A bridge across the River Severn by Thomas Telford, constructed in 1797-1799 using sandstone with flanking arches and iron and stone balustrades.
Reasons for Designation
Severn Bridge including flanking arches and balustrades, Bewdley, erected in 1797-1799 by Thomas Telford, is listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* as an important surviving example of a late C18 bridge which displays particularly well-executed design and detailing with elegant balustraded approaches;
* despite some minor repairs, it survives very well in its original form and retains its original ironwork and masonry.
* it is a rare complete design by Thomas Telford (1757-1834) the country's foremost late-C18/early-C19 civil engineer;
* it is testament to the evolution of Bewdley as an important river port on the River Severn from the C14. Its construction at the advent of the commercially competitive Canal Age, which was pioneered by engineers including Telford himself, probably determined the lavish design using high quality finishing materials as a response to trade increasingly being drawn away to the nearby canal terminus at Stourport.
* with the adjacent quay areas to the River Severn (listed at Grade II) and numerous other listed buildings that line the roads facing the river quays.
Severn Bridge (also known as Bewdley Bridge) was designed by Thomas Telford and built in 1797-1799 by his contractor John Simpson. It replaced an earlier bridge, built in 1447, that stood around 60m to the south and which had been partially destroyed in floods in 1795. Bewdley, formerly known as Beaulieu, and the adjacent settlement of Wribbenhall benefited from the advantageously low water levels on this section of the River Severn and river trade was brisk by the early C14. The crossing point was initially served by a ferry, mentioned in 1336, and the town gained increasing regional importance once a market charter was granted in 1376.
The earlier stone bridge is believed to have been destroyed during the Wars of the Roses and replaced in timber on the former stone abutments in 1460. By this time the settlement had developed with a new focus around the riverfront with timber quays to some stretches of riverside, most likely around Severn Side South. Local industries flourished and a five-arch stone bridge was built in 1483 to replace the timber structure. Bewdley had become a prosperous town and important inland port by the mid-C16 with an established packhorse road carrying goods to and from the river. The prosperity of the town peaked in the Georgian period with numerous well-appointed buildings built on each side of the river. A ford also crossed the river from the end of Lax Lane, crossing to the opposite north bank, but this fell out of use during the C18.
From the 1870s, river trade at Bewdley diminished due to competition from Stourport's terminus to the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. The transhipment trade remained fiercely contested into the C19 and Telford’s rebuilding of the bridge was vital in the effort to retain Bewdley’s status as an inland port. The design of the bridge and its attached roadways is shown on Telford’s drawings, and the structure remains little altered since. The bridge is shown in place on the 1850s tithe map and in more detail on the First Edition Ordnance Survey (OS) Map of 1884).
The commercial decline of the port at Bewdley during the C19 resulted in the relative preservation of the Georgian layout and character of the town, which still survives despite various individual infill developments and the replacement of some buildings in the C20 and C21. The bridge and flanking arches have had some minor repairs over that period. The location of a former toll house, removed in 1960, is marked in a plaque on the pavement by the C20 parapet wall on the north side of the bridge. A section of bridge balustrade defines the frontage of 7 Beale's Corner (separately listed at Grade II).
Bridge of 1797-1799 by Thomas Telford, constructed by J Simpson.
MATERIALS: constructed of ashlar White Hollington sandstone and Pennant Green/ Grey sandstone, and cast iron. The balustrades on the bridge are of stone; those to the embankments are of cast iron.
DESCRIPTION: comprising three arches over the river with flanking arches and balustrades. The two towpath arches on the south bank have retaining walls and balustrades to Load Street and Severn Side South. The two towpath arches to the north bank extend to 12 further barrel-vaulted arches supporting the elevated Stourport Road above, and extend about 50 metres to the south-east.
Each front to the bridge has three segmental arches with rusticated extradoses and triangular cutwaters with pyramidal caps. Above the caps the broad pilasters rise to a moulded cornice below the balustrade, which has bulbous stone balusters. The central pedimented tablet on the balustrade bears the arms of Bewdley.
The Stourport Road elevated ramp comprises ashlar blocks with rusticated arches and a string course to each face, and with piers rising above the coped parapet to form the balustrade with cast-iron balusters and handrails. The arches have cast-iron gates to the riverside. On the north side of the road is an interval in the balustrade with steps down to a footpath with ashlar return walls topped with iron railings and terminating in piers with moulded caps. At the north end, the road curves onto the bridge deck and the road wall on the north side ramps down to another footpath and pedestrian entrance to the open land to the north. The balustrade on the south side of the road has an inserted entrance to the riverside with replaced stone piers and further south the balustrade curves towards the river to form a return wall next to a set of stone steps to the North Quay that are separately listed at Grade II.
On the south side of the bridge parapet wall spays around the corner into Severn Side South and slopes down to the south-east. The river-facing retaining wall to the road comprises coursed ashlar with rusticated arches and stone pilasters rising to form piers to the cast-iron balustrade above. The wall has a projecting string course and stone parapet above. The Load Street wall is of the same design and has pedestrian steps down to Severn Side North with a cast-iron balustrade of slender stick balusters and handrail. Below the southern towpath arch the surface is cobbled.