Until the fifteenth century, our town only had half its name. Originally Wade, it was a small though popular market village by a dangerous fording point across the River Camel with a chapel on each side of the river, Kings chapel on the north, St Michael’s on the south. ‘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.’ (Wikipedia)
Later a ferry was introduced, until the Vicar of Egloshayle (the Reverend Thomas Lovibond) planned the building of a bridge to avoid the frequent deaths caused by dangerous attempted crossings. It was completed in 1468 and Wade became Wadebridge.
200 years later, the bridge was to be a key strategic position in the English Civil War, with Oliver Cromwell taking it in 1646 with 500 Dragoons and 1000 horsemen.
In 1831, our namesake and major landowner, Sir William Molesworth of Pencarrow commissioned a study to improve trade connections to the town. The result was the Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway connecting Wadebridge to Wenfordbridge, built for the princely sum of £35,000. The line’s purpose was to carry sand and fertiliser from the Camel Estuary to farmers further inland, but on it’s maiden journey on 30th September 1834 the locomotive Camel carried a train load of 400 passengers making it one of the UK’s first passenger trains. (When a second locomotive was commissioned, it came complete with a shiny Elephant nameplate. The manufacturers had thought the first engine was named an animal, not the local river.
As a result of Beeching’s infamous branch line cuts, the line closed in 1967. But the route was regenerated into a beautiful cycling and walking track – the famous Camel Trail, where you can still see some of the old stations and platforms. Some of the line has been saved, with the heritage Bodmin and Wenford Railway still running steam trains on part of the route.
The Molesworth Arms has its own little place in Wadebridge’s history, cited by Wikipedia as ‘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.’
Today, Wadebridge is a vibrant market town, packed with superb restaurants and many independent shops and businesses, reflecting its rich trade, farming and craft heritage. The town is busy throughout the year, with a lively music scene and an eclectic events calendar including the famous Royal Cornwall Show, a major family friendly agricultural & entertainment extravaganza held every year in early June – so if you’re coming during that time, be sure to add it to your itinerary.