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St Miles Bridge
River Wesum, Norwich, Norfolk, UK
St Miles Bridge
associated engineer
James Frost
date  1804
UK era  Georgian  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  TG226089
ICE reference number  HEW 1125
A very early cast iron road bridge, thought to be the oldest of its type in East Anglia. It was once a busy thoroughfare, carrying traffic from the adjacent brewery (closed) and traders in Coslany Street over the River Wensum. These days it serves a residential district and is restricted to pedestrians and cyclists. It remains well-maintained.
The original bridge on the site, known as “Coslanie Bridge”, was of timber and may have consisted of two structures meeting on a central island in the river. It was constructed between 1186 and 1210, and believed to be "the most ancient of the city bridges". It was rebuilt in stone in 1521.
The present single-span cast iron bridge was constructed in 1804, designed by James Frost (c.1774-1851), a builder and manufacturer of ‘Roman’ cement, from St Faith's Lane in Norwich. St Miles Bridge is the oldest metal bridge in Norwich — possibly the oldest known in East Anglia. It spans 11m over the River Wensum, with a clearance of 2.9m.
The arch is composed of four cast iron ribs, each assembled from five bolted sections. The ribs are braced in cast iron and spring from masonry abutments. The spandrel panels are solid.
The bridge's parapets are also solid, matching the spandrels in design and topped by a flat narrow handrail. The parapets are 4.6m apart and each consists of five panels, with dovetail connections into the handrails. The gaps around the dovetails have been filled, presumably with lead.
The centre panel on the outer faces of each parapet carries an embossed plaque bearing the City arms, and the centre of the arch is cast-marked 1804. A spout for hose connections to the river is included on the west parapet.
The bridge cost £1,100 to construct and has stood the test of time. It survived the flood of 28th August 1912 that saw water reach the parapets, when the Wensum rose some 5m above its mean high level.
In June 1972, the bridge was Grade II listed. Repair works were carried out in 1990.
The bridge has now been restored and its full width paved in brick. Tubular handrails were added above the parapets and the ironwork repainted. It is closed to road traffic but open to pedestrians and cyclists.
Standing next to the bridge, on the south bank of the Wensum, is the former Bullard & Sons Anchor Brewery building. Bullards was founded in 1837 and continued trading from this site until 1963, when Watneys took over. Brewing finally ceased at St Miles in 1968, and the building has been converted into apartments.
Research: ECPK
reference sources   CEH E&CBDCE1

St Miles Bridge