Historic Bath bridges restored to former glory
28th February 2011
British Waterways is carrying out a £190,000 project to restore two bridges that cross the Kennet & Avon Canal at the Bath Flight of Locks.
The two iron pedestrian bridges are listed structures, and excellent examples of early Stothert, later Stothert & Pitt, iron work. These historic bridges are now in need of some special care and attention to ensure they can continue to be used by boaters, walkers, cyclists and local people as they enjoy the route of the Kennet & Avon Canal, which recently celebrated its 200th birthday.
British Waterways’ heritage advisor, David Viner, said: “The Bath Flight of Locks is a wonderful hidden gem. There are beautiful views of the city, whilst the canal has a charm of its own, showcasing our working waterway heritage.
“The two bridges are great examples of how canals were constructed to mirror the environments through which they pass. The iron work is wonderful and has a very elegant air to it, matching the surroundings of Bath.”
The bridges, Wash House Bridge and Bath Top Lock Footbridge, will be restored and some landscaping works to the bridge approaches undertaken during the 14 week programme of works.
The two bridges have an extra special connection to Bath, as they were the first two structures to be manufactured in the Stothert & Pitt Foundry, which went on to employ thousands of people in the Bath area until the late 1980s.
Wash House Bridge requires more serious work and will be removed from site to be given a thorough makeover by a specialist team at Dorothea Restorations in Bristol, whilst Bath Top Lock Bridge will be restored in-situ using a technique known as ‘needle gunning’ that ensures as little waste as possible is generated during the restoration work.
David Viner continues; “These historic wrought and cast iron footbridges will be restored to their former glory using top quality heritage skills and techniques. The listed bridges add real character to the canal in this area, and we hope that waterway users will be pleased to see them getting the attention they deserve.”
The works to the bridges are part of a wider scheme British Waterways has developed to revitalise the Bath Flight of Locks. In autumn 2010 a stretch of towpath through Sydney Gardens was resurfaced by a team of Future Jobs Fund volunteers, whilst members of the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust have provided invaluable support, redirecting natural springs under, rather than over the towpath, preventing further damage to the path.
The Kennet & Avon Canal Trust volunteers are also planning to carry out a comprehensive programme of vegetation clearance and heritage repairs to further enhance the area throughout 2011. A new artwork in the form of a sundial has been installed on the flight as part of the Kennet & Avon Canal’s 200th birthday celebrations and British Waterways is hoping that its Heritage Lottery Funding bid to enable the restoration of the listed former pump house chimney will be given the go-ahead this spring to ensure that the historic environment of the Bath Flight can be saved.
British Waterways, project manager, Jon Tearle said: “Working on the canals offers a real variety of engineering challenges. Here at the Bath Flight on the Kennet & Avon Canal, we are working alongside a team with specialist heritage skills to ensure we preserve the character of the canal whilst ensuring the waterway remains safe and accessible for the thousands of people who enjoy it every year.”