THE Swinford toll bridge is expected to fetch up to £1.25m when it goes under the hammer next month.

The privately-owned structure near Eynsham, which was built in 1767, will be auctioned by property consultants Allsop at the Park Lane Hotel, London, on December 3.

It previously went on sale in May after its owner died, but a buyer could not be found.

Potential bidders are being attracted by the bridge’s unique selling point – it enjoys tax-free status thanks to a legal loophole.

In a 1767 Act of Parliament, the Earl of Abingdon and his “heirs and assignees” were granted private ownership of the bridge and its tolls “for ever”.

Owners can charge a toll and are exempt from paying income, capital gains and inheritance taxes and stamp duty.

Cars pay 5p to cross the river, with prices rising to 50p for lorries. The current toll could only be changed by another Act of Parliament.

The bridge generates about £190,000 per year, but in recent years the cost of upkeep and repairs has increased as more drivers use the road as an alternative route into Oxford during rush hour. More than four million vehicles use the bridge each year.

Campaigners claim the bridge causes long traffic tailbacks at peak times and have urged Oxfordshire County Council to buy the bridge and abolish the toll.