Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 143,344 pages of information and 230,027 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Exeter Cathedral Close Footbridge

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JD Exeter Cathedral Close01.jpg
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Each wrought iron letter was formed by hand and rivetted in place

at the entrance to Cathedral Close, Exeter

Built 1814.

Some sources state that the arches are cast iron. Cast iron bridges with a 'dimishing ring' motif were popular from the 1790s onwards. However, the arches and rings here are wrought iron, with the letters riveted on. The blacksmith's achievement in producing the spandrel rings to contact the tapering gap and the neighbouring rings is most impressive. Note that the radial width of the rings decreases with the diameter.

The difference between the use of cast iron and wrought iron is by no means trivial. With a cast iron bridge of this size, one or two wooden patterns would have been made for the arches, complete with rings. The patterns would have been used to make sand moulds, and cast iron poured. A relatively cheap and straightforward process. With wrought iron, each rib and ring would have to be made individually. Each ring would be formed from a piece of straight wrought iron bar, rolled to shape, and the joint fire-welded. The diameter needed to be exactly right, to ensure that the ring exactly fitted in with the neighbouring rings and arch members. This was blacksmith's work of the highest order. The material itself would have been much more expensive than cast iron.

For cast iron footbridges of broadly similar appearance, see Stothert's Foundry and Sydney Gardens Bridges, Bath.

The deck has been renewed with steel plates, supported on rolled steel joists.

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