Arch  Bridges  over  the  River  Severn

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Maisemore Bridge

Telford's Over Bridge

Telford's Mythe Bridge

Worcester A44 Bridge

Bevere Bridge

Telford's Holt Fleet Bridge


Single masonry arch

Single masonry arch

Single trussed iron arch

Multiple masonry arches

Single iron arch

Single trussed iron arch

Stourport Bridge

Telford's Bewdley Bridge

Bridgnorth Bridge

. . . . . .

Coalbrookdale Iron Bridge


Single iron arch

Three masonry arches

Multiple masonry arches

. . . . . .

Single iron arch

Arches in Gloucester and Cheltenham


Maisemore  Bridge

Going upstream from the mouth of the Severn, the first arch bridge that you will see that is in use is the single span at Maisemore, completed in 1956, after an interruption caused by the war.  Both walls carry a plaque, facing the road, at the east end of the bridge.  This bridge cannot be photographed properly without a boat.  Just above Maisemore the weir marks the limit of tidal effects and of the Severn bore.  The pictures below show the bridge partially submerged by deep water.  Just below Maisemore the A417 is not infrequently under water, as are the neighbouring fields.

The picture below shows one disadvantage of low, flat single span arches, namely the ease with which the river can engulf parts of the structure.  Such a bridge avoids the presence of piers in the river, with the attendant dangers of scouring, but at times of extremely high water, it presents a significant obstacle to the flow of water.  The next masonry bridge downstream, that of Telford at Over, has the cornes de vache shape which is intended to ease the flow of flood water.


We can see from the picture above that this flood is far from being the worst that has happened.  This picture shows the line of higher floods in the past.  Remembering that the water flows fastest near the surface, we see that the bridge is a very substantial obstacle in time of flood.


Numerous Severn bridges from Gloucester upwards have flood relief openings, sometimes many.  This picture, of the bridge at Burford, over the river Windrush, shows what can happen in times of flood.  Some bridges in the north of England have large cutwaters and large stone pavements around those, to prevent scouring, which can be a severe threat to a bridge.

Telford's Mythe Bridge

The next arch upstream from Maisemore is the Mythe bridge, an iron structure, which is one of Telford's designs.  Click here to read about it.

A44  Road  Bridge  in Worcester

Worcester. like Gloucester, is situated almost entirely east of the river Severn.  The ground to the west is liable to flooding, and is presumably unsuitable for building.  At any rate, Worcester has only one road bridge, one railway bridge, and one foot bridge.  The road bridge is the first multiple arch bridge, and only the fourth arch of any kind, found as we go upstream from the mouth of the Severn.  The only lower arches are the single spans at Over and Maisemore, near Gloucester, and at the Mythe..


A plaque, illustrated below, on a wall at the north-west end of the road bridge at Worcester, refers to the legend of Sabrina, and the possibility that the name "Severn" is derived from Sabrina, or Sabern.



This bridge was built in 1781 and widened in 1931-1932.


The plaque shown above is not actually on the bridge, but on the wall of the Vesinet Walk on the east bank, about halfway from the road bridge to the railway bridge.  It marks the position of the medieval crossings.  So Worcester, unlike so many other places, does not use the site of the  older crossings.

Bevere  Bridge


Just north of Worcester, Bevere Island divides the river.  The left channel flows over a fearsome weir, while the right channel has a lock for boats.  A small iron arch connects the island to the left bank.  If you go downstream under the bridge it means you have taken the wrong channel.  You will very shortly be going over the weir.

Telford's Holt Bridge or Holt  Fleet  Bridge

Holt Fleet bridge was built by Telford between 1826 and 1828, and strengthened in 1928.  It is quite similar to Mythe bridge.  Click here for more details.

Stourport  Bridge


These pictures above show the A451 road bridge at Stourport-on-Severn, dating from 1870.  After crossing the iron arch you pass over some masonry arches and then the long line of brick arches shown at right.  All this is a strong hint that you are in an area which is prone to severe flooding.

Bewdley  Bridge

This elegant three arch bridge spans the River Severn at Bewdley, carrying the B4190 road.  Some flood arches with grills can be seen at the right.  Unfortunately the scale of the flooding in recent years has rendered such measures irrelevant, because of the very large volumes of  water coming down from the Welsh mountains.  Thomas Telford built this bridge in 1798.


Bridgnorth  Bridge

In the pleasant town of  Bridgnorth there is a multi-arch bridge.  It is not easy to photograph in summer because of trees.  It has been widened to cope with traffic.  This always presents a problem of preservation.  On the south, downstream side, concrete beams from pier to pier carry a footpath.  On the upstream side the changes are more drastic.  Very wide beams make the roadway much wider, but obscure the old bridge.  This solution at least leaves one side relatively unscathed, and was probably the best that could be done.


At the north east of the bridge, on a brick tower, a plaque commemorates the engineer Richard Trevethick.

Just south of the bridge, a small trussed footbridge connects the left bank of the Severn to a bowling club on an island.

Bridgnorth has an interesting arched building in the main street, and some sandstone arches at the top end of the street.  It has a steep railway from the lower town to the upper, with cars that are perhaps reminiscent of buses modified by Kienholz, and a church designed by Thomas Telford.

Downstream from the town, the A458 bypass is taken over the river by a neat concrete beam bridge.  From there you can see a cable-stayed footbridge across a valley in the town.

Several bridges have yet to be photographed in this region.

Ironbridge  in  Coalbrookdale

The abutments are asymmetrical: on the north side the footpath passes under a stone arch: on the south side, inaccessible to the public, there are two iron arches.

This very famous bridge was built between 1777 and 1779, and is reputed to be the first cast iron bridge.  The detailing is perhaps more like that of carpentry than that of modern metalwork, but perhaps it is enough to be innovative in material without the added risk of using new ideas in assembly.  At any rate, the bridge still stands.

A plaque states that the bridge was built to advertise the skills of the workers in cast iron, and that in this it succeeded.

Under the river, an inverted arch prevents inward movement of the abutments, which evidently push inwards more than the bridge can withstand, probably because the river is in a steep valley.  Although built in a brittle material, the bridge has survived the insidious thrust, but the orange lines in the fourth picture above show that distortions have occurred.

Ironbridge Museum -

Free map of Ironbridge area

A large area of the valley is given over to industrial museums, which are all well worth visiting.  You probably need more than one day if you want to visit all the sites.

The Iron Bridge may have been made as a demonstrator model, and in this it was very successful; the use of cast iron spread around the industrial world quite quickly.  Unfortunately the material acquired a bad reputation through its use in components for which it was completely unsuitable.  Numerous railroad bridges failed in the USA, and failure was not uncommon in the UK also.  One of great weaknesses of cast iron is its poor performance in tension.  Cast iron has little ability to absorb energy, and is brittle rather than ductile.  It therefore gives little or no warning when it is close to failure.  Wrought iron and steel, on the other hand, can absorb far more energy because they are ductile and deform under stress.  At stresses near to failure, the deflection will probably provide warning of impending disaster.  Buckling of the lower chords in the first Quebec bridge did just that, but nobody on site was able to interpret the signs, and many lives were lost.

Cast iron is still in use for things which are not highly stressed in normal use, such as stoves, drain covers, garden furniture, and numerous other artefacts.

These pictures show a cast iron drain cover which has been broken by a heavy vehicle, and a part of steel gate and a steel fence which have both been damaged by moving vehicles.  The difference between the brittle fracture of the iron and the distortion of the steel is evident.

What is cast iron?  Cast iron contains iron and a small proportion of carbon, roughly 2% to 4%.  It can be poured into moulds, in which it has the ability to take up quite complicated shapes with reasonably fine detail.


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Severn Boating Information

Visit Severn bridges book for details of a very useful book by Chris Witts, who has spent much of his working life on the River Severn.    This book, called "A Century of Bridges", includes information, a grid reference, and a drawing by the author for every bridge, even including notes about demolished bridges and some history.  A Century of Bridges, ISBN 0 9532711 0 2, is published by River Severn Publications, Gloucester.

Another very interesting book by the same author is called "Along the Severn from Source to Sea", ISBN 1 873877 31 5.  This book is published by Reardon Publications, Leckhampton, Glos.