In the past Brandon thrived due to navigation – being the lowest point at which the Little Ouse could be crossed all year. The Bishops of Ely built a bridge some time after 1200, charged a toll to cross and raised much funds. The Manor of Thetford had a ferry crossing, further east, which also raised funds.
The road toward the river is now an extension of High Street, but was once known as Brandon Ferry. Some may remember the old bridge spanning the river, which was replaced in the 1950s. This bridge was built circa 1600, and was actually built in a meadow adjacent to the Little Ouse, which at the time ran under the corner of the current Ram Hotel. The river was then diverted to run under the stone bridge. This method was also done for the Staunch built many years later, built in a meadow followed by the river being diverted through the staunch. The current bridge, the third across the river, was opened on 23rd July, 1954.
I remember fishing off the bridge late forties with a bunch of kids trying to tempt a large pike in the reeds with bait. Of course it wasn't interested but we had fun trying.
Remember fishing from the bridge with a length of cotton and a bent pin during the school dinner break. I actually caught one
I was in Miss Killengrey's class. We all marched down to the bridge and cheered and waved as the limousine approached. The ribbon was cut and the car driven over the bridge, but some kids who were a bit swift in the running department, namely David Royal who could run like the wind, tore off in front of the car determined to be the first one over. So now we know that David Royal should be on that plaque on the bridge (instead of Mr Lennox-Boyd who officially cut the ribbon).
On warm Saturday afternoons during the Summer months, and at other times during the holidays, my mother would pack up a picnic lunch and we would head for the far Bridge Hotel bank of the river. Here the Little Ouse “glistened in a hieroglyph across the country.” Just beyond the riverside hotel gardens was a lush meadow full of daisies and buttercups. Close to banks the river was quite shallow and ideal for paddling. There would be lots of other boys down there, including some of the Barnardo Boys from the nearby Brandon House Hotel where I believe they resided. The older boys would be swimming across to the far bank or along towards the bridge. I was more interested in trying to catch one of the small fish in the jam jar that I had brought with me for the purpose. This had a length of string tied round its neck and I would trail the jar after the swimming fish as silently as I could. The fish were difficult to catch as they were continuously darting here and there. I usually managed to trap at least one fish, but I was advised to release it back into the river before we set off for home on the grounds that it would die in such a restricted area devoid of food.