Monday, May 01, 2006

Bideford, UK. Old Bridge Reconstruction

Place: Bideford, Devon, United Kingdom.

Bideford is a small port on an estuary in North Devon. It has two bridges the Old Bridge (Official Name: Long Bridge) and the New Bridge (Official Name: Torridge Bridge).

The Old Bridge connects the two main parts of the town Bideford and East - The - Water. A bridge has been on the site since the 13th Century, originally made of oak beams it has been remodeled almost continually since then. It is currently a 16th Century bridge, possibly with the oak beams incased in the stone work with 1925 concrete cantilever extensions.

Needless to say 80 years since the last major works, and the last major works involving concrete the walkways need to be replaced.

Devon County Council, the authority in charge of repairs has made two suggestions:

Option 1: Replace the Walkways exactly as is, making it stronger and essentially the bridge will look the same as it does now. Lighting would also be improved to enhance both the road and architectural lighting. (The picture is supposedly the computer generated version of what it will look like although obviously it looks like that now)

Disadvantages: According to DCC investing substantial amount of money for little change.

Option 2: Remove 1925 walkways and replace with light-weight metal walkways with metal fence sides. A wall would be built between the road and the walkway providing separation of traffic and pedestrians. The downstream walkway would be larger to accommodate cycles. This would mean the bridge would be asymmetrical.

Advantages: New cycle route, separation of pedestrian/cycles and road traffic, historic arches bought into view.

Disadvantages: Its hideous and asymmetrical, large amount of metal on a stone work bridge.

Obviously the locals are up in arms and rightly so, its only a few years after the historic Quay was rebuilt, which in the end went ok apart from the slope from the back of the Quay to the front and the trees that had to be replaced with young saplings which are never as good as mature trees.

Back on the bridge DCC favours option 2 everyone else will prefer option 1. I would actually prefer an option 3. Over the centuries the bridge has been redesigned and each generation has left its mark, so we should leave ours but not the hideous metal structure proposed in option 2.

My Option 3 is a variation of the pre 1925 bridge which had cast iron walls with semicircular alcoves for the lights and viewing. The cast iron went a lovely shade of green.

There is scope for variation, black iron work, or a half stone, half iron wall, plenty of scope for variation with alcoves and the lighting stands. The medieval arches could be bought into view simply by raising the walkways by a foot or so.

Given the strength of wind on the bridge it would be nice to see flag poles attached to the light stands to allow long flags to be put up in the summer on the down wind side. Although could be costly in flags.

Whatever happens Option 2 should be shelved as quickly as possible.

The reasons are:

  • Its asymmetrical.
  • The wind is often strong, the current wall acts as a barrier to waist height, the new fence will not, resulting in difficulties in strong winds especially for people with push chairs etc.
  • The fence and metal walkway is an insult to the natural stone of the bridge
  • The metal work is not in keeping with the rest of the stone built quay or town.
  • It is not a suitable modification given the history of modification to the bridge.
  • The public at large will not support option 2, a modern architects dream.
  • The town is the little white town not the metal town.
  • The light weight metal may be too lightweight given the exposed aspect of the bridge (Like the millenium bridge in London it would not be a good idea if the bridges flexed in a high wind).

There are more details on the DCC website for the consultation.
On the website they give you a virtual tour so you can see just how hideous option 2 is.

They are currently consulting with the public and you should email them at or contact them

Bideford Bridge Consultation
Devon County Council
Matford Offices
County Hall
Topsham Road

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Crickey, a metal walkway, that they're going to widen and allow cyclists on it?

Are these people crazy - have they ever been on a bike? Besides the fact that bikes mix better with cars than peds, bike tyres and metal - especially wet metal give about the same amount of grip as well lubricated eel.

I assume DCC have a slush fund ready and waiting to pay the Royal Navy to come along and fish cyclist and their bikes out of the water?