Ornamental bridges are usually associated with landscaped parks and gardens rather than waterways, but intriguingly the Trust owns a number dotted around the countryside. These fancy bridges as boatmen called them, were often designed by great and versatile engineers, men like Rennie and Telford, and their architectural decoration was in the style of the day.
Some of them, like Lady’s Bridge (1808) on the Kennet & Avon were built to placate a landowner where a canal passed through their country estate. Others were built so that landowners could simply show off. Examples include New Bridge (c1825) on the edge of Teddesley Park on the Staffs & Worcester, built by the Littleton family who keenly promoted the canal, and Avenue Bridge (c1840) which carries the long drive to Chillington Hall across the Shropshire Union.
Fancy bridges are usually in a Classical style, with lots of balustrades and rusticated stonework. But there are exceptions; Sir Robert Peel, who was Prime Minister in the 1830s, preferred a mock-castle approach and built the curious turret footbridge where the Birmingham & Fazeley crossed his estate of Drayton Manor. And at Cosgrove, the Grand Union is graced by Solomon’s Bridge (1800) built for the local Lord of the Manor, George Biggin Esq. This is a beautiful bridge, built of Northamptonshire limestone in a rare and ornate Regency Gothic style.
National Heritage Manager
As national heritage manager, Nigel’s role is to lead the Canal & River Trust’s team of regional heritage advisers in England and Wales. He has over 25 years’ experience of working in the conservation, archaeology and interpretation of historic buildings and places. He is a member of the editorial board of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation. He has written numerous articles concerning heritage conservation and is the author of several longer published works, including the English Heritage Book of Canals.See more blogs from Nigel Crowe