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Langholm Bridge
River Esk, Langholm, Dumfries and Galloway, UK
Langholm Bridge
associated engineer
Not known
date  1775 - 1778, 1880, 1995 - 1996
era  Georgian  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  NY362846
ICE reference number  HEW 324
photo  © Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Langholm Bridge is famous for having been worked on by the young Thomas Telford during or just after his apprenticeship as a stonemason. The three-span masonry structure, also known as Townhead Bridge, carries the B709 road over the River Esk. It has been widened and remains in use.
Langholm is located at the confluence of the River Esk and Ewes Water. Until the present bridge was built at the head of the town, Skipper's Bridge (NY370833, completed around 1700) 1.6km to the south east was the only bridge across the river in the area.
Langholm Bridge was constructed in 1775-8, to connect the existing settlement on the east bank of the Esk with a new town being built on the west bank. New Langholm was financed by the third Duke of Buccleuch, Henry Scott (1746-1812), as part of an improvement scheme.
The bridge is of typical Georgian design with three segmental arches, each of 12.5m span. The road is on an incline over the bridge and the rises of the fairly flat arches vary to suit the alignment. The structure is of uncoursed grey rubble masonry with ashlar dressings, recessed arch rings and pointed cutwaters.
Thomas Telford (1757-1834), one of the most renowned British engineers, was born at Glendinning Farm to the north of Langholm. From about 1772 until around 1775, he was apprenticed to local stonemason Andrew Thomson (1712-92). We know Telford worked on Langholm Bridge, though it’s not entirely clear whether at the time he was an apprentice to Thomson or a journeyman mason in his own right.
It has been suggested that the bridge was constructed by Robert Hotson (1731-1813), known as Robin, rather than Thomson, and that Telford was working with or for Hotson. It's likely that Thomson, Hotson and Telford were all involved. Mason's marks attributed to Telford — a line with an arrowhead at the top and a lozenge at the bottom, with a cross halfway along — can be found on the east abutment and close to the waterline under the west arch.
In 1880, local contractor John Hyslop (1827-1911) widened the bridge to 7.3m by adding footways to both sides. Each was carried on cantilevered iron brackets.
In 1995-6, further widening and strengthening work was undertaken by Dumfries & Galloway Council. In January 1996, the bridge was re-opened by local Member of Parliament and Privy Councillor, Sir Hector Monro (1922-2006), and Denis Male, the council’s Vice-Convener. The refurbishment is in keeping with the bridge’s original design and won a Saltire Civil Engineering Awards design commendation.
Stonemasons (1778): Andrew Thomson, Robert Hotson
Contractor (1880): John Hyslop
Research: ECPK
bibliography
"The Public Works of Thomas Telford" ed. Alastair Penfold, Microfilm Limited, Wakefield, 1970
https://canmore.org.uk
www.freemasonrytoday.com
www.historicengland.org.uk
www.ice.org
www.langholm-online.co.uk
www.royalsoced.org.uk
www.scottish-places.info
www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk
reference sources   CEH SLBTTSmiles2
Location

Langholm Bridge