The brick bridge over the Kennet and Avon canal was designed by John Rennie and built in 1799. For the first 100 years of its life, it carried nothing heavier than horses and wagons. Through the 20th century and onwards, however, it has had to support increasingly heavy vehicles.
The beautiful construction, with its many curves, has proved amazingly strong and robust. The bridge was strengthened in the early 2000s – a magnificent piece of work, totally invisible after the event!
Since the 1950s, however, there had been anxieties about the dangers of pedestrians crossing the bridge on the narrow pavements, and the risks of being hit by passing vehicles.
After many discussions, meetings and failed plans, a scheme was agreed in 2011. Through the winter of 2011-12 a new pedestrian bridge was constructed, on the west side of the existing bridge, but totally independent of the brick bridge.
Ground works were completed by Christmas 2011, and the new bridge structure (fabricated in Huddersfield) was craned into position (using a 200-ton crane) on the night of 2nd /3rd March 2012.
The projected cost of the Jubilee Footbridge (named to honour Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee) was £400,000.
The bridge was officially opened on the 2nd June 2012 by Mrs. Mary Bayliss, the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire.
More Heritage Trail Locations
A casual glance at this wonderful brick frontage suggests that the house is Georgian. However, look more carefully and you will see that it has four bays on the second floor, five bays on the first floor and six bays on the ground floor. The re-fronting was added to an ancient timber-frame house, probably in 1710.
The Bear is one of the grand coaching inns of England, with a long and rich history. It is thought to have developed a lodging house for the adjacent medieval Priory of St John (see War Memorial) which was founded by 1232. There is documentary proof of its use as a Hospice in 1464.
The Town Hall and Corn Exchange were built in 1871. There had been three earlier town halls dating from the 13th century. All had been in the middle of the marketplace. A new town clock was given to the town in 1862 and the cupola of the 1786 town hall was much altered to accommodate the clock. However, the changes made the building unstable, and it was decided to build a new town hall, including a large and impressive clock tower.