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Prebends Bridge
River Wear, Durham, UK
Prebends Bridge
associated engineer
Not known
date  1772 - 1778
era  Georgian  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  NZ270418
ICE reference number  HEW 1966
photo  Jane Joyce
The city of Durham in the north of England lies on several picturesque bends in the River Wear and is home to a number of interesting bridges, old and new. Prebends Bridge is one of three masonry structures on the loop of river that surrounds the cathedral, and is now part of the Durham World Heritage Site.
Prebends Bridge is a Grade II listed structure and a Scheduled Ancient Monument. It was constructed in the late 18th century to the design of George Nicholson, the then architect to Durham Cathedral, on the instructions of the cathedral's Dean & Chapter. A flood in 1771 had swept away its predecessor, which was a footbridge located slightly to the south where the river is narrower. The flood also damaged the nearby Elvet Bridge.
The siting of the new bridge is notable in the way it relates to the surrounding landscape. By this time, bridge construction was more than well enough advanced to cope with the full width of the Wear valley at the high level necessary here, and this bridge's location has more to do with the creation of a particular type of Romantic vision. Trees were planted on the river banks in the same period. The view from the bridge was painted by J.M.W. Turner.
The ashlar masonry bridge spans the Wear valley with three semi-circular arches, each measuring 20.4m and ringed by voussoir stones. The overall height is 12.2m above water level. The two river piers have cutwaters that extend full height, accommodating semi-hexagonal refuges at road level. The lowers sections of the piers are rusticated. The bridge measures 5.6m between its stone parapets, the balustrades for which are partially supported on corbels.
Major repairs were carried out in 1955-6. In 2009, the bridge was deemed 'at risk' by English Heritage. Water erosion at the east end was investigated in 2010-11.
The bridge is mostly used by pedestrians and is a favourite spot from which to photograph Durham Cathedral. At the west end, a plaque presents poet Sir Walter Scott’s thoughts on Durham:
Grey towers of Durham,
yet well I love thy mixed and massive piles,
half church of God, half castle 'gainst the Scot,
and long to roam these venerable aisles, with
records stored of deeds long since forgot.
Architect: George Nicholson
Research: ECPK
"Heritage at Risk Register 2009 – North East" by English Heritage, London, June 2009.
reference sources   CEH North

Prebends Bridge