the old Chapel could be converted in a Catholic Church with living accommodation above for himself and his family.

So Mr Kildea bought the whole building. The new Catholic Church was consecrated in the name of St Dymphna and Mr Kildea’s dream was finally realised. Father Mulligan became the Priest-in-charge and the old POW camp chapel was no longer a place of worship.

There was a substantial Italian community living and working in Sutton Bridge at that time and many weddings and christenings took place at St Dymphna’s over the next decade or so. 

Maureen and Archie Summerfield
Maureen and Archie Summerfield on their wedding day

One local resident, Maureen Summerfield, née Quinn, remembers being married at St Dymphna’s in 1960. She recalls having to go across the road to the old school playground after the wedding ceremony to have the photographs taken because the church door opened directly onto the pavement and there was no room for people to gather outside.

However, when Mr Kildea retired in the late sixties, he sold the premises, including the Catholic Church, and Sutton Bridge was left once more without its own Catholic Church. But this did not deter Father Mulligan who continued to serve the parish and arranged for Mass to be celebrated in St Matthew’s Church after the Anglican service was over, or if this was not possible, in the Church Hall.

A few years later, the Holbeach Roman Catholic Church, the Holy Trinity, was built and the Catholic Community attended church there.

Additional references: Lincs Free Press (cutting unmarked, but c.1982), Wikipedia; St Matthew’s Church information booklet; Jeremy Satherley (Author of "Jerry oonder the bed"), residents of Sutton Bridge.

¦ ⇑ Back to top of page ⇑ ¦