S. L. Marchant
During 2010 I made trips to several counties photographing bridge sites including autumn trips to Kent, Sussex, Suffolk and Essex.
During the photo ‘season’ I visited almost 300 sites and covered around 10,000 miles.
Due to many new demands on my time over the winter it has proved difficult to process the hundreds of photographs from all of the 2010
photoshoots - but they are all now processed and added to the website. I have not however had time to add explanatory titles to the photos
for about the last 25 sites nor update the related reports. These will follow in due course.
The website now has photographs of over 1.050 bridge sites out of a total of 2,397 sites listed.
2011 promises to be a difficult year. The high cost of petrol makes it unlikely that I will be able to afford many trips solely for the
purpose of photographing bridges. I will seize other opportunities when I am in new areas for other reasons but as long as fuel prices stay
so high I will have to rely much more on local supporters. This is a pity as site visits often produce new information that cannot be gained
except by observation.
Many of my site visits in 2010 were to sites of fortifications including castles, forts, Martello towers and fortified manor houses. Very
few of these sites have drawbridges intact so as far as observing actual bridges it was a rather uneventful season.
I look forward to hearing from regular supporters in 2011 and also hearing from new ones!
The better weather in April allowed me to get out and about on several photoshoots. I managed to photograph most
outstanding locations in Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire,
Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire. Other activities have taken over for a while now as the smallholding and garden
demand my attention and the family holiday season approaches. I hope to start out on more photography in late August
and weather permitting continue through to late October.
We have received the great news this month that the British Library has decided to archive this website.
The British Library has been working for some years to create an archive of websites that represent ‘aspects of UK
documentary heritage and as a result they will remain available to researchers in the future.’ So whatever happens
to me in the future the website will be preserved for all to access via the British Library, even if it ceases to be
available directly through the internet for any reason. It will be a few weeks before archiving is complete, and the
Library will then update their copy of the website about every 6 months on average.
I hope all our supporters have a great summer and look forward to seeing your holiday snaps of movable bridges!
The winter finally seems to be receding and I am beginning to plan a photo schedule to try and catch up with an
increasing backlog. This has of course been made much greater by the addition of several hundred drawbridges attached
I recently received an email from Garrett Lamb with two photographs of the pedestrian lift bridge in Torquay Harbour.
Garrett invited me to look through the photographs on his own website http://www.orchestrion.cz
There I found an old photograph of a double leaf drawbridge on the Lartigue Monorail in Ireland. This was a total surprise –
I had never heard of this steam monorail – built in 1888 between Listowel and Ballybunion in County Kerry.
The Lartigue Restoration Committee have an excellent website dedicated to the history and current state of this unique
These unique bridges were known locally as ‘Flying Gate’ drawbridges – and there were 17 of them in the 10 mile length of the monorail!
I only know of two other movable bridges that crossed railway systems and it is difficult to know where to place them on the website. For the moment the Lartigue monorail is listed in the drop down list of waterways!
Bridge for Sale
I also recently received an email from Victor Cox of Steel Construction UK Ltd - http://www.steelconstructionukltd.co.uk/
- offering me a ram-operated lift bridge for purchase! This bridge – now laying in the company yard – was temporarily sited in Canary Wharf in the early 1990’s when the company was working on one of the Canary Wharf towers. I will be adding this bridge to the database shortly – in the meantime if anyone needs a ready made lift bridge contact Victor Cox!
A Happy New Year to everyone! I hope you all coped with – or even enjoyed – the snow. I certainly did!
My young grandsons made a rare winter visit to England and saw their very first snow. We had a great few days
sledding, building snowmen and throwing snowballs – wonderful.
Of course those conditions combined with the short days of mid-winter were not conducive to photo shoots along
icy river and canal banks, so I have devoted some extra time to desk-bound tasks. John has updated the search
page of the website to create a separate search option for ‘fortifications’. This category includes castle, forts,
fortified manors and tower houses, city walls and gates and defences thrown up during the English Civil War. These
can now be searched for in their own drop-down menu separated from the waterways listings. Following John’s update
to the website we have been able to add around 600 bridge reports to the Fortifications sector. I am now working through
those new records writing histories and descriptions.
As the days lengthen and the weather improves – hopefully – I will be off on my travels again trying to cover lots more
bridge sites around the British Isles.
Thank you to everyone who has continued to send information and corrections during the long cold winter – I hope to have the
chance to meet more of you face to face in 2010!
It has been a very hectic year for me with quite a bit of foreign travel and I have not had a
lot of time to get out and about to photograph bridges. However on the 13th September I
travelled to Chichester for one of the rare days when the Poyntz Bridge (now at the Padwick
site) is brought into operation. With volunteers from the Chichester Canal Trust and from
the Sussex Industrial Archeology Society working through the day the bridge was kept closed
to canal traffic, and then swung open on several occasions to allow the passage of the Trust's
boats Egremont and Richmond. There was a display of photographs, books and artefacts on the
school playing field during the day, and in the afternoon Alan Green gave a guided tour and
talk around the Canal basin.
I was very aware during the day of just how much voluntary work is needed to keep these
'remainder' canals in operation. Several volunteers were involved during the day in operating
the Trust's boats while others served a steady flow of customers in the Trust's cafe. Linda
Wilkinson - Chair of the Trust - and Adge Roberts of the Sussex Industrial Archeology Society
spent the day operating the bridge, with other volunteers lending a hand from time to time.
Alan Green's talk was most illuminating, and I also learnt a great deal about the problems of
maintaining the towpaths, embankments and hedgerows from the volunteer in charge of that
aspect of the canal. (I omitted to ascertain this lady's name - my apologies!)
The commitment needed from many people to keep even this small canal in working order, let
alone take forward the task of re-opening further lengths of it, is remarkable. If one
multiplies that by all the many different projects going on around the country it adds up to
huge amounts of time being given freely and generously to ensure these aspects of our heritage
My thanks to all the people - including other visitors - who made me so welcome and expressed
interest in my movable bridges project.
During the gaps between trips to various home and foreign parts I did complete a fairly
thorough sweep of the internet looking for references to drawbridges attached to castles and
other fortifications. This has added almost 600 new locations to my database and with a few
other new finds I now have around 2,250 movable bridge locations. I have not yet added the
Castle and fortification bridges to the website – I will do so once we have made some
necessary adjustments to the search page.
I have actually managed my first photoshoot at a castle site – while I was in Norwich to
spend the Bank Holiday weekend with one of my sons!
Thanks again to all those who have been sending me information and photographs – I am almost
up to date adding it all to the website!
I have been toying for some time with the idea of creating a timeline showing the development of
movable bridge technology over the centuries. Recently I began playing about with design ideas for
the timeline and quickly realised that I could not really make sense of the task until I had
carried out a proper survey of castle drawbridges. I do already have a few examples of defensive
drawbridges in castles and forts, but I had never carried out a systematic search.
So I am now carrying out that search, seeking out references to defensive drawbridges county by
county throughout the British Isles. Some sources estimate that there have been around 5,000
defensive fortifications built in the United Kingdom since the Norman Conquest, so it proving to
be a big task. I have so far found references to over 300 defensive drawbridges in castles, forts,
fortified manor houses and garrisons. In the process I have also found references to drawbridges
on the approaches to towns – either at the gates in city walls or as part of a bridge over a
Once I have completed my search for castles I will therefore have to carry out a search for drawbridges
as part of town wall defences. I have just put an appropriate search term into Google and got 10,300 hits!
I am already at over 1,600 bridge locations on the website before adding this latest research so we are
getting very close to 2,000 locations – a far cry from the 200-300 that I expected when I first started out!
As a result of this work I have been talking to John about redesigning the main search page. It has been
difficult to know how to locate defensive bridges within the structure of the website. Most of the bridges
that we have listed cross waterways and the search pages were based on that with a drop down list of waterways,
but a castle moat – especially a dry moat – is not a waterway. We are now considering adding a new search
option on the lines of ‘Defensive structures’ to create a separate listing and hopefully a clearer distinction.
I have also been struck with the idea this morning of a further search option – to find bridges by the century
of construction. I haven’t floated this idea with John yet so I’m not sure how viable it would be! One of the
problems might well be that there would be a significant bunching of results - into the 11th and 12th centuries
when many castles and fortified structures were built and then into the 18th and 19th centuries during the heyday
of canal construction.
The website is taking a huge step forward in terms of the quality and quantity of information
available about many of the bridges recorded. This is due to the efforts of new supporter John
Powell. John is a retired bridge engineer with many years of service with British Waterways.
John is now putting in a mammoth amount of work checking every bridge on the website that spans
an inland waterway and correcting, amending and adding to the information that I have recorded.
As a result I have been able to remove a few bridges that I had listed as movable structures in
error, and have also added several ‘new’ bridges that I had not previously discovered. As a
result we now have 1,560 bridge locations listed on the website.
While working through the database John is also studying my photographs of bridges and adding
comments about the technical features of many bridges, and correcting my errors in terminology
and mistakes in my efforts at describing bridge parts and their purpose.
I am also grateful to another new supporter Frank Shackleton, who has offered to search through
his huge collection of photographs of inland waterways to see if he can fill any gaps in the
photographic record contained in the website.
The bad weather has stopped me in my tracks as far as outdoor work in the garden and on my
smallholding is concerned – but it does mean that I can keep up with the huge volume of
information that has been flowing into my mailbox from supporters over the last few weeks.
May I start by wishing everyone a Happy New Year.
I am more than ready for some nice spring weather and longer days so that I can get out and about photographing
more bridges – I have definitely had enough winter weather now! (I can’t even finish my winter digging!)
Things have not been entirely static on the website however. I have several new supporters who are giving
me lots of information and quite a few new bridges to add to the database. We are up to 1,530 bridge
locations! Of course this means that my list of bridges without photographs has grown even longer over
the winter – I now have 783 locations left to photograph! My original plan – when I expected to find
around 300 bridges in the British Isles – was to photograph them all in the first decade of the 21st
century – that is by 31st December 2010. So I have 100 weeks left to photograph 783 sites spread right
across the British Isles!
My thanks to everyone who has contributed over the winter and look forward to receiving lots more
information during the rest of this year.
I have also been contacted by John Freeman who is writing a history of the Whitby Harbour Bridge.
Like many older harbours Whitby Harbour was formed in the estuary of the River Esk, so the bridge is
listed under the heading of the River Esk on the website. John is appealing for any information about the
bridge - which is now 100 years old – to include in a small booklet. It is also planned to place 2
information plaques near the bridge. John is trying to establish how unusual the double leaf design of
the swing bridge was. I have about 24 locations out of the 1,530 listed on my website where there have
been double leaf swing bridges. This doesn’t include the bridges on the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal,
many of which were originally double leaf swing.
If you can offer John any information about the Whitby Harbour Swing Bridge or information about double
leaf swing bridges please email him at email@example.com. I would also appreciate any
responses being copied to my email box firstname.lastname@example.org for use on my website.