Family members collected tolls from the lighters passing through Flatford Lock and may have provided a rest area, beer house and eating place for the families who operated the commercial barge route along the River Stour between Sudbury and Mistley Warf. They cooked their meals on a large central fireplace which can still be seen inside Bridge Cottage today.
Bridge Cottage was constructed as a single dwelling around a timber frame and the gaps between the frame were filled with daub and wattle, a mixture of twigs covered by a plaster made out of mud, straw and animal dung.
By the late 17th-century the northern end of the cottage had been constructed although buildings would have existed on the site in previous centuries.
Between 1725 and 1750 the southern end of the cottage was added along with commercial bread ovens which were housed in a lean-to extension at the back of the cottage - all that remains of the bread ovens today are a couple of brick arches.
In the 19th-century, Bridge Cottage was converted into two dwellings to accommodate two families. Each family lived in a small parlour with access to a bedroom in the attic. One family accessed the attic by a small twisting staircase whilst the other used a loft ladder.
By the 1860s the chimney stack had been rebuilt and the bread ovens had been removed.
By 1890 the current stairs in the northern cottage had been constructed.
By 1910 the two cottages had been joined together at first floor level.
By 1965 a dormer window facing west in the southern half had been added.
In 1985 the National Trust bought Bridge Cottage which was then being used as a tea room.
In the 1990's - a permanent exhibition was installed downstairs at Bridge Cottage to tell the Constable story.
Bridge Cottage can be seen in these Paintings by Constable:
, painted in 1813 and owned by the National Trust, Anglesey Abbey (Bridge Cottage can be seen in the distance)
View on the Stour near Dedham
, painted in 1822 and owned by Huntingdon Library and Botanical Gardens (part of the roof at Bridge Cottage can be seen on the right hand side of this six foot painting)