Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Iron Bridge, Exeter

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Image taken 2021.
The ends of each group of six arched members is supported on a cast iron beam, which in turn is supported by three cast iron columns of 'four leaf clover' section.
The sandstone wall is an earlier effort to ease the lot of the horses - by raising the road level at the lowest point of the valley
Even the sunbeams conform to the cloverleaf pattern. Note the round tie bars, which are evidently tightened by circular nuts having two slots for a pin spanner.
Here we see how the arch castings are bolted to each other and to the horizontal beams. Note also the diagonal wrought iron tie bars
Small fish-bellied girders supported the roadway
In the centre of the photo can be seen a cotter for securing the horizontal beam to the central column. Note, too, the porosity in the beam casting. This suggests that this face was at the top when the iron was cast - any gases in the molten iron would tend to float to the top in the mould
This shows how the 'city' end of the arches is embedded in the masonry
JD Exeter Iron Bridge07.jpg
We don't know how these delicate bits were broken, but we can see how they were repaired: by welding in one case (always tricky with cast iron), and by bolting in the other case
At the base of the weather vane. Image taken 2021.

North Street, Exeter and St. David's Hill, Exeter

An impressive multi-arched cast iron viaduct, built in 1834-5 to overcome the obstacle to horse-drawn transport posed by a (dry) valley on one of the main routes into Exeter city centre. Made by Russell and Browns of the Blaina Iron Works.

An interesting account of the bridge and its history is available online [1]

1834 March. Detailed proposals.[2]

1834 May. 'NORTH STREET BRIDGE.- The North Street Improvement Committee of the Commissioners, present Messrs. J. Golsworthy, C. Davy, T. W. Horrell, J. Cooke, W. Harding, J. Burt, S. Maunder, W. Carter, W. Wills, and S. Kingdon: Mr. Golsworthy in the chair, on Wednesday last met Mr. Russell, of the firm of Russell and Co., of the Blaina Iron Works, and have arranged with this Gentleman for proceeding with the Iron Bridge in North Street, according to the resolution of the General Meeting of the Commissioners, on the 14th instant. Mr. Russell expecting that the working plans and models for this structure will he ready in about ten days. According to the plan originally designed the extreme width of this Bridge was to have been 26 feet, at a contract price of £2,925, but agreeably to the declarations given by the Commissioners to the Trustees of the Exeter Turnpikes, the Bridge will now be 26 feet in width in the clear, thus giving the public another foot in width, at an additional cost of £125., or a contract sum of £3,050. At the same time a Sub-committee consisting of Messrs. T. W. Horrell, W. Wills, and J. Golsworthy was appointed for the purpose of assisting Messrs. Coldridge, the surveyors, in preparing the plans for the masonry work that will be requisite.[3]

Near one end of the bridge is a curious cast iron post topped by a weather vane. This is remarkable for the fact that it appears to be a single, solid iron casting of great length - over 40 ft. It was installed in 1898 in celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. It was made by W. Shepherd and Son of Albion Foundry, Exeter.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Exeter Memories website - The Iron Bridge
  2. Western Times - Saturday 22 March 1834
  3. Exeter Flying Post - Thursday 1 May 1834