Bridges

All Quiet on the North Bucks Front


Lodge Plugs factoryThe Lodge Plugs WW2 shadow factory, Olney.

Folks, I'm taking a break from the Wanderer. I'll be back next week but there are quite a few posts in the planning stage, with research and/or pictures to be finished. In the meantime, here's a few photos from the archives of the Monday Photo. Please click on the links if you want to learn more about the photos.

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Swing into Action

 

The Monday Photo

Canal builders often had to deal with roads and farm tracks that crossed their path. Often that meant building a brick or stone bridge, but sometimes they built a swing bridge, instead.

A swing bridge has advantages and disadvantages. It’s much cheaper to build, but there’s always a delay for boats, who have to come to a stop, open the bridge, go through and stop again, and close the bridge before moving on.

If they don’t close the bridge, anyone wishing to cross on the wrong side of the bridge (the left side in this photo) can’t get across.

The only thing to do is to go to the nearest lock and cross over on the lock gates, or to find the next bridge along. Not so good if you are a farmer with a load of sheep.

Canal swing bridge  Cheddington  Bucks

This bridge on the Grand Union Canal at Cheddington pivots on the far bank. The bridge ends are curved and part of a circle, with its centre at the bridge pivot. The masonry at each end is curved too, to suit the bridge ends; all these curves minimises the gap when the bridge is closed.

There were eight swing bridges on the Grand Union canal in North Bucks, but only two are left. the other one is at Fenny Lock in Fenny Stratford; the bridge right next to the lock.

What's Left?
I think that swing bridges were chosen when the crossing was little used, and that’s why many of them have now disappeared.

Brick bridges in this area were built where they would be used frequently, and every one of the nearly 50 in North Bucks I found on a 1900 map are still there. There’s even a few steel bridges been added since, for foot traffic.

The swing bridge at Fenny Lock only gives access to a lock keeper’s cottage and a canal pump house, and perhaps into the field behind; it didn’t get much traffic.

But being right next to the lock it could be left open to aid canal traffic, as it only took a moment to nip across the lock gates to swing it shut.

For the sake of completeness, there were about five more masonry bridges on the stretch of canal through Leighton Buzzard (it’s in Bedfordshire) and one more swing bridge. The swing bridge, near the lock, is gone, as is one of the brick bridges. The canal still narrows for the swing bridge.

Sometimes the canal still narrows where a swing bridge once stood, so keep an eye out when you are on the towpath. The ones in North Bucks (and for completeness Leighton Buzzard) are:

New Bradwell
Behind the end of Chipperfield Close, the canal no longer narrowed.

Pennyland
Behind Bernay Gardens, the canal no longer narrowed.

Simpson
Just South of the village, where the canal swings back to run alongside Simpson road. The canal doesn’t show on the map as ever being narrowed, but the swing bridge might have something to do with the wharf that was once here; perhaps it crossed a loading dock.

Fenny Stratford
Still in use and maintained, at the bottom of Lock view Lane.

South of Willowbridge Marina
Off Stoke Road, the canal no longer narrowed.

Stoke Hammond
Halfway between the Bragenham Side canal bridge and Stoke lock. The canal still narrows here.

Leighton Buzzard
Not far North from Leighton Lock. The canal is still narrowed.

Near Leighton Buzzard
But just inside Bucks, it’s off Grovebury Road, just inside the town. Opposite a National Grid pylon is a path to a new footbridge and the narrow spot for the swing bridge is still there.

Cheddington
At the South end of the High Street, through the narrow bridge in the railway embankment and along the footpath just after it on the right.

I only checked these locations with online maps; I haven’t been to all of them. You might be able to find more evidence or confirm what I've said here on a visit to your local one. If so, please comment below.

This post's photo was taken with a Pentax camera and lens.

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Water Mistake

Thornborough Medieval bridgeThornborough bridge from the downstream side. The bridge is not quite eleven feet wide and there are plenty of scrape marks on the parapets, from the days the bridge was on the main road. The bridge was bypassed in 1974.
This is where the Roman ford isn’t. The ford is quite a few yards downstream, on the right and way out of shot.

I confidently took the photo above, thinking this was the site of the Roman ford, right next to Thornborough’s 14th Century Medieval bridge.

The shallow slope on each bank looked like a ford, the brook is shallow and wide, I was on the correct side of the bridge; what could possibly go wrong? I made assumptions and didn’t check first, that’s what; the ford is actually a bit further downstream.

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A Good Plain Road.

Tollhouse  Newport Pagnell

Being taxed for using the roads isn’t new; this tollhouse was built in 1810 for a road toll (tax) collector to live in.

It’s on the Kettering and Newport Pagnell turnpike, which had opened in 1754, 56 years earlier. I suppose it replaced an earlier building.

The tollhouse is on the bridge over the Great Ouse at Newport Pagnell. It was built here because there is no easy way to avoid crossing the bridge to dodge payment.

There would have been a gate across the road here, the turnpike, which the toll collector would only open once he had your money.

The tollhouse is designed so that travellers can be seen approaching from either direction or when they are at the gate; the collector could keep watch from indoors in bad weather or see what’s happening at night.

The turnpike was only about 25½ miles long, but there were four more toll gates, which all seem to be where the Kettering and Newport Pagnell intersected other turnpikes.

The nearest one was a little way South of a crossroads that used to be just North of Warrington, where the Northampton and Cold Brayfield turnpike crossed the Kettering and Newport Pagnell. The crossroads is gone, replaced by a roundabout where the A509 and A428 intersect.

But this one at Newport Pagnell is the only one listed as having a weighbridge. I don’t know why, but the turnpike trust wouldn’t have had one if they couldn’t make money from it.

There are several similar words and phrases used to describe these toll roads, so here’s an explanation.

Turnpike
A pike is a weapon, a long wooden shaft (sometimes called a pikestaff) with a metal point. It’s like a spear, but as it’s not designed to be thrown, it can be much bigger.

A turnpike was originally a defensive framework of these pikes that could be turned aside to allow the passage of horses; perhaps just a temporary measure. The word then came to mean a gate blocking a toll road. These roads also came to be called turnpikes, or just pikes; a term still in use in the USA.

Turnpike Trusts
These were formed by acts of parliament and the trustees charged with keeping the road in good condition. This needed money, so the trusts were given powers to collect tolls from travellers.
The bill for the Kettering and Newport Pagnell turnpike was spoken on in Parliament on the 21st of February 1754, when Lord Willoughby of Parham reported to the house:

"An Act for repairing and widening the Road leading from the Toll Gate in the Parish of Kettering, through the Town of Wellingborough, in the County of Northampton, and through Olney, over Sherrington Bridge, to Newport Pagnell, in the County of Bucks; and for repairing and widening, or re-building, the said Sherrington Bridge,"

Sherrington (now Sherington) bridge is not in Newport Pagnell, but you’ll cross it if you take the turning to Chicheley and Sherington at the edge of the town.

The original parapets were removed in 1972 and the bridge widened with a concrete deck. The original 18th Century bridge can still be seen from the Great Ouse below it. From there the turnpike ran through Sherington towards Olney.

This should all be clear to you now; as plain as a pikestaff!

I used a Sony A6000 and zoom lens just like this one for the photo in this post.

I make a small percentage from sales through Amazon links, no matter what you buy while you visit their site from here. This helps me but costs you nothing, so if you make a purchase via the NBW, thank you.

 

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Bridge Out

Old railway bridge with farm trackThe brickwork looks to be in good condition, though the retaining wall on the approach needs attention. Beyond the bridge will be the cutting for the HS2 line.

There are quite a few nice old railway bridges in North Bucks, but it looks like the Highways Agency want to demolish this one, though it was in quite good condition when I visited it this week.

This bridge is nearly 125 years old, a part of our railway heritage and a local landmark on a footpath near Twyford Mill.

When HS2 is completed it will be about 120 feet from the edge of the cutting. The existing farm track will be carried over the cutting on a new bridge.

              

From the Government’s plans and what a local dog walker told me, this original bridge will be demolished; instead there will just be a ramp up to the new one. I believe there's enough room to keep this bridge and make it part of the ramp to the new one.

I see there’s another bridge that will be lost, too, about a quarter of a mile to the South East. But I didn’t realise until I came home again.

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Old Snow Coach

Turnpike bridge in the snow

The Monday Photo

There’s a good chance at least one of the Christmas cards you’ve had this year had a mail coach on it.

The coaches are almost always red, there’s a chap on the back blowing a horn, and the snow lays round about, deep and crisp and even.

These coaches relied on the turnpike roads to reach their destinations, because they knew they’d be maintained with the money turnpikes took from tolls. The bridge took the 1722 Wendover and Buckingham Turnpike across Shipton Brook, just down the hill from the hamlet of the same name, next to Winslow.

Here’s another view of Shipton Bridge in slightly warmer weather, and here’s one more, of the 18th Century arched bridge from the middle of the brook in mid summer.

I can just imagine four horses pulling a red coach over this bridge in the depths of winter. The horn is blowing. Everyone on the top of the coach has bundled up against the intense cold. The snow is at least a foot deep and there are no other wheel tracks.

This will be the last Monday Photo of 2021; I’ll be taking a couple of weeks off over Christmas and the first week of the new year, returning on Monday 10th January. But there’s one more Thursday post to go this year, on the 23rd of December. See you then.

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