A walk starring the bridges of Norwich
PUBLISHED: 16:42 13 December 2018
As the old year turns and the past flows towards the future, it’s the perfect time to enjoy a riverside walk. This one, in the company of expert civil engineers, pays special attention to Norwich’s wealth of wonderful bridges
Ten Norwich bridges are the stars of a two mile walk along the Wensum devised by the Institution of Civil Engineers. From medieval masterpieces to 21st century steel spans, the walk takes a brief tour through the engineering history of the city’s river-crossings (alongside a fine walk through a fine city.)
1 The Lady Julian Bridge will be 10 years old in 2019. The swing bridge, which can move to allow larger boats through, links one of the newest areas of the city to one of the oldest and is named for the 14th century mystic who lived in a cell attached to St Julian’s church in King Street and was the first woman to write a book in English.
2 Foundry Bridge, at the bottom of Prince of Wales Road, was made of wrought and cast iron in 1884 to serve the new railway station. It includes a curved spout through the upstream parapet, added in 1910 to allow steam lorries to draw water from the river. An iron foundry once stood close to today’s Nelson Hotel.
3 Pull’s Ferry, where the Cathedral Close meets the river, once led to a canal which was used to carry stone right up to the site where Norwich Cathedral was taking shape. Today a 15th century water-gate bridges the end of the truncated canal. Money raised by Norwich Girl Guides helped save and restore the building and it is still used for Girlguiding activities.
4 Bishop Bridge is the oldest Norwich bridge still standing. Almost 700 years old, it was funded by Richard Spynk at a time when funding bridges was similar to giving money to the church in terms of a belief that it would help donors get to heaven. A gateway on the Cathedral side of the bridge was demolished in the 18th century and the whole bridge was due to be demolished in 1923 but was saved after a campaign by the newly-formed Norwich Society.
5 Jarrold Bridge is the newest Norwich river-crossing, built in 2011. Designed to link the city centre more closely with the Mousehold Heath area it is made of steel which curves across the river with a cantilevered footway. A long, gentle slope arcs across the water and the bridge has won several engineering and design awards.
6 Whitefriars Bridge is a single span of reinforced concrete, built in 1924. It replaced a series of wooden and stone bridges dating back through the previous thousand years. A 1591 bridge was another which the Norwich Society tried to save after it had to be taken down for a river-widening flood-prevention scheme. The stones were carefully numbered and stored – and then allegedly accidently used as foundations beneath the new Aylsham Road.
7 Fye Bridge is a two-span bridge made of reinforced concrete, masonry and brick. Today’s 1930s bridge could be on the site of Norwich’s first bridge across the Wensum. Vikings settled in this part of the city more than a thousand years ago and the remains of their wooden causeway across the river are still submerged beneath the water.
8 Blackfriars Bridge, along St George’s Street, was designed by Sir John Soane, the architect of the Bank of England, in 1784. It’s single arch of Portland stone is topped with cast iron railings. It is named for the black-robed monks who came to Norwich in 1226 and were based in Blackfriars Hall.
9 St Miles Bridge is the oldest cast iron bridge in East Anglia, built just 25 years after the world’s first iron bridge at Ironbridge in Shropshire. It is made of metal cast in a foundry next to the bridge. Perhaps the new technology was not completely trusted because it was wrapped around a hidden brick arch which was only discovered in the 1990s. Today it is a pedestrian bridge linking the two sides of Coslany Street.
10 St Crispin’s Bridge was made of wrought and cast iron in 1882 to link the new City Railway Station with Oak Street. It too was made in a foundry next to the site and is the last bridge across the river, downstream from its source near Fakenham, which is not crossing a tidal stretch of water.
The River Wensum Bridges walk has been produced by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) to mark its 200th anniversary. A series of projects highlighted how civil engineering has transformed the way we live.
The institution has 5,000 members in the east of England and regional director Glen Owen said his favourite bridge is Jarrold Bridge. “Jarrold Bridge is a stunning example of good design, engineering and construction. It appears to float over the River Wensum with few visible means of support,” he said.
Download the walk at ice.org.uk/about-ice/near-you/uk/east-of-england/publications/river-wensum-walk