Itchen Navigation: A Portrait

Mans Bridge - Gaters Mill & Wood Mill

Distance: 0.3 mile (0.5 km) & 0.6 mile (0.9 km)

Mans Bridge to Gaters Mill

Above Mans Bridge, the main River Itchen was navigable for about 600 yards to Gaters Mill which was also variously known in the past as South Stoneham Mill, Up Mill, Mansbridge Mill and Westend Mill. There have been mills on this site dating at least since the 13th or 14th century or even earlier. This was a paper mill from 1685 until 1865 when it was rebuilt as a corn mill. The mill suffered a major fire during in 1916/17 and parts were again rebuilt. Gaters Mill closed as a mill after damage caused whilst being used as a munitions store during World War II. Today the buildings are occupied by a number of small businesses.

When the new Mans Bridge was built a new length of road bypassed a section of the former A27 which ran alongside the river. The old road is now used as a footpath and for casual parking. Along this length can be found the popular White Swan public house. This riverside pub opened in the early 1800s and, as much of the land around was owned by the Middleton family, it was called the Middleton Arms. In around 1830 the name was changed to the Swan Inn and then, in 1870, to the White Swan Hotel. Whilst the waterside location is very attractive in summer, winter floods present a less pleasant prospect.

It seems some people don’t know quite where the White Swan is - lying as it does between Swaythling and West End, somewhere near Mans Bridge.

The main river, Mansbridge
The main river, Mansbridge

Looking up main river from the new Mans Bridge towards the White Swan, Mansbridge.
Image date: 13 Apr 2003. © 2003 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU447155. WGS84: 50° 56′ 16″ N 1° 21′ 53″ W.

The main river, Mansbridge

Looking up main river from the new Mans Bridge towards the White Swan, Mansbridge.
Image date: 13 Apr 2003.
NG Ref: SU447155.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 16″ N 1° 21′ 53″ W.

(61.3KB)

White Swan Hotel
White Swan Hotel

The White Swan Hotel, West End, seen from downstream on the north side of the river.
Image date: c1905. Image from Postcard. NG Ref: SU448155. WGS84: 50° 56′ 17″ N 1° 21′ 45″ W.

White Swan Hotel

The White Swan Hotel, West End, seen from downstream on the north side of the river.
Image date: c1905.
NG Ref: SU448155.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 17″ N 1° 21′ 45″ W.

(43.6KB)

White Swan
White Swan

The White Swan seen from the road downstream.
Image date: 1952. © Daily Echo. NG Ref: SU448155. WGS84: 50° 56′ 16″ N 1° 21′ 45″ W.

White Swan

The White Swan seen from the road downstream.
Image date: 1952.
NG Ref: SU448155.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 16″ N 1° 21′ 45″ W.

(73.1KB)

White Swan
White Swan

White Swan public house after the new Mans Bridge was opened in 1975 and the A27 had been diverted from the front door.
Image date: 31 May 1976. © Daily Echo. NG Ref: SU448155. WGS84: 50° 56′ 16″ N 1° 21′ 45″ W.

White Swan

White Swan public house after the new Mans Bridge was opened in 1975 and the A27 had been diverted from the front door.
Image date: 31 May 1976.
NG Ref: SU448155.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 16″ N 1° 21′ 45″ W.

(63.1KB)

White Swan
White Swan

White Swan public house. The wooden footbridge at the rear became unsafe and was demolished. An entrance to the pub has been built on the old road.
Image date: 18 Feb 2019. © 2019 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU448155. WGS84: 50° 56′ 16″ N 1° 21′ 45″ W.

White Swan

White Swan public house. The wooden footbridge at the rear became unsafe and was demolished.
Image date: 18 Feb 2019.
NG Ref: SU448155.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 16″ N 1° 21′ 45″ W.

(79.6KB)

Floods at the White Swan
Floods at the White Swan

A waterside location can be very pleasant ... but the White Swan, seen here from the ‘new’ A27 across the car park, was flooded repeatedly between December 2013 and May 2014.
Image date: 16 Feb 2014. © 2014 Marie Keates. Image from www.iwalkalone.co.uk. NG Ref: SU449155. WGS84: 50° 56′ 16″ N 1° 21′ 40″ W.

Floods at the White Swan

A waterside location can be very pleasant ... but the White Swan was flooded repeatedly between December 2013 and May 2014.
Image date: 16 Feb 2014.
NG Ref: SU449155.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 16″ N 1° 21′ 40″ W.

(70.6KB)

Looking downstream to the White Swan
Looking downstream to the White Swan

The main river looking downstream from the old road towards the White Swan.
Image date: 18 Feb 2019. © 2019 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU450156. WGS84: 50° 56′ 17″ N 1° 21′ 36″ W.

Looking downstream to the White Swan

The main river looking downstream from the old road towards the White Swan.
Image date: 18 Feb 2019.
NG Ref: SU450156.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 17″ N 1° 21′ 36″ W.

(47.8KB)

Water meadows
Water meadows

The water meadows north of the river now crossed by the M27 hidden in the trees to the right. The main line of the Navigation is hidden by the trees on the left.
Image date: 25 Oct 2003. © 2010 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU451155. WGS84: 50° 56′ 17″ N 1° 21′ 33″ W.

Water meadows

The water meadows north of the river now crossed by the M27 hidden in the trees to the right.
Image date: 25 Oct 2003.
NG Ref: SU451155.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 17″ N 1° 21′ 33″ W.

(45.1KB)

Looking upstream towards Gaters Mill
Looking upstream towards Gaters Mill

The main river looking upstream towards Gaters Mill which is hidden by the trees. The North Stoneham Carrier enters the river by the bushes on the left.
Image date: 18 Feb 2019. © 2019 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU451155. WGS84: 50° 56′ 17″ N 1° 21′ 33″ W.

Looking upstream towards Gaters Mill

The main river looking upstream towards Gaters Mill which is hidden by the trees.
Image date: 18 Feb 2019.
NG Ref: SU451155.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 17″ N 1° 21′ 33″ W.

(50.8KB)

Looking upstream towards Gaters Mill
Looking upstream towards Gaters Mill

Gaters Mill from downstream pictured before the fire of 1916/7.
Image date: Before 1917. Image from undated postcard. NG Ref: SU452155. WGS84: 50° 56′ 16″ N 1° 21′ 27″ W.

Looking upstream towards Gaters Mill

Gaters Mill from downstream pictured before the fire of 1916/7.
Image date: Before 1917.
NG Ref: SU452155.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 16″ N 1° 21′ 27″ W.

(41.3KB)

Gaters Mill
Gaters Mill

The head of navigation at Gaters Mill. Barges used to load/unload on the stream to the left but this is private water.
Image date: 18 Feb 2019. © 2019 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU452155. WGS84: 50° 56′ 16″ N 1° 21′ 26″ W.

Gaters Mill

The head of navigation at Gaters Mill.
Image date: 18 Feb 2019.
NG Ref: SU452155.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 16″ N 1° 21′ 26″ W.

(76.4KB)

Mans Bridge

The new Mans Bridge is a concrete structure opened in 1975 to carry the traffic of the A27 spanning the whole width of the main river. A path passes under the bridge on each bank.

The old Mans Bridge is one of two bridges remaining from the days of commercial use (the other is Wharf Bridge in Winchester). It is an attractive stone structure built by the county in 1816 with a segmental (part of a circle) arch and short causeways on either side.

There has been a bridge on this site since at least Saxon times (a charter of 932AD referred to it as Mannysbrigge) and was, for many centuries, the lowest fixed crossing point of the River Itchen.

Today, the stretch of river between Wood Mill and Gaters Mill is the only part of the Navigation where exercising the right to boat (at least in small craft) is not seriously disputed. Sometimes, canoeists from the Wood Mill Centre may be seen using this length.

For boats, the bridge has less than 6 feet headroom at the centre of the arch even at present normal water levels. Since there are no significant side streams to the River Itchen at this point, all the water coming down the river is channelled under the bridge. It is said that this stretch of river is today maintained at a higher level than in times past making passage quite difficult even in a small boat. When bringing barges upstream, it is quite probable that these had to be winched through against the current.

Until 1975 the bridge carried all the traffic of the A27 and, as it was only just wide enough for two cars to pass, was a serious bottleneck. The upstream parapet suffered badly from collisions with heavy lorries owing to a 90° bend in the road on the south side. During the Second World War a Bailey Bridge was assembled across the river next to the old bridge. It’s not known when this was removed but it was before 1961 as is evidenced by the picture of swimming below.

The old bridge is now closed to vehicular traffic and the parapet has been restored. A Grade II listed structure, the bridge is in good condition. Being a county bridge, maintenance was not a responsibility of the Navigation’s proprietors.

New Mans Bridge
New Mans Bridge

New Mans Bridge from the north.
Image date: 13 Apr 2003. © 2003 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU447155. WGS84: 50° 56′ 17″ N 1° 21′ 52″ W.

New Mans Bridge

New Mans Bridge from the north.
Image date: 13 Apr 2003.
NG Ref: SU447155.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 17″ N 1° 21′ 52″ W.

(56.8KB)

New Mans Bridge
New Mans Bridge

New Mans Bridge from the east.
Image date: 25 Oct 2003. © 2010 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU447155. WGS84: 50° 56′ 16″ N 1° 21′ 50″ W.

New Mans Bridge

New Mans Bridge from the east.
Image date: 25 Oct 2003.
NG Ref: SU447155.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 16″ N 1° 21′ 50″ W.

(72.5KB)

New Mans Bridge
New Mans Bridge

Under the New Mans Bridge looking towards the White Swan.
Image date: 10 Jan 2018. © 2018 Keith Murray (cc-by-nc-nd/2.0). Image from www.flickr.com. NG Ref: SU447155. WGS84: 50° 56′ 15″ N 1° 21′ 54″ W.

New Mans Bridge

Under the New Mans Bridge looking towards the White Swan.
Image date: 10 Jan 2018.
NG Ref: SU447155.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 15″ N 1° 21′ 54″ W.

(62.0KB)

New Mans Bridge
New Mans Bridge

New Mans Bridge from the south-west beside the old Mans Bridge.
Image date: 31 May 1976. Image scanned from slide. © 2010 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU447155. WGS84: 50° 56′ 15″ N 1° 21′ 55″ W.

New Mans Bridge

New Mans Bridge from the south-west beside the old Mans Bridge.
Image date: 31 May 1976.
NG Ref: SU447155.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 15″ N 1° 21′ 55″ W.

(59.5KB)

Swimming at Mans Bridge
Swimming at Mans Bridge

Before the new Mans Bridge was built this was a popular place for a swim and picnic with the White Swan nearby.
Image date: Summer 1961. Image: Southern Daily Echo. NG Ref: SU447155. WGS84: 50° 56′ 15″ N 1° 21′ 55″ W.

Swimming at Mans Bridge

Before the new Mans Bridge was built this was a popular place for a swim and picnic with the White Swan nearby.
Image date: Summer 1961.
NG Ref: SU447155.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 15″ N 1° 21′ 55″ W.

(65.4KB)

Traffic jam at old Mans Bridge
Traffic jam at old Mans Bridge

Traffic jam at the old Mans Bridge before the new bridge was built.
Image date: 1971. Image: Southern Daily Echo. NG Ref: SU446155. WGS84: 50° 56′ 16″ N 1° 21′ 56″ W.

Traffic jam at old Mans Bridge

Traffic jam at the old Mans Bridge before the new bridge was built.
Image date: 1971.
NG Ref: SU446155.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 16″ N 1° 21′ 56″ W.

(67.6KB)

Old Mans Bridge
Old Mans Bridge

The old Mans Bridge relieved but before the bridge parapet was restored.
Image date: 31 May 1976. Image scanned from slide. © 2003 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU447155. WGS84: 50° 56′ 16″ N 1° 21′ 54″ W.

Old Mans Bridge

The old Mans Bridge relieved but before the bridge parapet was restored.
Image date: 31 May 1976.
NG Ref: SU447155.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 16″ N 1° 21′ 54″ W.

(76.0KB)

Old Mans Bridge
Old Mans Bridge

The old Mans Bridge as seen from the new Mans Bridge with the parapet rebuilt.
Image date: 13 Apr 2003. © 2003 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU447155. WGS84: 50° 56′ 15″ N 1° 21′ 54″ W.

Old Mans Bridge

The old Mans Bridge as seen from the new Mans Bridge with the parapet rebuilt.
Image date: 13 Apr 2003.
NG Ref: SU447155.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 15″ N 1° 21′ 54″ W.

(74.8KB)

Old Mans Bridge
Old Mans Bridge

The old Mans Bridge seen from downstream in an early photograph believed to date from 1867.
Image date: 1867. Image: Source unknown. NG Ref: SU446154. WGS84: 50° 56′ 12″ N 1° 21′ 58″ W.

Old Mans Bridge

The old Mans Bridge seen from downstream in an early photograph believed to date from 1867.
Image date: 1867.
NG Ref: SU446154.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 12″ N 1° 21′ 58″ W.

(58.3KB)

Old Mans Bridge
Old Mans Bridge

The old Mans Bridge seen from downstream.
Image date: Before 1905. Image: Postcard posted in 1905. NG Ref: SU446154. WGS84: 50° 56′ 13″ N 1° 21′ 56″ W.

Old Mans Bridge

The old Mans Bridge seen from downstream.
Image date: Before 1905.
NG Ref: SU446154.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 13″ N 1° 21′ 56″ W.

(47.6KB)

Old Mans Bridge
Old Mans Bridge

The old Mans Bridge from downstream.
Image date: 15 Mar 2018. © 2018 Marie Keates. Image from www.iwalkalone.co.uk. NG Ref: SU447155. WGS84: 50° 56′ 14″ N 1° 21′ 54″ W.

Old Mans Bridge

The old Mans Bridge from downstream.
Image date: 15 Mar 2018.
NG Ref: SU447155.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 14″ N 1° 21′ 54″ W.

(72.9KB)

Old Mans Bridge
Old Mans Bridge

Flood waters pass through the already low arched bridge.
Image date: 16 Feb 2014. © 2014 Marie Keates. Image from www.iwalkalone.co.uk. NG Ref: SU446154. WGS84: 50° 56′ 14″ N 1° 21′ 55″ W.

Old Mans Bridge

Flood waters pass through the already low arched bridge.
Image date: 16 Feb 2014.
NG Ref: SU446154.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 14″ N 1° 21′ 55″ W.

(77.4KB)

Mans Bridge to Wood Mill

The towing path crosses the river by means of the old Mans Bridge to continue south-westwards along the east bank. Riverside Park lies on the east side of the river from Mans Bridge, downstream past Wood Mill as far as Cobden Bridge. The path beside the Navigation has been tarmaced and is good condition as it and the river/Navigation passes along the north west side of Riverside Park to Wood Mill.

Riverside Park
Riverside Park

Itchen Navigation in Riverside Park looking upstream towards Mans Bridge before the path was tarmaced.
Image date: 28 May 1976. Image scanned from slide. © 2003 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU445153. WGS84: 50° 56′ 09″ N 1° 22′ 05″ W.

Riverside Park

Itchen Navigation in Riverside Park looking upstream towards Mans Bridge before the path was tarmaced.
Image date: 28 May 1976.
NG Ref: SU445153.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 09″ N 1° 22′ 05″ W.

(89.7KB)

Riverside Park
Riverside Park

Itchen Navigation in Riverside Park looking upstream.
Image date: 13 Apr 2003. © 2003 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU443153. WGS84: 50° 56′ 08″ N 1° 22′ 14″ W.

Riverside Park

Itchen Navigation in Riverside Park looking upstream.
Image date: 13 Apr 2003.
NG Ref: SU443153.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 08″ N 1° 22′ 14″ W.

(58.6KB)

Riverside Park
Riverside Park

Itchen Navigation in Riverside Park looking downstream towards Wood Mill.
Image date: 17 Feb 2019. © 2003 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU443152. WGS84: 50° 56′ 07″ N 1° 22′ 15″ W.

Riverside Park

Itchen Navigation in Riverside Park looking downstream towards Wood Mill.
Image date: 17 Feb 2019.
NG Ref: SU443152.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 07″ N 1° 22′ 15″ W.

(49.2KB)

Canoeing by Riverside Park
Canoeing by Riverside Park

Canoeists paddling upstream on the Itchen Navigation beside Riverside Park.
Image date: 25 May 2014. © 2014 Marie Keates. Image from www.iwalkalone.co.uk. NG Ref: SU442152. WGS84: 50° 56′ 06″ N 1° 22′ 17″ W.

Canoeing by Riverside Park

Canoeists paddling upstream on the Itchen Navigation beside Riverside Park.
Image date: 25 May 2014.
NG Ref: SU442152.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 06″ N 1° 22′ 17″ W.

(71.7KB)

Above Woodmill Lock 1978
Above Woodmill Lock 1978

Looking upstream from near the site of Woodmill Lock.
Image date: June 1978. Image scanned from slide. © 2003 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU440151. WGS84: 50° 56′ 04″ N 1° 22′ 30″ W.

Above Woodmill Lock 1978

Looking upstream from near the site of Woodmill Lock.
Image date: June 1978.
NG Ref: SU440151.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 04″ N 1° 22′ 30″ W.

(74.7KB)

Above Woodmill Lock 2019
Above Woodmill Lock 2019

Looking upstream from near the site of Woodmill Lock.
Image date: 17 Feb 2019. © 2019 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU440151. WGS84: 50° 56′ 04″ N 1° 22′ 29″ W.

Above Woodmill Lock 2019

Looking upstream from near the site of Woodmill Lock.
Image date: 17 Feb 2019.
NG Ref: SU440151.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 04″ N 1° 22′ 29″ W.

(60.9KB)

Woodmill Lock

Woodmill Lock was constructed near the tidal limit of the river. Before the reclamation of Riverside Park, a tidal creek used to extend eastwards beside Woodmill Lane almost as far as Manor Park Road. The site of the lock is now under the road which was widened after the First World War.

It was a sea lock with a masonry chamber running east-west. It was last reconstructed in 1829 with bricks. It had the usual two pairs of lock gates pointing upstream to retain water in the non-tidal river, plus a third pair, pointing downstream, to prevent very high tides from flooding the Navigation with sea water. A wooden bridge across the lock was also built at around this time, but by the middle of the century was in poor repair. It was described in an 1862 report as being made of oak, with 23-foot-long timbers spanning the 15-foot wide lock at an angle of 40 degrees. Mr T P Clarke wrote that “the bridge is quite dilapidated and very unsafe for the traffic which is drawn over it.”

It seems that the lock remained in use for barges going upstream to Gaters (or Westend) Mill for some years after traffic ceased in 1869 on the rest of the Navigation. This was, presumably, until the lock became unusable through lack of maintenance. An Ordnance Survey map of 1896 shows that the lock had been infilled. Nothing of this lock is to be seen now but, according to hearsay, the chamber has not been destroyed but just infilled. In 2008, during road works, Southampton City Council’s Archaeology Unit found two brick features the width of the lock apart, closely corresponding to the lock position shown in the 1867 map.

There is a large car park beside the non-tidal section of the river.

Wood Mill from the Navigation
Wood Mill from the Navigation

Wood Mill from the Navigation in more tranquil times. The site of the head of the lock is hidden by the children.
Image date: c1910. Image: From undated postcard. NG Ref: SU440151. WGS84: 50° 56′ 04″ N 1° 22′ 29″ W.

Wood Mill from the Navigation

Wood Mill from the Navigation in more tranquil times.
Image date: c1910.
NG Ref: SU440151.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 04″ N 1° 22′ 29″ W.

(54.5KB)

Wood Mill from the Navigation
Wood Mill from the Navigation

It seems that the leftmost shed was built over the site of the western end of the chamber of Woodmill Lock which also extended under the lane.
Image date: Before 1905. Image: From undated postcard. NG Ref: SU440151. WGS84: 50° 56′ 04″ N 1° 22′ 29″ W.

Wood Mill from the Navigation

It seems that the leftmost shed was built over the site of the western end of the chamber of Woodmill Lock which also extended under the lane.
Image date: Before 1905.
NG Ref: SU440151.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 04″ N 1° 22′ 29″ W.

(37.9KB)

Head of Woodmill Lock
Head of Woodmill Lock

The site of the entrance to the head of Woodmill Lock lies between the right hand end of the steel piling and the lamp post with Wood Mill in the background.
Image date: 13 Apr 2003. © 2003 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU440151. WGS84: 50° 56′ 04″ N 1° 22′ 30″ W.

Head of Woodmill Lock

The site of the entrance to the head of Woodmill Lock with Wood Mill in the background.
Image date: 13 Apr 2003.
NG Ref: SU440151.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 04″ N 1° 22′ 30″ W.

(56.7KB)

Site of Woodmill Lock
Site of Woodmill Lock

Site of the head of Woodmill Lock with Wood Mill in the background, half hidden by bushes.
Image date: 17 Feb 2019. © 2019 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU440151. WGS84: 50° 56′ 04″ N 1° 22′ 29″ W.

Site of Woodmill Lock

Site of the head of Woodmill Lock with Wood Mill in the background, half hidden by bushes.
Image date: 17 Feb 2019.
NG Ref: SU440151.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 04″ N 1° 22′ 29″ W.

(50.9KB)

Tail of Woodmill Lock
Tail of Woodmill Lock

The site of the northern wall of the tail of Woodmill Lock is marked by the right-hand end of the concrete wall.
Image date: 13 Apr 2003. © 2003 Peter Oates. NG Ref: SU439152. WGS84: 50° 56′ 05″ N 1° 22′ 35″ W.

Tail of Woodmill Lock

The site of the northern wall of the tail of Woodmill Lock is marked by the right-hand end of the concrete wall.
Image date: 13 Apr 2003.
NG Ref: SU439152.
WGS84: 50° 56′ 05″ N 1° 22′ 35″ W.

(73.7KB)

Further pictures of the area around the mill may be found in the next section of this portrait: Woodmill to Cobden Bridge.

Several of the pictures on this page are shown by kind permission of Marie Keates. A keen walker, she has written about and illustrated several attempts to walk the full length of the Navigation during 2013 in her blog at http://www.iwalkalone.co.uk. She has walked along all or parts of the Navigation often since then: all illustrated with some excellent photographs.