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News article created on 18 March 2015

In focus…

Inside the Drayton Turret Footbridge.

When walkers and boaters first set eyes on Drayton Turret Footbridge at Drayton Bassett, Staffordshire, they may think they've stumbled into the pages of a fairytale, given the spiral staircases, pointed windows and turrets. It's very much solid bricks and mortar, though, and has been in place since the late 18th or early 19th century. A swing bridge was later added nearby for carts that couldn't cross the footbridge.

Keeping the Marquis happy

The origins of this Grade II-listed piece of architecture are fairly mysterious, as is why it was built in this elaborate Gothic style compared to the simpler Georgian bridges along the canal.

The Birmingham & Fazeley Canal was built in the 1780s to link Birmingham with other parts of the Midlands and the southeast – it connects to the Coventry Canal, which in turn joins the Oxford Canal. The canal runs through the former Drayton Manor estate, which at the time of construction was owned by the Marquis of Bath. One suggestion about the eccentric design is that it was offered as an appeasement to keep the Marquis happy for the inconvenience of a canal cutting through his grand estate. Who'd want a dull, regular-looking bridge in their garden, anyway?

A blast clean and a lick of paint

Another suggestion is it was designed as an architectural fancy by Sir Robert Smirke, famed for his Gothic Revival and mock-Medieval creations, such as Eastnor Castle, to complement the Jacobean style house he built for Sir Robert Peel (later to become Prime Minister) on the Drayton Manor grounds in the 1830s. The house was demolished in 1929 and only the clock tower remains today.

The footbridge is currently being given a face-lift by the Canal & River Trust, with a blast clean, a lick of paint and a brand new walkway, making it ready for re-discovery this spring. 

Words: Abigail Whyte

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