The Ten Bridges of Newark-on-Trent
A pictorial tourist trail*
The following is not intended as a thorough chronicling of this part of Newark civil engineering history but rather as an account by an interested visitor of carrying out the tourist trail outlined by Mr. John Gardner in his leaflet ‘The Bridges of Newark – A Tourist Trail’. The leaflet was formerly distributed by the Newark Tourism department (now out of print since 2004), I’d like to acknowledge the writings of Mr. Gardner and (Mrs. Mary Gardiner’s line drawings) and for the kind assistance of the good folk at the Newark Tourism department in obtaining the walk leaflet for me.
Just recently I visited the Nottinghamshire market town of Newark to take in the annual Newark Beer Festival which was taking part on the Riverside Park under the considerable shadow of the town’s ‘Guardian of the Trent’ the ruined castle. Knowing that the afternoon prior to the evening’s festivities would be free, I contacted the Newark Tourism people and they kindly forwarded details of a short walk I’d remembered from a few years ago which takes in the many bridges along the River Trent which runs to the west of the town.
From Nottingham Midland to Newark Castle Station is a pleasant journey indeed at a touch over half an hour. Alighting mid afternoon on a Friday, my friends and I were soon heading past Burton Joyce in the vicinity of some of the county’s most attractive villages in Hoveringham, Thurgarton and Fiskerton. The familiar small station hailed us off the train in bright sunshine and a offered a warm beginning to the weekend.
The walk begins on a high point with the beautiful old towpath bridge, Longstone Bridge around 300 yards south of the Town Lock. Here the majority of the flow of the river is redirected under the bridge and over a weir, avoiding the lock. Longstone Bridge’s construction is dated at 1819 (or 1827), depending on which report you believe. The present bridge replaced an original timber built bridge and is now quite rightly a Grade 11 listed structure.
(1) Longstone Bridge and Weir
Turning back towards the Town Lock, the second bridge is immediately in view. Mill Bridge is a no-frills concrete construction dating back to the 1960s’ and provides access to The British Waterways workshops in place of the original brick bridge. After this point we pass a rare inland dry dock, used for the repairing of river craft and head towards the lock.
(2) Mill Bridge
The Newark Town Lock appears surprisingly quiet this afternoon as we tread north along the river towpath. The lock enables the river craft to negotiate a six-foot disparity in water levels and is the descendent of the original lock which was built back in 1773. These days two locks sit side-by-side with the west side one being the newer and larger of the two. one of the more pleasant strolls in Nottinghamshire sits on the opposite (east) bank with a cafe and other businesses along the way. It is something of a shame to view the disused and long-closed Kelly’s Tavern, a Manx-themed pub in it’s day but now with it’s large picture windows that offered nice views of the River Trent flowing by, looking sadly forlorn. Backwater Bridge is another relatively modern-day bridge dating back to the 1950s’, lying just beyond the lock and offering easy easy access to the recreational space of The Riverside Park, the venue of this weekend’s Newark Beer Festival.
(3) Backwater Bridge
Any classic view of Newark-on-Trent stands a good chance of having the next bridge as part of the composition. Newark’s own Trent Bridge is a formidable and historic crossing standing sentinel beneath the faded grandeur of the town’s castle. Trent Bridge carries the old Great North Road over the river’s waters via seven semi-circular arches and has a span of 170 feet. Built in 1775 from stone and brick, it replaced a 12th Century timber bridge and has been widened in the past in order to serve the increased traffic brought about by the nearby Newark Castle Railway Station. Glancing back, a fine and classic view of Newark unfolds.
(4) Trent Bridge
A newer bridge next, Jubilee Bridge as the name suggests, was built in Jubilee year 2002. The bridge is a cable-stayed construction, a modern option to the traditional suspension bridge type which requires towers on both banks which are anchored to the ground. The cable-stayed bridge needs only only one tower for normal-sized spans and is becoming a popular design. It was a shame to note the graffiti adorning parts of the smart new bridge, sadly a sign of the times perhaps. Walking on we see the King’s Marina to the west of the river and it’s appertaining King’s Mill Bridge.
(5) Jubilee Bridge
(6) King’s Mill Marina and Bridge
A short stride further up the river bank and we approach perhaps the most elegant construction so far, Fiddler’s Elbow Bridge. The bridge shows that it is possible to be formed in reinforced concrete yet still most attractive. Although built in 1915, the bridge remains a solid crossing over the River Trent and it is this bridge that we pass over on to the east bank.
(7) Fiddler’s Elbow Bridge
From here the trail takes a decided downturn, no longer pretty views over Trent Bridge with the majestic remains of the castle, no interesting old maltings buildings converted into apartments, just a grassy path that passes through an unkempt pathway past a scrap yard piled high with it’s contents. The harsh reality of late Friday afternoon commuter traffic appears high above our heads on the A46 bypass with vehicles lined up head to tail, urgently forging the way home from work for the final time that week.
The Nether Lock Viaduct carries the road across the River Trent and flood plain. It has an impressive total span of 750 feet and a deck which measure 50 feet in width. The deck sits 40 feet above the Trent. After the viaduct, the river takes a sharp swing to the right and we notice several old buildings, now closed and boarded up in a display which suggests more prosperous times for this area previously.
(8) Nether Lock Viaduct
The Midland Railway Viaduct takes us back into history once again. Built in to transport the Nottingham-Lincoln line which opened 1846 it is a strange mishmash of styles and designs partly reputedly due to the tardiness of the original railway company in parting with funds for engineering projects! The viaduct looks as though it has been built in several stages with as many changes of mind along the way.
(9) Midland Railway Viaduct
We end the walk with a view from Nether Lock of Newark Dyke Bridge. This impressive bowstring design bridge was built in 2000 and replaced former two incarnations dating back to 1852. Newark Dyke Bridge takes the important East Coast Main Line which travels from London to Edinburgh across the River Trent. Towards the end of the 20th Century the former bridge became too expensive to maintain and the decision was made to replace it. At the time of it’s construction, the contractors were given a 76-hour period over an August Bank Holiday in order to complete the job. during this period the older bridge was slid away and the new one slid into its wake. At the same time river traffic was barred for a period of two days.
(10) Newark Dyke Bridge
The end of the ‘Bridges of Newark’ walk then. Not too strenuous an undertaking at 1.5 miles each way from Longstone Bridge to Newark Dyke Bridge and easily accessible for most people. It was an interesting and informative short stroll through a slice of Newark engineering history though and one I’d recommend. To follow the walk simply walk along the River Trent south of the Town Lock for a few minutes and turn round and walk north, beginning at Longstone Bridge and Weir. This linear walk ends, as described, at Newark Dyke Bridge. It begins on the west bank and ends on the east having passed over Fiddler’s Elbow Bridge half way.