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British Industrial History

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Stanford Bridge

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The 1905 concrete bridge

over the River Teme in Worcestershire


The present (redundant) reinforced concrete bridge was built in 1905[1] to replace an earlier cast iron bridge, which in turn had replaced a very-short-lived cast iron bridge. The iron bridges, both designed by John Nash, are discussed below, with the arbitrary spelling retained. The 1905 bridge is now closed to traffic, following the construction of a new steel bridge. The 1905 bridge has cast iron balustrades, and cast iron plates stating the the bridge was reconstructed by the Worcestershire County Council, 1905.

First Cast Iron Bridge

1795 'Last Saturday afternoon, about four o'clock, the new iron-bridge over the River Team, at Stamford, in the county of Worcester, suddenly gave way, completely across the center of the arch, and the whole of this elegant structure was instantly immersed in the flood! In the fall, the bars were all disjointed, and some of them which struck against the abutments, were shivered into many pieces. At the moment of the crash, which was instantaneous, a man and a boy were upon the bridge — the former, with great presence of mind, leaped into the river, and swam safe to shore ; and it is a circumstance truly surprising, that, though the boy went down with the fragments, he was also extricated unhurt. The bridge had been made passable, and only wanted the finishing of the side rails towards its completion ; but no carriages had yet passed over it. The people employed, had not left their work above an hour, and were at an adjoining publick house, receiving their wages, when the alarm was given. The span of this bridge was about 90 feet ; and the misfortune is generally imputed to the slightness of the iron-work, which was several tons lighter than the celebrated bridge at Coalbrook Dale. The mason work remains uninjured.' [2]

Built for Sir Edward Swinnerton of Stanford Court. Approx 98 ft span. The bridge apparently had four arch ribs, having a depth of only 1 ft. [3]

Second Cast Iron Bridge

1798 'The Iron Bridge at Stamford, Worcestershire, is at length completed, and a more perfect piece of workmanship has never been exhibited since the discovery of casting iron for such noble purposes ; and notwithstanding it is only a single arch, the structure is so improved as to rise only five feet from the first entrance to the centre of the bridge ; it is in its appearance, perfectly safe and durable, and does the greatest credit to the artist who executed it.' [4]

The iron castings for the second bridge, but not the first, were produced by the Coalbrookdale Co.

In 1797 Nash had registered a patent for the construction of iron bridges, whose arches were formed of hollow boxes, open at the top, and bolted together side by side. The boxes were probably filled with rubble or masonry. The boxes extended across the width of the bridge.[5].

J. G. James compared the structure to a system of hollow box voussoirs cast in the shape of stone ones, bolted together at adjoining faces to form a very firm cellular arch sheet. The contact faces were large and continuous across the width of the bridge, so the fit of the contact faces of the voussoirs was far less critical than was the case with the bridges of Thomas Wilson. Stanford bridge only had a rise of 6 ft. Nash patented the system (No. 2165, 7 February 1797). Apparently no more bridges of this type were built in the UK, but over a dozen were constructed in Russia from 1806 to 1840.[6]

Nash's 1797 patent covered a variety of optional forms of construction, including box voussoirs made as iron castings or assembled from wrought iron plates, with or without bottom plates, forming a single arch or a succession of arches, or formed from hollow cylinders with flanges. The joints could have sheet lead or other composition inserted, to compensate for unevenness and to prevent high pressure at points of contact. The arch joints or flanges could be joined with bolts, or 'stubbs' (dowels?) or mortise and tenon joints. For multi-arch bridges the patent also included hollow piers in cast or wrought iron, and dovetailed piles made from wrought iron plate.[7]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] Heritage Locations website - Stanford Bridge, Worcestershire
  2. Oxford Journal, 3 October 1795
  3. 'Arch Bridges and Their Builders 1735-1835' by Ted Ruddock, Cambridge University Press, 2008
  4. Hereford Journal, 3 October 1798
  5. 'Arch Bridges and Their Builders 1735-1835' by Ted Ruddock, Cambridge University Press, 2008
  6. 'Some Steps in the Evolution of Early Iron Arched Bridge Designs' by J. G. James, Newcomen Society
  7. Monthly Magazine, and British Register, for 1797, January to June, Volume 3