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Chepstow Bridge
River Wye, Chepstow, Monmouthshire, UK
Chepstow Bridge
associated engineer
John Urpeth Rastrick
date  14th August 1815 - 24th July 1816
era  Georgian  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  ST535944
ICE reference number  HEW 145
photo  Chris Morris
Chepstow Bridge, sometimes called Old Wye Bridge, crosses the River Wye upstream of the site of Brunel's more-famous railway bridge. The north-south cast iron road crossing spans the border between England and Wales, and was built to replace the timber bridge that appears in J.M.W. Turner's 18th century painting of Chepstow Castle.
The present bridge is at least the sixth on this spot — and before that there was a Roman bridge about 800m upstream. Multi-span bridges have been built here from at least 1704, first of timber and later of timber and stone. The river's tidal range at Chepstow is one of the highest in the world, resulting in regular bridge damage and the need for repairs.
By 1810 it was once again time to work on the bridge and the town's magistrates sought estimates for refurbishment. In 1812, John Rennie (1761-1821) submitted proposals for repairs and also recommended a replacement, though his suggestion was not adopted.
However, on 4th June 1814, a contract to build the new Chepstow Bridge was let to John Urpeth Rastrick (1780-1856), Robert Hazledine (1768-1837), Thomas Davies and Alexander Brodie (1732-1811) of Bridgnorth Foundry, Shropshire. Rastrick was the designer.
The superstructure is of cast iron and the bridge's five low arches graduate in size from the largest in the centre out to each bank. The middle span measures 34.1m, the side spans 21.3m and 10.4m. The bridge is 6m wide, with an overall length of 150m including approaches.
The spans are supported on monolithic stone piers with rounded cutwaters. The two central piers are 4.3m wide and the outer ones 2.4m. The stone abutments at each end incorporate parts of the abutments of earlier structures.
The arch spandrels consist of radial cast iron lattices, cast in sections, bolted together in situ and connected to A-frames over the masonry piers. The deck is formed from cast iron pans spanning transversely over the arches.
The roadway is gently arched. Plain cast iron parapets emphasise both the curve of the road and the lines of the spandrels. Decorative lamp standards, lit originally by gas, stand on each side of the roadway at both approaches and midway across the bridge.
The contract price was £17,150 though the final cost, which included Rennie’s fees and other earlier expenses, was £22,116.
A plaque at the south end of the bridge reads: "The Wye bridge in Chepstow spans the second highest tidal range in the world which can exceed 14 metres (46 feet) in a single day. Any bridge here has to be very tall and strong enough to withstand the massive, twice-daily, flows of water. The elegant cast-iron bridge you see was opened with great ceremony in 1816".
In 1889, steel ribs were added to strengthen the central span. At about the same time, the original timber starlings at the base of the piers were strengthened with steel sheet piling.
Chepstow Bridge was Grade I listed in March 1975. Major structural repairs were carried out in 1979-80. Until January 1988, when a new road bridge (ST539941) opened, it was the main road bridge into the town from Gloucestershire. The new bridge carries the A48 and is located on the north side of the rail bridge. The old bridge now has only one lane for vehicles, controlled by traffic lights.
Contractor: Hazledine, Rastrick & Co, Bridgnorth
Iron casting: William Hazledine
Iron casting: Bridgnorth & Calcutts
RCAHMW_NPRN 24213
Research: ECPK
bibliography
"Taylor's Illustrated Guide to the Banks of the Wye"
by Robert Taylor, Chepstow, 1854
www.chepstow.co.uk
www.ice.org.uk
reference sources   CEH W&W
Location

Chepstow Bridge