The Men of Arnor built a Great Road that ran west to east through the North-kingdom, from the Grey Havens on the Gulf of Lhûn towards Rivendell in the shadow of the Misty Mountains. As it passed through the central parts of the realm, this East-West Road crossed the course of the great river the Dúnedain knew as Baranduin, and at that point the Great Bridge was built.
The Great Bridge was constructed from stone, and crossed the river on three arches which gave it another old name, the Bridge of Stonebows ('bow' in this context refers to an arch of the bridge). As the old kingdom of Arnor broke into lesser kingdoms, the Bridge fell on the border between two of this successor kingdoms: it marked a border crossing between Arthedain and Cardolan.
When the first Hobbits settled the Shire in III 1601, King Argeleb II granted them leave to dwell there, in a land that was properly part of his kingdom of Arthedain (it had formerly been used as a royal park). The Great Bridge was explicitly referred to in Argeleb's conditions for allowing the Shire-hobbits to settle: they would be responsible for keeping it in repair.
The Hobbits themselves turned the Elvish river-name Baranduin into the more homely 'Brandywine', and from this the Great Bridge acquired a new name, the Brandywine Bridge. It was by this name that it was most commonly known through the later Third Age, but it was still referred to as the Great Bridge even into the Fourth Age.
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