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Berw Road Bridge
River Taff, Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wales, UK
Berw Road Bridge
associated engineer
P.R.A. Willoughby
Louis Gustave Mouchel
LG Mouchel & Partners
W.S. Atkins
date  1907 - 6th April 1909
era  Modern  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  ST076910
ICE reference number  HEW 620
photo  PHEW, courtesy ICE
Berw Road Bridge in Pontypridd is one of several early reinforced concrete bridges in south Wales constructed using the Hennebique system of ‘armoured’ concrete. At the time of completion, it had the longest reinforced concrete span in Britain. Possibly its alternative name, White Bridge, is a reference to the characteristically pale appearance of the material. The bridge is in use by road traffic, subject to weight limit.
In 1892, French engineer François Hennebique (1842-1921) invented a system of reinforcing concrete with mild steel bars. He trained and licensed agents in the technique and one of them, fellow countryman Louis Gustave Mouchel (1852-1908), brought ‘ferro-concrete’ to Britain in 1897. Mouchel lived in south Wales early in his career, and was also French consular agent and trade advisor for several ports in the area.
Mouchel himself worked on Berw Road Bridge, although it was completed after his death. For longer spans like this one over the River Taff, he used open spandrel rib arches to lighten the construction, visually and structurally. The bridge's central span measures 35.4m and the side spans 7.6m. Its width between parapets is 7.9m.
The main span consists of three parabolic arched ribs, set at 3.65m centres and cross braced horizontally at intervals. The longitudinal beams carrying the deck are supported by vertical elements supported on the arch ribs over the outer thirds of the span. The arch itself acts as a direct support over the middle third of the span, where it is integral with the deck beam.
The side spans consist of cast round arches and smooth continuous concrete soffits. The parapet railings have been replaced with galvanised modern ones.
The bridge's abutments are of rock-faced sandstone, left in place from an earlier bridge on the site. Since there is little visible evidence of the means adopted to carry the horizontal thrust of the main arch, it’s possible that buried struts transfer thrust to the original foundations.
In the 1970s, the bridge deck was reconstructed and other repairs carried out. Consulting engineer for the work was W.S. Atkins & Partners. Road traffic using the bridge is now restricted to an 18 tonne weight limit.
In February 2001, Berw Bridge was Grade II* listed. The listing citation notes that it was "designed by P R A Willoughby, surveyor to Pontypridd Urban District Council, in association with L G Mouchel & Partners". It is listed "as a major road bridge belonging to the first generation of reinforced concrete construction, a type of structure now exceptionally rare in Wales".
Berw Bridge lies some 700m north north east of the famous stone arch of Pontypridd Old Bridge completed in 1756 by William Edwards (1719-89).
Contractor: Watkin Williams & Page
Research: ECPK
"Agents of Change: Hennebique, Mouchel and ferro-concrete in Britain, 1897-1908" by Patricia Cusack, Construction History, Vol.3, pp.61-74, 1987
reference sources   CEH Wales

Berw Road Bridge