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Crickhowell Bridge
River Usk, Crickhowell, Powys, Wales, UK
Crickhowell Bridge
associated engineer
Not known
date  1706
UK era  Stuart  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  SO213182
ICE reference number  HEW 1223
photo   Jonathan Billinger and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Crickhowell Bridge is the longest stone bridge in Wales. It is also a Grade I listed scheduled ancient monument. The present 18th century bridge was widened in the 19th century, famously giving it 12 arches on the upstream side and 13 on the downstream face. It carries the A4077 over the turbulent River Usk between Llangattock and Crickhowell, and remains in use.
A bridge is thought to have existed at this location from medieval times, possibly a timber structure. However, the earliest bridge on this spot was first recorded in 1538, and was listed in the 1690 Sessions Records as ancient. It was rebuilt in 1706 by the Hundred of Crickhowell for 400.
As constructed, the 128m long bridge had 13 flat segmental arches with recessed narrow voussoirs. Spans vary from 5m to 8.6m, the two largest of which are over the west side of the river channel. The structure is of coursed masonry with V-shaped cutwaters on both sides of the piers, extending to parapet level to form refuges.
Crickhowell Bridge is regarded, rightly, as a splendid example of 18th century masonry. But by the 19th century, widening was evidently essential. In his 1809 book, A History of the County of Brecknock, Theophilus Jones wrote that the bridge, "should be entirely rebuilt, as it has now become a very considerably [sic] thoroughfare; it is at present so narrow that two persons on horseback can barely pass each other, and it would be vain for two carriages of any description to attempt to cross at the same time "
It was in fact widened in 1809-10, on the upstream (north) side as a result of flood damage sustained in 1808, which required the erection of a temporary bridge to maintain access. The distance between parapet walls varies, but was a minimum of 4m.
Further work took place in 1828-30, during construction of the town's 'inner bypass'. The bridge was modified so that the two longest spans were combined into a single arched opening, 12m wide on the upstream face. The new work does not have recessed voussoirs.
Engravings from around 1840 appear to show that scour protection was provided on the bridge, in the form of an apron under the arches. At some time, possibly in the 20th century, the scour protection was upgraded to a full-width weir with a masonry topped apron and a steel sheet-piled toe beyond the downstream (south) side of the bridge.
Extensive bridge repairs were carried out in 1928 and, in July 1963, it was Grade I listed.
In 1979, urgent repairs were needed when cracks appeared in the structure as a result of traffic loading. Vehicles used a temporary Bailey bridge while work was completed. The refurbished 3.2m wide roadway carries a single lane of signal-controlled traffic, with a footway up to 1.7m wide on the north side of the carriageway.
By 2003, repointing work had been completed and some of the arch heads had been partially rebuilt. Around 2010, individual large voids were identified in the weir apron. Scour protection to the piers was renewed by filling the voids with concrete topped with stone setts, working within a sandbag bund under each arch in turn. Some bridge repointing and masonry repairs were also undertaken.
Contractor: William Powell, Llangattock
Contractor (1809-10): Benjamin James, Llangattock
Contractor (21st century scour protection and masonry repairs): Kaymac
Research: ECPK
"A History of the County of Brecknock" by Theophilus Jones, W. & G. North, 1809
reference sources   CEH W&WCEH Wales

Crickhowell Bridge