Mystery on the eastern bridge

A recent contact, a bridge engineer, noticed two features on this bridge. Called ‘cutwaters’, they are shaped to spread the force of water hitting the bridge so protecting  it.  Apparently, unknown locally on single span bridges, they are a mystery, especially being situated on the opposite side of the bridge to the flow of the river!
These ‘buttresses’ could be to support an unstable bridge. Added later, this might indicate this was the first bridge to be built, or the foundations had a problem. Still, it’s a puzzle, as the other two don’t have them.

Eastern bridge

The eastern bridge

This is a true packhorse bridge though all three were used by packhorses but not exclusively. Of the three, this looks the most original. Doubtless, all the bridges have been altered since the mid-17th century.

There are two buttresses on the northern side (other side ) formerly thought to be ‘cutwaters’; protection against high floodwater. After an expert checked, it was agreed these were to stabilise the bridge. Still, they proved an interesting puzzler.

The whole saga awaits the telling. It won’t be easy. Almost nothing, in detail, exists, no maps beyond the 19th century and the written record is very sparse. So, this challenge must wait for another time.

Just received this really interesting photo. In an issue of Cheshire Life,  in July 1947, it shows the causeway leading to this bridge. Even better, it shows the causeway having a much greater depth than seen before, possibly ever! And, it shows water extending along the side of the causeway whereas today there is nothing but a vegetated mound.

What a cracker!


Poem: The Three Bridges

The Three Bridges

Once mighty, gone
Now set in stone.
For a giant of its time
Came to this place
Of water and reed
To give its last breath.
Its three humps arched,
Its head lost in the marsh,
The massive tail a path for travellers.

Stand and remember.
Giants beings held this land.
Traced in the earth,
A memory of a lost time.
No headstone,
Save here in these bridges.

The Three Bridges

Location of Hockenhull Platts, near Tarvin. ‘Copyright The Francis Frith Collection and used with permission.’

The central bridge   

We see the R. Gowy flowing northwards from its beginning in a field below the Peckforton Hills, to the R. Mersey.
The other two bridges nearby both had the river passing beneath, but not anymore.
All three were built in the 17th century. All are of sandstone with a causeway connecting them. It is suggested a sandstone bridge existed in the 14th century but a wooden bridge or ‘platt’ was more likely. A platt bridge is a deck of thick(oak) planks set across the river.

Correctly called the Packhorse Bridges, they are unique in Cheshire and, as a group close together, also unique in Britain. Naming them as the Roman Bridges is a popular misconception.