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Cartland Crags Bridge
Mouse Water, Cartland Crags, South Lanarkshire, Scotland, UK
Cartland Crags Bridge
associated engineer
Thomas Telford
date  1821 - summer 1822
era  Georgian  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  NS868444
ICE reference number  HEW 323
photo  courtesy MACE (University of Manchester)
The bridge at Cartland Crags (or Craigs) is Scotland’s highest over an inland waterway. The slender three arch structure spans a ravine over Mouse Water, a tributary of the River Clyde, and remains in use carrying the A73 Lanark Road.
The masonry bridge was designed by Thomas Telford (1757-1834), and constructed by John Gibb (1776-1850) and William Minto (1761-1847), both of whom had worked with Telford before. Minto's contract tender of £4,425 exceeded Telford's £4,200 estimate but, possibly because of his previous good record, it was accepted. Henry Welch (1795-1858) was appointed resident engineer, and Gibb’s young son Alexander Gibb (1804-67) worked on the project under Minto’s guidance.
It’s likely that a masonry bridge was chosen for this site because the cost of a cast iron lattice spandrel bridge span, such as Telford used at Bonar Bridge (1812) and Craigellachie (1814), would have been considerably greater.
The Cartland Crags site is a steep-sided river gorge some 1.6km north west of Lanark. The bridge sits between neat abutments founded on the solid rock of the ravine sides. Its deck is around 39.3m above water level, carried on three 15.2m semicircular arches supported by two tall tapering piers. The arches were constructed using timber centring, the sockets for which can be seen near the pier tops.
The piers are rectangular in section and of ashlar masonry ornamented with shallow recesses on the outer (north and south) elevations. The line of the recesses extends up through the spandrels, suggesting a pilaster and relieving the plainness of the arches. The restrained result is a good example of Telford’s aesthetic approach to design detailing. He also designed the tollhouse at the west end of the bridge (now a private residence).
Originally the two-lane bridge was about 6.7m wide between its plain parapet walls. In 1959-60, a reinforced concrete deck was constructed and a 1.5m wide footpath cantilevered from the south side of the bridge, with metal handrailing, all to the design of Babtie, Shaw and Morton of Glasgow.
In January 1971, the Cartland Crags Bridge was Category B listed. It was de-scheduled in February 1996.
In 1995, the strucuture’s future was safeguarded by rock stabilisation to the abutment foundations. The work attracted a Saltire Civil Engineering Awards conservation commendation.
Resident engineer: Henry Welch
Contractors: John Gibb of Aberdeen, William Minto
Research: ECPK
"Did Telford rely, in Northern Scotland, on vigilant inspectors or competent contractors?" by Thomas Day, Construction History, Vol.13, pp.3-15, 1997
"Obituary. John Gibb, 1776-1850", Minutes of the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Vol.10, pp.82-85, London, 1851
reference sources   CEH SLBBDCE1

Cartland Crags Bridge