Cambria Bridge, Swindon

Cambria Bridge was built by James Hinton in 1877.  He was a speculative builder and a one-time Mayor of Swindon.  (Hinton Street, off the Cricklade Road, was named after him).

            The new owners of the canal must have thought it was a good opportunity to replenish their coffers, for they charged him £200 for the privilege plus the small pieces of their land that he would require.

            They stipulated that the bridge should provide headroom of 8 feet from the level of the canal when full to the underside of the girders supporting the carriage-way.  The width of the waterway under the bridge was to be 12 feet and the towpath 6 feet.  The width of the bridge was to be 20 feet.  They allowed him exactly two months in which to complete his work.

            Some fifteen years later the bridge was proving inadequate for the increased traffic following extensive building development in the area and in 1893 it was rebuilt by the Corporation and both approaches widened at a total cost of £1,500.  It is probable that the wooden blocks mentioned in Journal No. 41 were laid at this time.

            Puckey’s painting of the bridge in the Museum2, unfortunately undated, depicts the girders supporting the carriage-way as springing directly from the abutments, from the distance from which he painted his picture it is difficult to be sure of this.  In any case one has to allow for “Artistic Licence”; he made the bridge appear longer in relation to its actual dimensions of 18 feet, thus giving it a more graceful appearance than photographs shew to be the case!

            At some date, probably at this rebuild, brickwork has been added to come under the girders supporting the carriage-way to give additional strength.  Journal No. 41 cover drawing and photos taken in 1970 shew this work quite clearly.  The photos also shew that this brickwork does not match that of the four capped end pillars.  The original iron protection guards had been replaced on the new brickwork.  I say original because there was certainly not enough traffic on the western end of the canal from 1893 to its closure in 1906 to cause any appreciable wear.

            It is nice to know that the current rebuild has been done in such a sensitive manner, preserving as much as possible its original appearance.

Cecil Tapscott Mason.

Editorial notes.......

1.I have not yet tracked down which Journal this is, the article came from an unknown source.

2.I assume this is Swindon Museum.


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