Branches Melksham Calne & Chippenham News
Iconic Somerset Bridge Saved for Restoration
Tuesday, 16 November 2010 10:31
Iconic Somerset Bridge Saved for Use on WBCT Restoration Project

Iconic Somerset BridgeMendip District Council and the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust have worked together to save an historic Bailey Bridge from the scrap yard. Volunteers from the Trust will now renovate the bridge for use on the Melksham Link Project.

WBCT co-director of Engineering, Mike Lee spent 2 years doing National Service, followed by 11years in the TA, as an Officer in the Royal Engineers and has extensive operational experience in building and dismantling Bailey Bridges. Mike said, "I have been working with the Contractors to make sure the bridge is dismantled with plenty of TLC to ensure all reusable parts were saved for renovation. Unfortunately all of the decking and the stringers that support it had to be scrapped. We planned very carefully how the bridge was to be removed without damaging the fibre -optic cables, which it supported, but even so it was nerve-wracking to see the structure being lifted gently by the crane. Once renovated, we will use the parts to build a slightly short-span farm crossing of the waterway as part of the Melksham Link Project."

WBCT Chairman, John Laverick said, "We're honoured to have such an historic structure as part of our waterway. The Melksham Link project is a key part of our restoration plans and the bridge will be put to good use. Many people who use the canal enjoy the connections with our great industrial heritage so we will include interpretative signs on the towpath to highlight the historic significance of this type of bridge."

Iconic Somerset BridgeBailey Bridges are named after Sir Donald Coleman Bailey who was responsible for the design, development and manufacture of a range of military bridging equipment. The bridges were designed in 1940 to meet the need for a military bridge that could be built quickly and provide temporary spans capable of taking heavy loading. At the time engineering production capacity was at a premium but because the parts were small it was possible to spread the work between about 650 makers of windows, bedsteads, greenhouses, etc. The bridges were used by the Army from 1941 and by 1947 about 2000 Bailey Bridges had been built. A Bailey pontoon bridge over the Maas River in The Netherlands spanned 4,000 feet (1,200 m). A widened version of the bridge continued in use until the 1960s. Parts of the military bridging equipment were modified to provide a civil version for long term bridging and this is the type used at Frome.

The Bailey Bridge in Frome had spanned the river since it was built in 1986 but was closed to traffic twenty years later due to safety concerns. It will be replaced by a new bridge costing £200,000 to be named after Formula 1 star, Jenson Button who is from Frome. Work is due to be completed on the new Button Bridge in January 2011.