Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Difference between revisions of "Exe Bridge"

From Graces Guide
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The river had often been fordable by horses at this location, and the Romans may have built a bridge here.
The river had often been fordable by horses at this location, and the Romans may have built a bridge here.


A multi-arched masonry bridge was built here c.1200. The course of the river was altered, and nine of the original 17 or 18 arches have survived. It might be thought that the remains of the bridge would be regarded as a valuable part of Exeter's historic heritage. In fact the remains were stabilised, and the immediate area was landscaped. However, the location is by no means appealing to visitors, not least because it is surrounded by busy roads constructed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The changes included the construction of two concrete bridges located east and west of the line of the c.1200 bridge.
A masonry bridge with 17 or 18 arches was built here c.1200. The course of the river was subsequently altered, and half of the arches were removed. Nine have survived, and it might be thought that the remains of the bridge would be regarded as a valuable part of Exeter's historic heritage. In fact the remains were stabilised, and the immediate area was landscaped. However, the location is by no means appealing to visitors, not least because it is surrounded by busy roads constructed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The changes included the construction of two 4-lane concrete road bridges located east and west of the line of the c.1200 bridge, while pedestrians would enjoy the opportunity to negotiate the subways.


Over time, houses, shops, a church and a chapel were constructed on the old bridge. The tower of St Edmund's Church has partially survived.
Over time, houses, shops, a church and a chapel were constructed on the old bridge. The tower of St Edmund's Church has partially survived.
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The problems of congestion led to the construction of an elegant new bridge, having three masonry arches, designed by Joseph Dixon. Work started in 1770, but flooding in 1775 destroyed the bridge. Reconstruction started, and the bridge was completed in 1778.  
The problems of congestion led to the construction of an elegant new bridge, having three masonry arches, designed by Joseph Dixon. Work started in 1770, but flooding in 1775 destroyed the bridge. Reconstruction started, and the bridge was completed in 1778.  


The 1888/1890 O.S. map shows that the southernmost abutment of the Georgian bridge was built partly on the remains of the old bridge. Water still flowed under part of the old bridge, in the form of a large leat. A heavily-skewed bridge carried New Bridge Street over this leat, presumably constructed as part of the new bridge works in the 1770s. The skewed bridge survives, 60 yds to the west of the ancient bridge. The angle of skew is in the region of 35 to 40 degrees. Part of the stone balustrade survives, consistent in design with those on Dixon's Exe Bridge.  
The 1888/1890 O.S. map shows that the southernmost abutment of the Georgian bridge was built partly on the remains of the old bridge. Water still flowed under part of the old bridge, in the form of a large leat. A heavily-skewed bridge carried New Bridge Street over this leat, presumably constructed as part of the new bridge works in the 1770s. The skewed bridge survives, 60 yds to the west of the ancient bridge. The angle of skew is of the order of 35 to 40 degrees. Part of the stone balustrade survives, consistent in design with those on Dixon's Exe Bridge.  


A weir was constructed between this small bridge and the ancient bridge.   
A weir was constructed between this small bridge and the ancient bridge.   

Revision as of 09:19, 26 November 2021

13thC bridge
Georgian skew bridge

in Exeter

This entry relates to bridges which crossed the River Exe to originally link with the West Gate of Exeter's city walls.

The river had often been fordable by horses at this location, and the Romans may have built a bridge here.

A masonry bridge with 17 or 18 arches was built here c.1200. The course of the river was subsequently altered, and half of the arches were removed. Nine have survived, and it might be thought that the remains of the bridge would be regarded as a valuable part of Exeter's historic heritage. In fact the remains were stabilised, and the immediate area was landscaped. However, the location is by no means appealing to visitors, not least because it is surrounded by busy roads constructed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The changes included the construction of two 4-lane concrete road bridges located east and west of the line of the c.1200 bridge, while pedestrians would enjoy the opportunity to negotiate the subways.

Over time, houses, shops, a church and a chapel were constructed on the old bridge. The tower of St Edmund's Church has partially survived.

Some of the arches are slightly skewed, making them early examples of the type.

Various types of stone were used, partly reflecting the repairs carried out during the long life of the bridge.

The problems of congestion led to the construction of an elegant new bridge, having three masonry arches, designed by Joseph Dixon. Work started in 1770, but flooding in 1775 destroyed the bridge. Reconstruction started, and the bridge was completed in 1778.

The 1888/1890 O.S. map shows that the southernmost abutment of the Georgian bridge was built partly on the remains of the old bridge. Water still flowed under part of the old bridge, in the form of a large leat. A heavily-skewed bridge carried New Bridge Street over this leat, presumably constructed as part of the new bridge works in the 1770s. The skewed bridge survives, 60 yds to the west of the ancient bridge. The angle of skew is of the order of 35 to 40 degrees. Part of the stone balustrade survives, consistent in design with those on Dixon's Exe Bridge.

A weir was constructed between this small bridge and the ancient bridge.

In 1905 the Georgian bridge was replaced by an attactive low-rise steel arch bridge with cast iron decorative features, designed by Sir John Wolfe Barry. This survived until the late 1960s, when it was demolished after being replaced by the present utilitarian concrete bridges. Steelwork contractors: Heenan and Froude; Decorative cast iron work: Walter Macfarlane and Co; Granite work: John Easton and Son. The bridge had a span of 150 ft over the river. The road width was 34 ft, and 8 ft wide pavements were provided on each side. There were eight steel ribs, each comprising two slightly curved riveted beams, with pinned connections at each end (i.e. three-hinge arches). A photo here shows the steel beams exposed during demolition. The height of the crown above ordinary water level was 15 ft.

Although the new bridge followed the line of the Georgian bridge, this bridge was not completely demolished prior to construction of the new bridge. The base of the piers was retained for a time, presumably to provide support for the scaffolding and for the steel beams during erection. A temporary wooden footbridge was built alongside.

Although the arch of the steel bridge was relatively flat, and although openings were provided in the spandrels, the bridge was restrictive to water flow in times of severe flooding, and replacement was inevitable.

Fortunately, two of the four ornate cast iron lamp standards from the Edwardian bridge were preserved and are now mounted further downstream on the quayside. See here for an excellent illustrated account of the bridge, and of various other efforts to make Exeter less attaractive to visitors.[1]


1904 December 24th.[2]

THE EXE BRIDGE. LAST RIVET FIXED YESTERDAY. In the presence of large gathering of the officials and employees at the construction the new Exe Bridge, the last of the principal rivets of this handsome structure was, yesterday afternoon, driven in by Mr. F. G. A. Pinckney, the resident engineer for Sir J. Wolfe-Barry and Partners. Having completed this operation in a masterly style, and had it tested by Mr. G. Mason, Inspector of Works, Mr. Pinckney declared the rivet "thoroughly sound and well and truly driven." Three hearty cheers were then given for their most Gracious Majesties the King and Queen, and the gathering adjourned.

Among those present were : Mr. Tom W. R. Suggett (manager of the works for Mr. Woodman), and Messrs. Heean and Froude, with his staff, including Mr. W. Lloyd-Jones (assistant), Messrs. C. Washer, T. Howard, S. Barraclough (foremen), T. Foster (who assisted with the last rivet), H. Clifford, J. Patten, S. Farrington (rivetters), F. A. Down (chairman), C. Stone, E. Washer, Eli Murrain (granite fixers), A. Bennett, J. Carter, W. Lobb, J. Anton, etc., etc. Messrs. John Eastern and Son (supplying the granite work) was represented by P. Moyle; Messrs. Walter Macfarlane (ornamental ironworks), by W. Allen, W. Connell, J. Conton, and R. Hughes; and Mr. T. Davis (decorative painting), by A. Lilburn and T. Neale.


The Wikipedia entry is an excellent source of information on the old bridge.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. [1] Blog: A Century of Destruction in an English Cathedral City: The Demolition of the Edwardian Exe Bridge: 2011
  2. Western Times - Friday 23 December 1904
  • 'The Exe Bridge, Exeter' by Stewart Brown, Exeter City Council, 2010
  • [2] Exeter Memories: History of the Exe Bridges
  • [3] Devon Buildings Group: 23rd Annual Conference, 14 June 2008: Devon Bridges.