IN SAXON times Sonning Bridge marked the ancient border between Wessex and Mercia over the river Thames, with the first record of a wooden span on the site being built in 1125, not long after the Norman conquest.

In the second year of King James 1’s reign it had to be totally rebuilt, and over the years multiple repairs to this timber structure would quickly decay, finally it became clear that a more solid structure was required.

The current brick-built bridge was opened in 1775, all sorts of people and vehicles have criss-crossed from Berkshire to Oxfordshire at this point during the last 245 years.

At its tallest point of fourteen feet (4.32 metres) the apex of Sonning bridge has a curious white marker stone which is inscribed with just two letters, “B and O”, denoting the Berkshire and Oxfordshire border, which joins together over the mid-stream area.

Local legend has it that the infamous highwayman, Dick Turpin (possibly on his famous horse called ‘Bess’), would use this route to escape from the long-arm of the law after raiding the horse-drawn coach services along the nearby A4 Bath Road.

An engraving in 1799 (pictured), depicted the tranquil waters of “Sunning’ on Thames” with its recently opened brick-built bridge.

The wooden backwater bridges were replaced in the 20th century as heavy traction engines were causing damage and ‘disturbing the peace’.

This vista has not changed an awful lot since then, but what has altered is just how vital this route across county lines had become.

In 2013 the frontage of a letterbox was placed on the side of one of the supporting buttresses by the artist ‘Impro’.

The position of the box meant that (if it had been functional) it would have only been accessible to users of the river itself.

The most recently published figures by Oxfordshire County Council in 2011 for ‘average daily traffic flow’ over this vital bottleneck showed that an incredible 13,600 vehicles traversed on the road.

A quick calculation for the annual total, comes up with the unbelievable sum of 4.964 million vehicles per annum using the traffic-light controlled span.

In the winter of 2014, severe flooding closed the B473 to nearby Playhatch, isolating Sonning village, whose streets were usually jammed with traffic, especially during the rush hour.

An eerie silence descended over the highways in the area and once again brought forward talk of another ‘third bridge’ for Reading, which would relieve this notorious choke point once and for all.

Sadly, for local residents, this pipe dream is as elusive as the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.