Back to Telford this week, and a local site. The Dean Bridge was one of Telford’s last major projects, completed in 1831 when he was 73.
It’s been a place that interests me for far longer than I’ve really been chasing Telford – I used to work nearby, and wander down to eat my lunch in the valley below.
One if the most striking things about it is the contrast – from above you would hardly know you were on a bridge, because the land on both sides is level, and the bridge itself flat. Only the treetops and the lack of buildings give it away, and since the parapets were raised in the early 20th century it’s not easy to look over to the river.
Down below it is completely different – the arches tower above at a dizzying height.
A plaque on the bridge celebrates Telford’s involvement, put there to commemorate the bicentenary of his birth.
The settlement at the Dean Village – a famous site of mills on the Water of Leith – long predates the bridge, and there are still odd old buildings there, although mixed in with a strange combination of Victorian recreations and modern creations.
Until the building of the New Town the village was well outside the city, although I think this old picture exaggerates the distance – it’s only about half a mile to the castle rock. But by the 1820s the city had spread out as far as Moray Place, and the very steep river valley was standing in the way of further expansion – the old crossing is a bit further west, and means a steep ascent and descent. The bridge was funded mainly by the owner of the land on the far side, who hoped to make a lot of money from opening it up, although the local road trustees were also involved.
It’s not easy to get a clear view of the bridge as a whole – if the twisting valley doesn’t get in the way, the trees do.
One of the most distinctive features of the bridge is the double arches – large central arches carrying the road, and narrower arches carrying the footpaths. (The other really distinctive feature is that the piers are hollow, but you can’t see that from the outside.)