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Corbridge Bridge
River Tyne, Corbridge, Northumberland, UK
Corbridge Bridge
associated engineer
Not known
date  1674
UK era  Stuart  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  NY987641
ICE reference number  HEW 995
photo  © Mike Quinn (cc-by-sa/2.0)
Corbridge Bridge is the oldest surviving bridge on the River Tyne. It replaced an earlier medieval timber bridge, and its seven spans and chunky masonry piers and abutments are thought to be built on Roman foundations. It is a Grade I listed Scheduled Monument and is still used by local road traffic.
The Roman settlement of Corstopitum, also known as Coria, some 4km south of Hadrian’s Wall was close to the village of Corbridge, so it's possible that the bridge has Roman foundations. However, the first recorded bridge on this spot was a timber structure built in or after 1235, to replace a ford and ferry. In 1306, it was described as the only bridge between Newcastle and Carlisle, and was maintained as a link between England and Scotland. Tolls for its upkeep were levied on iron goods — such as horseshoes, griddles, cauldrons, cartwheels and nails — taken across the bridge.
A plaque on the masonry states that the medieval structure "became ruinous and dangerous in the 17th century owing to frequent floods". It was replaced by the present bridge, which was completed in 1674 and intended for packhorse and horse-drawn coach traffic.
As constructed, the bridge consisted of six segmental-arch spans supported by massive piers and abutments, constructed in coursed and squared sandstone, with recessed voussoirs and flush arch rings. Straight pointed cutwaters on the piers rise through chamfered set-backs to form three-sided pedestrian refuges at parapet level. The piers are supported on elongated hexagonal plinths.
The River Tyne flooded destructively on 17th November 1771, and this was the only one of its bridges to survive. The water rose high enough for people to be able to dip their hands into the water by leaning over the parapets. It has withstood many floods since. After the 1771 flood, an additional span was added at the south end, increasing the length to 146m. Going from the north bank, the seven spans measure 19.5m, 16.3m, 16.15m, 15.85m, 16m, 16.45m and 13.4m.
In 1829, the south arch was rebuilt. In 1880-81, bridge was widened under the supervision of Northumberland County Surveyor Francis Charlton (1816-81), who died just before the work was completed. The width was increased from 3.65m to 4.6m by moving the parapets outwards and supporting them on stone corbels.
According to Historic England, reports from 1888 indicate that parts of the old medieval bridge survive along the line of the 17th century bridge. The remains include oak tie-beams used in the pier foundations, and lie "partially within or below the northern abutment of the current bridge".
In November 1932, the bridge was designated a Scheduled Monument. In April 1969, it was Grade I listed.
The bridge is only wide enough for one lane of traffic, which controlled by traffic lights at each end. Around 1970, a temporary bridge was erected on the downstream (east) side, to take the traffic while remedial works were carried out. The bridge re-opened in 1971. Until 1979, and the completion of a new road bridge 5km downstream at Styford, Corbridge Bridge carried the A68. It now carries the B6321.
In 2010, an assessment found that the strength capacity of one of the end spans was 13 tonnes, while one other could carry 18 tonnes. All the other spans could carry the 40 tonne limit then in force for heavy goods vehicles.
Strengthening works were deemed too expensive, given the relatively low volume of traffic using the bridge. Instead a weight limit of 7.5 tonnes was imposed for all traffic, except buses. Heavier vehicles must detour some 11km to use the Styford Bridge or the Hexham Bridge (constructed 1976) to the west.
Research: ECPK
reference sources   CEH NorthBDCE2

Corbridge Bridge