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A closer look at Bideford's Long Bridge

By This is NorthDevon  |  Posted: October 23, 2009

  • RESURFACING: Right - the work has included resurfacing the footpaths on the Bideford Long Bridge. Picture: Ian Snell

  • NEW LIGHTS: Left - the scheme has given the council the chance to put new lamp posts on the bridge. Picture: Ian Snell

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BIDEFORD'S Long Bridge is the town's most iconic structure. As its restoration comes to a close, the

Journal

takes a look at its history.

• The original Long Bridge spanning the River Torridge and connecting the East and West of the town was built out of timber in 1286.

• In 1474 the original structure was replaced by the masonry arch bridge seen today. The bridge was built around the timber so people could still use it while construction was taking place.

• It is thought that the 24 arches of the bridge are different sizes because they were paid for by local businessmen, the larger arches costing the most. However, records of the bridge do not go back far enough to confirm this.

• In the first decade of the 17th century, the bridge trustees were taken to court by the people of Bideford for feasting and seeing plays with the trust funds. The people won the court case although it is unclear whether the trustees were forced to resign after the scandal.

• In the 1820s there was talk of converting the bridge so that it could be raised and lowered to allow boats and ships to pass under it.

• During the 1840s three companies tried to build a railway track over the bridge, but the trustees would not agree to any of the offers, although a temporary track was laid across the bridge during the First World War.

• In 1925 the Long Bridge was widened to accommodate modern day traffic. The work was paid for by the Bridge Trust.

• The Bideford Bridge Trust held responsibility for the long bridge up until 1968 when the west arch of the bridge collapsed. The Department of Transport then took on the bridge.

• Parts of the bridge were modified in the 1970s after the collapse.

• A three-tonne weight restriction was put in place on the bridge in 2002.

• A Devon County Council inspection in July 2007 revealed problems with the bridge's concrete and structure.

• September 2008, work began on putting in the cathodic protection system which will restore the bridge for another 60 years at least.

• October 2009, the £2.1 million restoration is expected to end.

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