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Fiddler's Elbow Bridge, Newark
River Trent, Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, UK
Fiddler's Elbow Bridge, Newark
associated engineer
LG Mouchel & Partners
date  1915
UK era  Modern  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  SK800551
ICE reference number  HEW 53
photo  PHEW
An early reinforced concrete footbridge over the River Trent at Newark. Its name, Fiddler’s Elbow, comes from the sharp curve of the deck at the apex of the arch. Now Grade II* listed, its architectural distinction lies in the unusual slimness of its deck.
Fiddler’s Elbow Bridge was constructed as a barge-horse bridge, which allowed the navigation towpath to change from one side of the river to the other without the towing horse having to be unhitched from the towrope. It crosses the Newark branch of the River Trent about 800m upstream from Newark Dyke railway bridge (SK800557), on the outskirts of town behind an industrial estate. It can be seen from the A46 bypass and from the railway line.
It was designed for the Trent Navigation Company by L.G. Mouchel & Partners, the UK agents for the 'ferro-concrete' system developed by François Hennebique (1842-1921), and constructed in 1915. The company, founded by Louis Gustave Mouchel (1852-1908), was responsible for the majority of the reinforced concrete bridges built in Britain by 1918. Though most were road bridges, they included almost 30 footbridges, all characterised by monolithic construction.
This bridge has a single segmental arch of 27.4m span and 2.74m rise. Its 1.7m wide deck is extremely slender, 254mm deep at the springing and only 152mm thick at the crown. In elevation the deck rises steeply at a constant gradient from each end and meets in a tight vertical curve at the apex.
The structural depth of the deck is shallow, with minimal steel reinforcement. The longitudinal steel is equal at the top and bottom of the section, by area totalling 1.2% at the crown and 0.67% at the springing, with fishtail anchorages.
The thin section must have required particular attention to detail when fixing reinforcement and compacting the concrete. In 1915, long before the advent of ready-mix concrete, all batching, placement and compaction was carried out by hand. Apparently the arch was cast in a single pour.
The bridge has rusticated stone-faced abutments, chamfered walls some 10m long to each side of the approaches and steel tube handrails with four rows of tubes. On the east side, a stone embankment with similar handrailing carries the towpath under the bridge.
In 1972, an inspection by the Concrete Society found the bridge in an "excellent state of preservation" despite its damp environment. In October 1989, the structure was Grade II* listed and reportedly restored at around the same time. In 2002, it was "still in as good a condition as ever". Photographs taken in 2012 show no evidence of concrete spalling or reinforcement exposure.
Research: ECPK
"The Bridges of Newark (A Tourist Trail)" by John Gardiner and Mary Gardiner, ICE East Midlands, Civil Engineering Heritage, leaflet, c2002
"Historic Concrete: The Background to Appraisal" edited by James Sutherland, Dawn Humm and Mike Chrimes, Thomas Telford Ltd, London, December 2001
reference sources   CEH E&C

Fiddler's Elbow Bridge, Newark