Nunn's Bridge, Coggeshall


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
A footbridge on a Public Right of Way (designated PROW 37) which crosses the River Blackwater, approximately 1.5km south-west of Coggeshall town centre.


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
A footbridge on a Public Right of Way (designated PROW 37) which crosses the River Blackwater, approximately 1.5km south-west of Coggeshall town centre.
Braintree (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Footbridge, erected in 1892, designed and crafted by local blacksmith and social activist Henry ‘Dick’ Nunn.

Reasons for Designation

Nunn’s Bridge, a footbridge erected in 1892, designed and crafted by local blacksmith and social activist Henry ‘Dick’ Nunn, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as a simple but elegant structure, lightweight in its design but strong in its construction;

* for its unique design, craftsmanship and installation by a skilled local blacksmith;

* as an important surviving example of a rare form of late-C19 wrought-iron pedestrian bridge.

Historic interest:

* as an intentional act of social activism by the blacksmith, who tirelessly campaigned to keep public footpaths open in Coggeshall, and manufactured this bridge at his own expense for the benefit of his community;

* for the meaningful act of maintaining a public path and access to the countryside, which predates the establishment of the National Trust in 1895, and Ramblers’ Association in 1935.


Nunn’s Bridge was crafted by local blacksmith and social activist Henry ‘Dick’ Nunn (1836-1896), at his forge off Swan Yard in Coggeshall between July and August 1892. Nunn wished to reinstate a bridge to reopen a footpath called ‘Crops’, south-west of Coggeshall, after a wooden footbridge fell into decay in 1875, became unusable and was eventually swept away. Nunn appealed to the local authorities to erect another bridge, but to no avail, and thereafter declared his intention to fund and construct a bridge himself, such was his strong wish to see the footpath remain open to the public. When the executors of the Lord of the Manor, Sir Charles DuCane, heard of the scheme their solicitor dispatched a letter forbidding the erection of a bridge on his client’s land and denying the right of way. Nunn was undeterred and crafted his new footbridge, which was painted with what could be found in his forge – iron oxide primer and lead white, resulting in a pink hue. On 29 August 1892, the bridge was wheeled on two trolleys from Nunn’s forge in Coggeshall (not listed) and installed on concrete abutments over the River Blackwater. The blacksmith had a poster printed inviting ‘all those who take an interest in Preserving the Right of our Public Footpaths’ to join him in a procession from Market Hill in Coggeshall to the new bridge on 31 August 1892, led by the Coggeshall Town Band. On the day 703 people were counted over the bridge, and subscriptions and donations contributed £13 towards Nunn’s costs of £30.

Nunn was a locally well-known and popular campaigner for the welfare of people and animals, and an early advocate of rights of way in the countryside, often challenging the police and legal professions. His efforts to reopen another Coggeshall path from Dole Field to Beards Terrace in 1894 led to a court appearance for alleged trespass and criminal damage, during which Nunn represented himself, won his case, and the path was reopened. Such was Nunn’s popularity with the local community, that his gravestone was paid for by public subscription and carved with the epithet, ‘The Village Hampden’, a phrase repeated in published obituaries.

Essex Highways Authority assumed responsibility for Nunn’s Bridge from Coggeshall Parish Council in 1949 under the provisions of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act (1949). The concrete abutments were repaired and the wrought-iron diagonal stays replaced by tubular steel outriggers around 1965. The deck timbers have been replaced a number of times, most recently around 2011.


Footbridge, erected in 1892, designed and crafted by local blacksmith and social activist Henry ‘Dick’ Nunn.

MATERIALS: wrought-iron footbridge, timber decking, mass concrete abutments, and tubular steel outriggers.

PLAN: single-span bridge, aligned north-south over the River Blackwater.

DESCRIPTION: the gently-arched footbridge spans approximately 9.2m, and is laid out on a north-south axis over the River Blackwater. Its wrought-iron carriage beams are supported by collars with a semi-elliptical arch at their centre, braces, tubular steel outriggers and concrete abutments (both replaced around 1965). The carriageway has deck timbers (most recently replaced around 2011) laid on regularly-spaced wrought-iron rungs. A plain wrought-iron handrail is supported by eight vertical supports on each side, the central six of which have horizontal support plates and curved stays projecting outwards towards the river. The entrances to the bridge each retain a swing gate to restrict livestock access.


Coggeshall History, ‘Dick Nunn and his famous bridge’, accessed 29 July 2020 from
Disley, Trevor, ‘The Centenary of Dick Nunn’s Bridge, Coggeshall 1892-1992’, (1992)
The Morton Partnership, ‘Structural Inspection Report of Nunns Bridge, Coggeshall, Essex’, Ref EJM/CH/20168~srep rev 0, (February 2020)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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