For many years Wadebridge was a traffic-congested town (through which the route of the A39 trunk road passed) but in 1991 the Wadebridge bypass was opened together with the Egloshayle bypass causing the two settlements to regain much of their former charm. The main shopping street in Wadebridge (Molesworth Street) has subsequently become pedestrianized through an inner link road, allowing traffic free shopping. The permanent population is 6222 (Census 2001). The main offices of the former North Cornwall District Council were at Trenant Road, Wadebridge.
The initial settlement of Wade (the name of Wadebridge before the bridge was built) came about due to a ford in the River Camel (Camel probably meaning "crooked one"). The early crossing had two chapels either side of the river "Kings" chapel on the north side and "St Michael's" on the south side. 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. In 1312 a licence was granted for Wade to commence with a market. The Reverend Thomas Lovibond (the vicar of Egloshayle) started to become distressed at the number of humans and animals that had died during the crossing of the river Camel so he planned the building of a bridge which was completed in 1468. Wade was now known as Wadebridge.
A serious outbreak of typhoid in 1897 caused by contamination of drinking water led to Wadebridge having its own town council as decisive action had to be taken for proper water supplies and disposal of sewage effluent.
History of the bridge
When the bridge was first completed tolls used to be paid for the maintenance of the bridge. In 1853, the bridge was widened from . Then in 1963 a second widening took place which took the bridge from . More recently in 1994 the bridge underwent a refurbishment to change the stone in the pavement and to create a cycle track along the length of the bridge.
A footbridge called Challenge Bridge links the Egloshayle playing fields to the Jubilee fields on the other side of the river. The bridge was constructed by Anneka Rice and her team for the TV series "Challenge Anneka". Locally, the bridge is known as Anneka's Bridge. The bridge's real name is the Bailey Bridge.
In 1882 cracks started to appear in the rock on which the Eddystone Lighthouse was positioned. Therefore a new lighthouse had to be built. Granite was quarried from De Lank quarry and brought down to Wadebridge. The stonemasons in Wadebridge dovetailed each segment of stone not only to each other but also to the course above and below. As each layer had been completed and checked to fit with the layer above it was sent out to the Eddystone rocks from Wadebridge by sea. The Lighthouse was completed in 1882. This resulted in the road where the masons worked being called Eddystone Road.
History of the railway
The Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway from Wadebridge to Wenfordbridge with a branch line to Bodmin was built at a cost of £35,000 following a study commissioned in 1831 by a local landowner and revolutionary parliamentarian Sir William Molesworth of Pencarrow. The line was intended to carry sand from the Camel estuary to inland farms for use as fertiliser. The line was opened on 30 September 1834 with the locomotive “Camel” pulling a train load of 400 passengers (one of the first railways in Britain to carry passengers). When the company ordered its second locomotive it came with a name plate already affixed. It had been named the Elephant as the makers had failed to realise that the first engine had been named after the river and not an animal! The last passenger train left Wadebridge railway station in 1967 following railway cut backs. The railway has been transformed into the Camel trail, and the Bodmin and Wenford Railway heritage railway runs on part of the route.
The Royal Cornwall Agricultural Show
The Royal Cornwall Agricultural Show began in 1793 at Bodmin and then every year in East and West Cornwall alternately. In 1960 the show came to its present site, the Royal Cornwall Showground which is run by the Royal Cornwall Agricultural Association and situated west of Wadebridge. The showground itself is used for many different functions from Scout Jamborees to point to point horse racing.