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Berwick Bridge
River Tweed, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, UK
Berwick Bridge
associated engineer
James Burrell
date  1611 - 1624, completed 1634
era  Stuart  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  NT994527
ICE reference number  HEW 694
photo  Jane Joyce
Also known as Old Bridge, the 15-arch red sandstone Berwick Bridge is the most venerable of the three bridges crossing the River Tweed at Berwick on the Scottish-English border. It was the only bridge at this point for 300 years or so, and is now a Grade 1 listed structure and Scheduled Ancient Monument.
The designer and overseer of Berwick Bridge was James Burrell, Surveyor of Works of the fortifications at Berwick. This post wasn't quite as grand in Burrell's time as it sounds, since the garrison had become redundant when James VI of Scotland ascended the throne of England, joining the two realms. The main task at hand was the maintenance of the then timber bridge across the Tweed. This bridge had last been rebuilt 1570-73.
In 1608, the timber bridge was seriously damaged by ice coming down the river. Burrell applied to the government for funds for a masonry replacement and set about organising a ferry for the crossing while decisions were made.
The inital design called for seven stone arches in the middle of the river and the rest in timber. Work began but progress was slow and the money received in insufficient amounts. In March 1611, further damage occurred and two more of the old piers collapsed. Plans changed to allow for 13 masonry piers and further funds were allocated. Work began again on 19th June that year. By September 170 men including masons, carpenters, quarrymen and labourers were at work on the structure.
The piers are founded on piles, each 300-460mm square and iron shod. They vary in length from 1.8m to 7m. The piles for the piers were protected from river-born debris by rows of extra piles (starlings) driven to just below low water level. The 873 oak trees required came mostly from Chopwell Forest and came by river, as did the sandstone, which was quarried at Tweedmouth. Burrell designed a pile driver that hoisted 9-10 cwt and was operated by five men, an improvment on the usual 15 or more.
By 1620, the job still wasn't done. Further funds were arranged and Burrell was named Surveyor, with Newcastle bridge master John Johnson as superviser. The design was now 15 masonry arches, and was completed except for parapets and paving by September 1621. However, in October a flood damaged the recent work and re-building was needed. The bridge was more or less complete by 1624.
Berwick Bridge was the largest bridge constructed in the UK in the 17th century. It carried the main road from London to Edinburgh until 1928 when the Royal Border Bridge was opened. It is 355m long and 5m wide and its segmental arches increase in height up to 14m at the north end. The longest span is 22.9m. The piers have cutwaters and refuges and are adorned with smooth engaged columns.
Berwick Bridge is still open, and carries a minor road.
Overseer: James Burrell
Lead mason: Lancelot Bramston
Lead carpenter: Roger Richardson
Research: ECPK, JJ
bibliography
www.englandsnortheast.co.uk
www.northumberland-coast.co.uk
reference sources   CEH NorthBDCE1
Location

Berwick Bridge