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Tramway Bridge
River Avon, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, UK
associated engineer
John Urpeth Rastrick
date  1823 - 5th September 1826
era  Georgian  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  SP204548
ICE reference number  HEW 868
The 1826 Tramway Bridge was constructed in brick to carry the horse-drawn Stratford & Moreton Tramway over the River Avon in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon. The Grade II listed bridge is now maintained as a pedestrian and cycle bridge.
On 28th May 1821, an Act of Parliament was passed authorising the construction of the tramway, linking Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire with Moreton-in-Marsh in Gloucestershire. The line was part of a much larger scheme for a Central Junction Railway from Stratford to London, promoted by land agent and railway surveyor William James (1771-1837).
The horse-drawn tramway ran from the canal wharf in Stratford (the terminus of the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal) and proceeded south by a cross-country and roadside route to Moreton, passing through cuttings and over embankments. James was involved with the survey and design of the line, though he was bankrupted in 1823. Thomas Telford (1757-1834) and George Stephenson (1781-1848) were consulted by the tramway company during the planning and construction of the scheme designed by John Urpeth Rastrick (1780-1856).
Rastrick's Tramway Bridge is sited 100m downstream (west) of the 15th century Clopton Bridge in Stratford. The contractors were George Roe, Richard Clark and John Roe (1795-1874).
The bridge is composed of nine semi-elliptical arches, each of 9.1m span with arch rings two brick courses wide. The arches are supported on rectangular piers, expressed on the spandrel walls as plain pilasters. Two arches at the south end of the bridge are on land, for flood relief. The river piers stand on bases with rounded cutwaters at each end.
The bridge is some 106.7m long and 3.25m wide between parapets, which are 380mm thick, of brick with ashlar coping, and may have been added later.
The 25.7km mile tram road (and bridge) opened for public use on 5th September 1826, with a gauge of 1.435m (4ft 8.5in). This would later become the standard gauge for railways. The track consisted of wrought iron fish-bellied rails held by iron chairs mounted on stone blocks. The tramway was powered by horse traction throughout, as steam locomotion was prohibited at locations where the line was laid alongside public roads.
Goods were carried in linked groups of timber wagons, owned by traders who purchased a licence to use the tramway. Traders could offer passenger services on payment of an additional licence fee.
The line incurred high maintenance costs, particularly on the cuttings and embankments, and it was not until 1828-9 that the income from tolls exceeded expenditure. By 1830, the tramway company owed £53,758 on repayments of loans and accrued interest. Three branch lines were planned but only one was constructed, a 14.5km branch from Moreton to Shipston-on-Stour (authorised 10th June 1833, opened 11th February 1836).
On 1st May 1847, the line was leased by the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway. It was managed by the tramway company until 1851. After 1859, the main line was not a financial success, and little used after 1881. In 1882, ownership passed to the Great Western Railway. From 1st July 1889, a steam-hauled service operated on the Shipston branch.
By 1904, the Stratford & Moreton Tramway was out of use. In 1918, the track over the bridge and on the main line was lifted. Under an Act of Parliament, passed on 4th August 1926, the line was formally abandoned. The Shipston branch of the tram road remained operational, carrying passengers until 8th July 1929 and freight until 2nd May 1960, after which it was dismantled.
When the main line from Stratford to Moreton was dismantled in 1918, two 4.6m lengths of the permanent way were saved. They are preserved on a site about 60m from the north end of the bridge with one of the original horse-drawn wagons, belonging to Thomas Hutchings of Newbold Lime Works.
In October 1951, the tramway bridge was Grade II listed. It is well maintained and used by pedestrians and cyclists as part of National Cycle Route 41. The deck has been resurfaced and metal lamp posts mounted on the parapets.
In 1971, the original timber wagon was restored by engineering students from the South Warwickshire College of Further Education. It was later vandlised and damaged by fire. In 2007 was removed for restoration (now replaced).
In 2010, programmable lighting was installed along the bridge (World Class Stratford initiative). However, it malfunctioned and was unreliable. Between 31st October and December 2016, the lighting was repaired and reinstated, at a cost of £90,000. The scheme features ‘runway’ lighting along the sides of the footway, in changing colours.
Contractors: George Roe, Richard Clark and John Roe
Cast iron rail chairs: Foster Rastrick & Co, Stourbridge
Research: ECPK
reference sources   CEH E&C

Tramway Bridge