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British Industrial History

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Marlow Bridge

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The only suspension bridge over the non-tidal section of the River Thames

Marlow Bridge is a road traffic and foot bridge over the River Thames in England between the town of Marlow, Buckinghamshire and the village of Bisham in Berkshire. It crosses the Thames just upstream of Marlow Lock, on the reach to Temple Lock.

There has been a bridge on the site since the reign of King Edward III which was stated in around 1530 to have been of timber. In 1642 this bridge was partly destroyed by the parliamentary army. In 1789 a new timber bridge was built by public subscription with a contribution from the Thames Navigation Commission to increase the headroom underneath.

The current suspension bridge was designed by William Tierney Clark, with chains and structure designed by Samuel Brown, and was built between 1829 and 1832, replacing a wooden bridge further downstream which collapsed in 1828.

The contractor for the stonework was Messrs Corby and Clifford of Marlow. William Hazledine supplied the ironwork. Strengthening work was carried out in 1860, mainly involving replacement of oak cross beams with iron girders, and renewing timber decking.[1]

Contemporary References to Bridge

1829 First stone laid on 22 September, by Mr Millington, Engineer[2]

1830 'We see, by the account of the Sessions held at Aylesbury, that some strong allusions were made to the late abortive attempt on the part of Mr. Millington to build a suspension bridge, at Marlow. We should much like to have these observations before the public, and likewise to know, whether those Magistrates who so well knew, and so strongly recommended Mr. Millington, are not in some degree morally, if not legally, accountable, for the enormous expence and shameful delay the ignorance of this ci-devant engineer has caused the county of Bucks. We owe, in common with many others, a debt of justice to Mr. Francis, of Marlow, for his bold and fearless attempt to unmask the pretensions of our Trans-atlantic engineer, and showing to the public the value of claims, which had not one atom of sound science to support them. The building of the bridge is now under the direction of Mr. Tierney Clark, who erected Hammersmith suspension bridge; and we have now every reason to hope the intended bridge at Marlow will be speedily and effectually completed.'[3]

Note: Mr Millington was John Millington, sometimes referred to as Professor Millington.

1832 'Some hope is at length entertained of the completion of Great Marlow Suspension Bridge. Mr. Tierney Clark has surmounted the obstacle opposed to him by the contract entered into by his predecessor for the iron chains, and has obtained them properly adapted his purpose......'[4]

1832 Advert (original spelling):'To be Sold by Private Contract, THE Bars of WROUGHT IRON LINKS, used in erecting Marlow Suspension Chain Bridge, containing 220 links, 10 feet long, 2 inches deep, by 1/2 inch and 3/8 inch thick, width 82 screw pins and burs to ditto, weighing upwards of four tons, made of the best hammered iron. May be seen by applying to Mr. W. Shuttle, on the premises.'[5]

1860 Advertising for tenders for repairs involving the wrought iron lattice girders and all ironwork, and renewing the woodwork, roadway, fixing the railings, painting, etc. The contact for information was Messrs Easton, Amos, and Sons of Southwark[6]

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 'British Bridges' published by the Organising Committee of the Public Works, Roads and Transport Congress, 1933
  2. Berkshire Chronicle - Saturday 26 September 1829
  3. Bucks Gazette - Saturday 23 January 1830
  4. Reading Mercury - Monday 12 March 1832
  5. Reading Mercury - Monday 23 April 1832
  6. Bucks Herald - Saturday 14 April 1860