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Worcester Bridge

In the civil parish of Worcester.
In the historic county of Worcestershire.
Modern Authority of Worcestershire.
1974 county of Hereford and Worcester.
Medieval County of Worcestershire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SO84515487
Latitude 52.19185° Longitude -2.22800°

Worcester Bridge has been described as a certain Fortified Bridge.

There are no visible remains.


The importance of Worcester as a distributing centre for the western Midlands depended largely upon its bridge. At the beginning of the 14th century there was no other bridge across the Severn between Gloucester and Bridgnorth; the conflux of travellers was felt to lay a grievous burden upon Worcester Priory. A bridge already spanned the Severn at Worcester in the 11th century; it had just been repaired when the citizens crossed it to meet the rebels of 1088, and the building of the original structure may possibly be referred to preConquest times. Early in the 14th century a new bridge was built, by which the river was crossed until 1780; to Leland, visiting Worcester upon his itinerary, the bridge appeared 'a royal peace of worke, highe and stronge.' Its renovation was a charge laid upon the city; there is no trace of any custom by which the landowners of the county contributed to the maintenance of Worcester Bridge. The water bailiff, an officer of the city, appointed yearly, was charged with the care of the bridge; money was occasionally left in early wills for the purpose of its repair. In 1323 Bishop Cobham advocated its rebuilding as an act of piety, and in 1328 a pontage grant for three years was obtained by the men of Worcester.
The ancient bridge was across the river at the bottom of Newport (formerly Eyport) Street. It consisted of six arches resting on piers with starlings, and upon the middle pier was a gate-house like that still remaining at Monmouth. The bridge was pulled down in 1781, and the piers were found 'so strong as to be capable of bearing any weight and were with the utmost difficulty demolished; the openings were covered with double arches each consisting of three ribs and the interstices filled up with small stones and grout which by time was become one solid mass.' The new bridge, said to have been necessary because the old one was insecure, is placed lower down the river at the foot of Bridge Street, which was widened to give it a suitable approach. It was designed by John Gwynn, a local architect, and consists of five semicircular arches crowned by a balustered parapet, and at the south end are a pair of circular domed lodges surrounded by Doric peristyles. It was opened to the public on 17 September 1781, and with the approaches cost £29, 843. It has since been widened. (VCH)

The first reference is by Florence of Worcester, recording its repair in 1088 during the Earl's rebellion (its pre-Conquest origins have been assumed from this). The bridge was rebuilt in stone in 1313-1328, and it was probably then that the Bridge Gate was built over the central pier. In 1459 the bridge and its gate were described as ruinous and no deterrent to the enemies of the king. Direct references to the 'Bridge Gate' are post-medieval, the earliest being in the city accounts for 1550-1. The bridge and its tower were repaired in 1655-58, after the Civil War (Beardsmore 1980). The bridge was last repaired in 1702, at which time the gate tower was demolished; two turrets from it were taken down and re-erected, one as a watchman's hut, the other as a store-shed (Green 1796).
The bridge itself was demolished in September 1781, following the opening of the new bridge further S. The piers were found to be 'so strong as to be capable of bearing any weight and were with the utmost difficulty demolished; the openings were covered with double arches each consisting of three ribs and the interstices filled up with small stones and grout which by time was become one solid mass' (Nash 1782). A Dr Johnson of Worcester wrote to Valentine Green that 'In destroying the old bridge, a structure which stood on the site of a former bridge of unknown antiquity, much of this dross (referring to Roman slag) was found in the foundation of the piers, and filled the old piers in the slovenly mode of ancient masonry (Green, quoting Dr J). Martin Carver has suggested on this basis that the bridge piers could have survived from a Roman bridge, being re-used by a succession of timber decks until rebuilt in stone in 1313 (Carver 1980).
Illustrations of the bridge (in use, and during demolition) show a structure of six semi-circular or slightly pointed arches, rising from massive piers with angular cutwaters, tapering inwards towards the arch springings. The arches themselves can be seen to have been of ribbed construction (Bridges and Mundy 1996; VCH). (Worcestershire and Worcester City HER)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

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