Feb 10th, 2013 | | Bridges | Exterior | Portfolio | No Comments

Victoria Bridge, Bath

Victoria Bridge, Bath 1849

The Victoria Bridge in 1849

The Victoria Bridge in Bath was designed and constructed in 1836 by local brewer James Dredge to link the Upper Bristol Road and Lower Bristol Road. He wanted to be able to carry beer from his brewery across the river without using a ferry or having to detour through the city centre. It is thought to be the first of some 50 bridges of this type designed by Dredge and constructed in the United Kingdom and abroad. Only a handful of these bridges survive; a number have collapsed and others have been demolished. Originally it was a toll bridge, open to horses and carts but later carried cyclists and pedestrians until its closure on safety grounds in 2011.

Victoria Suspension Bridge, River Avon, Bath - Pierre Terre
Victoria Suspension Bridge, River Avon, Bath – © Pierre Terre

The cable-stayed double cantilever bridge has a clear span of 42.52m and an overall width of 6.00m. The cables are slung from Bath stone towers and the road deck is joined to the cables by iron rods, which, unusually, are not vertical. Construction cost £1,760. Dredge patented the ‘Taper principle’ based on using chains rather than cables, as is more common in suspension bridges. Dredge’s bridge design was considered “a very significant yet relatively short-lived phase in suspension bridge development”.

Victoria Bridge, Bath - Back Span Hanger
Back Span Hanger – these connect the chains to both the bridge walkway and the ground

The main span chains have 155 links each of which is 2.5 metres long and supports two wrought iron hangers. The deck is made of wooden planks, which have been replaced several times and the original oak cross beams were replaced during the 19th century by wrought iron members, many of which have since had new steel ends spliced in. The deck was originally covered with a composition of coal tar and lime, with about 50 tons of gravel, and afterwards Macadamised. This equates to approximately 4″ (10cm) of surfacing over the plan area of the bridge.

Victoria Bridge, Bath - underside
Underside of bridge – shows later longitudinal beam

Dredge did change the design of his bridges. The Victoria Bridge is the only surviving one which has a ‘fan’ arrangement of hangers, where pairs of hangers separate from one node on the chain to connect to two different points on the deck beam (see photos). Subsequent ones all have the deck connected to the chain with pairs of hangers in parallel. The stone towers have remained virtually unaltered since construction although a number of alterations have been carried out on the hangers, chains and deck.

Victoria Bridge, Bath - Post Tops
Many of the tops of the posts on the walkways have been replaced – here are the original and two later versions

The bridge is Grade II* listed.

I was asked to carry out an analysis of the paint applied to the bridge.

Victoria Bridge, Bath - Cross section of paint
Cross section of paint applied to the Victoria Bridge

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