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Uncertain, but probably built around the turn of the Third Age1
Crossing the River Brandywine on the eastern borders of the Shire
Constructed by the Men of Arnor
Originally constructed by Men, but maintained by Hobbits at the end of the Third Age
'Stonebows' comes from Old English usage, referring to the stone arches of the Bridge
Other names


About this entry:

  • Updated 8 June 2023
  • This entry is complete

Bridge of Stonebows

The ancient name for the Brandywine Bridge

Map of the Bridge of Stonebows

The East-West Road had crossed the lands of northern Eriador since the time of the High Kings at Annúminas. At one point in its journey, the road met a wide river, Baranduin, and there the Dúnedain raised a great stone bridge. This bridge carried the road across the river on three arches, or 'bows', and so it came to be known as the Bridge of Stonebows.

The river Baranduin was spanned by the Dúnedain of Arnor, though dating the appearance of the bridge is difficult; it was either made during the later Second Age or perhaps the early part of the Third. The Dúnedain who had raised it referred to it simply as the 'Great Bridge', the largest and longest of the bridges on the East-West Road through their realm. During the time of the Kings of Arthedain, at least, it led into a region of parkland where the Kings would lead hunts through the hills and forests.

In the time of Argeleb II of Arthedain, the King was petitioned to allow a people of the Halflings to settle in this part of the realm, and he agreed. Thus an expedition set out from Bree in III 1601, led by the Fallohides Marcho and Blanco. Passing westward along the road they came to the Bridge of Stonebows and crossed over Baranduin into their new land, the land that would become known as the Shire. In time the Elvish name of the river Baranduin was changed by the new Shire-hobbits to 'Brandywine', and the Bridge of Stonebows became more commonly called the Brandywine Bridge.

After the Founding of the Shire

As part of Argeleb's grant of the land of the Shire, he had required that the Hobbits should keep the Bridge of Stonebows in good repair. This they evidently did, as the bridge was still standing at the end of the Third Age, more than fourteen hundred years after the founding of the Shire. The bridge was important to the Shire-hobbits, who reckoned its eastern end as marking the exact eastern boundary of their land. That part of the Shire that lay directly westward of the Bridge of Stonebows was named by the Hobbits after the nearby bridge, and became known as 'Bridgefields'.

For centuries the Bridge of Stonebows was the only crossing point on Baranduin, but at some point the Hobbits created another, Bucklebury Ferry, that lay some twenty miles southward of the bridge itself. This ferry would probably not have been put in place until after the foundation of Buckland in III 2340 (that is, more than seven centuries after the foundation of the Shire).

Throughout the history of the Shire, the Bridge of Stonebows had been open to all travellers on the East Road. This changed during the War of the Ring, when Sharkey's Men raised a gate at either end of the bridge, and built a Shirriff-house to watch those gates. This was how the Travellers Frodo Baggins and his companions found the bridge when they returned from their adventures in the south, but it was not long before they oversaw the fall of Sharkey's régime and freed the Shire-hobbits.

After the War of the Ring, the new High King Aragorn Elessar issued an edict that the Shire should be preserved for the Shire-folk, and so none but the Hobbits should cross the old Bridge of Stonebows. Despite his station, Aragorn kept to this edict himself, but he would come at times to the bridge to meet with his friends among the Hobbits, and some of these crossed the bridge to stay with the King for a time.



We're not told exactly when the Bridge was built, but it is known that it was constructed by the Men of Arnor, so the latest possible date is III 861 when the North-kingdom was divided. Much earlier than this, in the late Second Age, it is known that at least one great bridge was constructed to allow the passing of the armies of the Last Alliance. It is possible that the Bridge of Stonebows was erected for the same purpose, which would date it to II 3430 or shortly afterwards.

However we date the Bridge, it was remarkably old: at the time of the War of the Ring, it had definitely stood for more than two thousand years, and it may have been a thousand years older even than that.


About this entry:

  • Updated 8 June 2023
  • This entry is complete

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