Bridges

Bridge of Iron

Walker and Co. cast iron bridge

The Monday Photo

Only three of the bridges that Walker and Co. of Rotherham made are left in the world, and Tickford Bridge in Newport Pagnell is one of them.

Built in 1810,  it's also the oldest cast iron bridge in the world that carries modern traffic.

The other two existing bridges made by the company are older. The earliest one was built in 1801 in Spanish Town, Jamaica, and was the first cast iron bridge to be built in the Caribbean.

The other cast iron bridge was erected in 1802 on the estate of Stratfield Saye House in Hampshire, not far from Reading.

Walker and Co. also made cannon for the navy. It’s thought that around a quarter of all the cannon in Nelson’s fleet at the battle of Trafalgar were made by the company, and 79 out of the 105 cannon on the Victory bore the Rotherham firm’s WCo mark; they were an expert casting firm.

The Newport Pagnell bridge was cast in sections. It was taken by sea to London, then by boat along the Grand Junction canal, which had only opened five years earlier. It wasn’t too far by road from the canal to the site of the new bridge.

The old bridge over the Ouzel there had to be replaced as it had become “ancient and decayed”.

The new bridge had been designed with six arched trusses set side by side, linked together by plates. Each one is made of eleven separate vouissors (which work like the wedge shaped stones that form a masonry arch) joined together with mortise and tenon joints, held tight by wrought iron wedges.

The arches are under compression; they have to be as cast iron, like stone, is strong in compression but weak under tension. The railings and central lamp standards are also cast iron, and the bridge abutments are of local sandstone.

The bridge needed little work or alterations for ninety years, then in 1900 wrought iron plates were added to the two centre bays when one of the deck plates fractured.

In 1972 the stone abutments received extensive repairs. Four years later a reinforced concrete deck on plastic foam had to be laid over the bridge to evenly spread the load of modern traffic, but in 1999 the bridge had to be strengthened again with carbon fibre. This all works, as you can see by the bus.

In the mid 1990s bollards were installed on the bridge, creating a width restriction to stop lorries and other large vehicles. It wasn’t popular; the gap was too narrow and quite a few cars lost mirrors on the bollards.

I wonder now if the restrictions were there to protect the bridge until it could be strengthened again. If you know anything about all this, please comment below.

Tickford bridge is a very fine example of early civil engineering in cast iron, which is why it is Grade 1 listed.

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Keeping in Touch

Social Distancing Project 186Not far from Goosey Bridge at Olney (all the shots this week have something to do with bridges), my sister in law leads the way across a field by the river. The sheep are used to walkers and almost completely ignored us.

 

The Distance Project 23

Even for people like me who are a bit insular, there’s a need for human contact with friends or family.

Talking on the phone or on some sort of video link is all very well, but it just isn’t the same as meeting face to face, even if we have to keep our distance. Recently under lockdown, this means I’ve been out walking…

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Changing Lanes 1

The 1970s to the Early 90s

Our Local roads gradually change over the years, and we soon forget how they used to be. These changes began to affect me when I started riding motorcycles in the 1970s; my first powered vehicles.

Living in Winslow meant I lived right in the middle of the North Bucks Wanderer’s area, though I didn’t know it at the time! Here’s just a few of the changes that have happened in North Bucks, from the 1970s to the early 90s.

 

Little Brickhill  BucksLittle Brickhill.

At first I rode a moped, but then I bought a much quicker 200cc Yamaha; I would go out on it just for the pleasure of riding. One favourite route took me North East from Winslow, across to Woburn and the woods. Even then I preferred the back roads, and saw little traffic until I reached Little Brickhill and the A5.

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The Monday Photo


Goosey Bridge  OlneyPhoto by Alan Bradbury

On The Island

This 1796 bridge gives walkers access to Goosey Island on the Great Ouse at Olney; it's a popular spot. But why is there an island there at all?

I think it’s because there used to be a water mill downstream, on the far side of the main road. To get the water to drive the mill wheel, some of the flow has to be diverted so that it arrives at the mill high above the natural level of the river. The water falling from one level to another under the influence of gravity is what drives the mill.

The river valley is quite flat here, so the diversion has to start quite a long way upstream from the mill. Over the years the river has broken through and there’s now a weir in place to control the water levels.

Up to around the middle of the twentieth Century there had been a weir and a sluice gate in a different spot, about 180 feet North of the present one.

There had been a mill at Olney since the Domesday Book, but a fire gutted the last one in 1965, and the remains were demolished.

At one time there had been another mill a little way at the foot of Clifton Hill, and you can see another island (just about) near there, too. And upstream there are other places in North Bucks where there used to be working mills; you can often find where they were from the islands just upstream.

Are there any places in North Bucks that you have puzzled over? If you have, let me know, and I’ll see if I can solve the mystery for you.

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From East to West

Cast concrete  BletchleyOne of the great supporting piers at Bletchley. You can see the scale of it from the two men just visible at the top.

 

Across the middle of North Bucks, the rebuilding of the 1850 railway is steaming ahead. Many local roads have been closed while works are carried out for the East West Rail project.

The project will create a rail link between Oxford and Cambridge, much of it on the routes of long closed lines, though there will be a brand new stretch of line on the far side of Bedford.

Often, it seems, the road are closed simply to keep a safe distance between workmen and the general public, but at Bletchley the road is closed while the 2,000 feet long railway flyover is being extensively rebuilt. The flyover was first in use in 1959.

The great piers are remaining, but a huge crane has been lifting the heavy concrete spans away one at a time. The first span was lifted in two parts, as it weighed 295 tonnes.

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Over the Water

Shipton Brook bridge

The Monday Photo

This is where we used to go as kids, to fish for sticklebacks. It’s the bridge that carried the new 1722 turnpike over Shipton Brook, just outside Winslow. On summer days we would paddle around with our jam jars and nets, just here in front of the bridge.

The old turnpike didn’t go through Winslow. The closest it got was East Claydon.

This is the downstream side. On the upstream side, you can still make out the route of the ford, gently sloping towards the brook.

The bridge hasn’t been part of the main road since 1937, when a new bridge was built and the road was straightened.

It wasn’t the first time the road had been altered at Shipton. At the top of the rise, where the road now sweeps round to the left, was a ’T’ junction. Part of the ’T’ junction remains as the first right angle bend in the side road through Shipton.

The two timber framed cottages set back on your right as you drive up the main road were once right against it. Other houses on the other side of the road, and there wasn’t a huge gap between them, were demolished in 1822 when the main road was altered.

Upstream from the bridge, the brook is fed by streams from Mursley, Stewkley Dean, and Hoggeston. Just downstream from here, another stream from the top of Oving hill joins the brook.

From there, the brook heads West, then joins another brook near Padbury. Then the bigger brook flow North and under the ancient bridge at Thornborough.

I still visit the bridge at Shipton brook when I’m passing.

 

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