Severan Bridge

Severan Bridge

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Old Severn Bridge could be renamed to mark Queen's jubilee

Councillors in South Gloucestershire will debate the motion at a meeting on Wednesday.

The Queen opened the bridge in 1966 and celebrates the jubilee in 2022.

Conservative member for Severn Vale Matthew Riddle is behind the motion and said he wanted the region to "go the extra mile" to mark the occasion "in a suitable manner".

If the motion is supported, Mr Riddle has asked the leader of the council Toby Savage to write to the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps, to make the request formal.

"Having served as a symbol of leadership and hope for our country through good times and bad longer than any ruler in our country's history, it seemed appropriate that South Gloucestershire went the extra mile to find a way to mark The Queen's remarkable 70 years on the throne in a suitable manner,' the motion reads.

"I hope that. the government can give consideration to renaming the Severn Bridge, arguably South Gloucestershire's most iconic landmark, in her honour."

A decision to rename the Second Severn Crossing the Prince of Wales Bridge in 2018 received criticism from some Welsh MPs and an online petition attracted thousands of signatures.

The newer of the two bridges was opened by the prince in 1996, 30 years after the original crossing.

The Queen's 70-year reign will be celebrated with a four-day Bank Holiday weekend from 2-5 June 2022.

To create the long weekend, the late May Spring Bank Holiday that year will be moved to Thursday 2 June and an additional Bank Holiday on Friday 3 June will be created.

A wide range of public events will be held, jubilee medals will be awarded to public services workers and trees will be planted as part of the celebrations.

Ironbridge Village

The location where Iron Bridge was constructed formed an important transport point in the Shropshire region, which promptly caused the creation of first buildings, and quickly after that formation of the Ironbridge village. Today, this village is a part of the civil parish of The Gorge, in the borough of Telford and Wrekin. Since it is located in the heart of Ironbridge Gorge, and directly around both banks of the Iron Bridge, the early decades of the history of the village were fully dedicated on supporting the local industry of coal and iron mining and processing. The village was promoted to the tourists as the " Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution," and a location where people from all around England could come and see the revolutionary process of cheaply smelting iron with coke. Of course, modern historians today agree that the process of the industrial revolution within England did not start in the region immediately around Ironbridge village, but across many locations and with influences of many inventors and entrepreneurs.

The largest industrial point near Iron Bridge was without any doubt Darby's iron smelting facility, which helped to streamline the process of iron smelting before it was superseded by the more cost-efficient output of other regions of England. Even though the area around Iron Bridge did not play such an important part in the history of English iron production, the mere existence of the impressive cast-iron bridge, a first who was made from such heavy construction material, is today regarded as an important piece of history.

Immediately after the bridge was built and opened in 1781, this region started attracting more and more attention. People from the dispersed settlement of Madeley Wood were relocated to the Iron Bridge, and with them came the ancient Madeley market, construction of the new village square, new hotel that was intended to be used by tourists and travelers, and several buildings connected with the new commercial and administrative center of the Coalbrookdale. The hillside above the river featured 16th century stone lodge at Lincoln Hill, and numerous workers cottages and a large number of Georgian houses built by wealthy ironmasters, mine owners, business families, and even several villas created by the wealthy Victorian-era elite. By the 19th century, the village grew and gained several more notable buildings, of which most important one was St Luke's Church. It was finished in 1837 with design decorations by Samuel Smith of Madeley and glasswork of David Evans of Shrewsbury. During the 19th century and more than half of 20th, south side of Ironbridge village was home to the former Iron Bridge and Broseley railway station that operated on the Severn Valley line (GWR) from Hartlebury to Shrewsbury.

By the mid-20th century, Iron Bridge and the area immediately around it became part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it a large tourist attraction. Today, most of the village is focused on tourism, with many festivals being centered around the bridge. The most popular annual event of the village is annual Coracle Regatta is held in August on the River Sever.


Broseley is a small town in Shropshire, England, located at the south bank of the Ironbridge Gorge, near the River Severn and the location where Abraham Darby III and Thomas Farnolls Pritchard erected the famous Iron Bridge and essentially created an Ironbridge village around it. The town of Broseley plays an important part in the history of Iron Bridge. The area around the town was quite famous for mining of stone, metal and other ore, and ironmasters of that region became very interested in building better roads to the rest of the regions of England. The industry was so strong in this region, that town of Broseley still holds the claim on the oldest railway ever produced in England.

The town was also important for developments in iron ore processing. Ironmaster Abraham Darby I developed his influential process of smelting iron using coking coal in this area (thus fueling the rise of the Industrial Revolution), and was buried there after his death in 1717. Additionally, Broseley was also a place where English industrialist John Wilkinson built the first boat in the world out of iron.

With such strong industry, it is not strange that ironmasters of Broseley and other towns in the region demanded better access points and roads to transport their goods to the rest of England. Abraham Darby III started planning for the creation of the Iron Bridge while living in Broseley, and much of its construction was overseen from this location. After the bridge was built, the town continued to thrive, but in the latter half of 19th century, the large industrial presence stated to lessen, and the entire area around the town entered into a financial decline, leaving behind numerous abandoned mines, buildings, pit mounts, and quarries.

The town of Broseley and the entire region bounced back from the harsh financial situation only in the second half of 20th century, after the town of Telford was established nearby across the River Severn. This fast-growing city pushed the region into rebuilding, many new homes were built, businesses moved in, pushing the town’s population to almost 5 thousand (almost to the level it had during the height of industrial revolution two centuries ago).


Iron Bridge also had a big impact on the development of the town of Madeley, Shropshire, which is today only a part of the newly developed city of Telford. Established in sometimes before the 8th century, Madeley was initially set as a market town until the 14th century when coal was discovered in 1322, and ironstone extraction began in 1540. During the following decades. The town becomes more and more invested in facilitating trade and mining, which was greatly boosted with the building of the famous Iron Bridge on the nearby Iron Gorge and the River Sever. This bridge connected Madeley with Coalbrookdale, enabling not only faster travel times but also a quick boost to the growth of the newly developed Ironbridge village.

Today, Madeley parish is home to almost 18 thousand people, and a significant part of the Iron Gorge is protected by being accepted as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

FRAMPTON ON SEVERN lies 9 miles south-west of Gloucester, on a bend in the River Severn. It is widely known for its spacious village green, called Rosamund's Green after Henry II's mistress, Rosamund Clifford, a member of the family closely associated with Frampton from the 11th century to the 20th. The River Severn forms one of the six sides of the parish the former course of the River Cam marks the south-western boundary, Wicksters brook the southern, the Gloucester-Bristol road the south-eastern, the River Frome most of the northeastern, and the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal roughly follows the north-western boundary. (fn. 1) The area of the parish, excluding river foreshore, was 2,365 a., (fn. 2) including 1 a. that was formerly a detached part of Wheatenhurst and was added to Frampton in 1882. (fn. 3) In 1935 43 a. of the parish forming a small promontory east of the Gloucester-Bristol road was transferred to Eastington. (fn. 4)

The land lies flat and low, mostly below the 50 ft. contour line, and rises to 100 ft. only at one point on the eastern boundary. It is mostly on the river clays and gravels, and was formerly drained by the streams mentioned above and by small feeders, but human works have changed the pattern. The course of the Frome has been altered at the eastern angle of the parish, by Fromebridge Mill, and also, over a longer stretch, a mile downstream. More fundamentally, the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal takes all the water that once ran along the River Cam west of the line of the canal, and drainage works have reduced the smaller streams to ditches. (fn. 5)

The River Severn has from time to time caused flooding in the parish, notably in 1606. (fn. 6) It has also encroached on the parish and added land to it: c. 1615 the river left high and dry 30 a. which became known as Bromwich's warth, (fn. 7) and in 1791, when recent endeavours to prevent encroachments by the shifting Severn had proved ineffective, (fn. 8) 15 a. of the manorial estate were said to have been washed away. (fn. 9) A manorial fishery apparently existed in the Severn c. 1225, when Richard de Clifford made a grant of a place for making six putchers or fish-traps near Buckpool, (fn. 10) and a fishery in the Severn belonged to the manor in 1315. (fn. 11) In 1866 the lord of the manor, H. C. Clifford, had stop-nets in the Severn, and although he failed to register his title to them with the Fisheries Commission (fn. 12) his successor had a several fishery in the river in 1968. (fn. 13) In 1819 a 60-ft. whale was killed in the Severn at Frampton. (fn. 14)

Boats on the Severn, before the opening of the Gloucester and Berkeley Canal in 1827, (fn. 15) put in at Frampton Pill, the mouth of the River Cam with an inlet on the Frampton side that appears to have been enlarged as a basin. (fn. 16) In 1668 a storehouse for the reception and sale of coal was built or proposed to be built on the Slimbridge side of Frampton Pill, (fn. 17) which was crossed as early as 1584 by a bridge called Warth Bridge. (fn. 18) The pill was being used for landing coal in 1770, (fn. 19) and in 1781 the bridge needed repair after a large coal-carrying vessel had broken it. (fn. 20) In 1806 further repairs were needed after damage by a break-away barge, (fn. 21) and that may have encouraged the inhabitants of Frampton to build a bridge at the upper end of the landing-place, where it would be less vulnerable to boats, but where in 1806 it was alleged to infringe the rights of the inhabitants of Slimbridge. (fn. 22) In 1815 the inclosure commissioners awarded the parishioners of Frampton a free landing-place on Frampton Pill, (fn. 23) which was replaced by one on the canal bank when the canal was built. (fn. 24) Some maritime activities by the inhabitants of Frampton are mentioned below. (fn. 25)

Woodland in Frampton was recorded in 1086, (fn. 26) and in 1315 the manorial demesne included 40 a. of oak wood. (fn. 27) A lease of land at Woodend, near Claypits, (fn. 28) in 1320 also gave permission to fell trees. (fn. 29) Woodland of 20 a. in Frampton park was recorded in 1296, (fn. 30) and the lord's park, mentioned in 1434, (fn. 31) was leased in 1499 to be converted into pasture. Four hundred oak trees were then reserved, (fn. 32) as were 480 in other leases of the park in 1543. (fn. 33) The lord's park, in the south of the parish, (fn. 34) was distinct from the park of c. 50 a. that later adjoined Frampton Court on the east. (fn. 35) The commonable land of the parish, including open fields and extensive marshy grass-land, was inclosed by a gradual process which culminated in a parliamentary inclosure of 1815. (fn. 36)

The gravel that covers a large part of the area of the parish was being dug by 1646. (fn. 37) Gravel-pits, fairly large in 1879, (fn. 38) were greatly extended in the early 20th century: mineral railway lines were built south-east to the main railway line and south-west to a wharf on the canal, (fn. 39) by which means the gravel was carried to Avonmouth where it was used in the building of the docks. (fn. 40) Former workings are marked by pools at the centre of the parish that were used for sailing in 1968, when other pits near-by were being worked and the gravel company had a depot in the eastern corner of the parish. The clay of the parish was once used for brick-making. A bricklayer recorded in 1746 (fn. 41) was presumably associated with a local brick-yard, where bricks, once sold at 6s. 6d. a thousand, were sold c. 1775 at 8s. (fn. 42) A brick-yard and limekiln lay just west of the church in 1782, (fn. 43) and there was a later clay-pit further south. (fn. 44) Frampton brick-makers were recorded in the mid 19th century (fn. 45) many houses of that period in neighbouring parishes are said to be of Frampton brick, which is regarded as unsatisfactory because of the high proportion of salt in the clay. (fn. 46)

The good drainage provided by the gravel brought early settlement to Frampton. Evidence of prehistoric and Romano-British occupation has been found in the gravel-workings, (fn. 47) and it is reasonable to assume that the Saxon settlement of Frampton was relatively early. The village, in the north-west quarter of the parish, forms a long and narrow settlement reaching 1 mile in length and ranged along a single, sinuous street at the southern end and a wide village green at the north end. In the early 18th century the village was said to comprise two parts, Church End and Frampton or Rosamund's Green. (fn. 48) Such a division may be represented by a gap in the older houses, at the point where a brook, once bridged by Buckle Bridge, (fn. 49) runs under the village street, but it makes the green end include some houses that are in fact in the street.

Church End, with the parish church nearly at the southern extremity of the village street, is likely to represent the earlier settlement: the position of the church, the location of the pound on the south-west side of the churchyard, (fn. 50) and the unevenness of the ground on some of the unoccupied sites fronting the street suggest that a greater proportion of the houses of the village were once in Church End. The surviving houses there include several timberframed buildings, of which some retain their thatch. They include a cruck-framed house of five bays, which was largely rebuilt in 1967, and there was a pair of cruck-framed cottages, demolished in 1966, opposite Oegrove Farm. (fn. 51) Oegrove Farm is a twostory house built on rectangular plan in the early 17th century, timber-framed in square panels on the front with a massive southern gable-end of rubble masonry. A large barn of seven bays near the church has walls framed in regular square panels in which the wattle is not plastered. Two timber-framed houses of one story with attics may be of the earlier 16th century one of them has a gabled dormer, and the other has at least one large tension brace. In the 1960s several small houses were built unobtrusively in gaps between older houses in Church End and on the sites of demolished cottages.

Frampton Green, or Rosamund's Green as it came to be known from 1651 onwards, (fn. 52) is nearly ½ mile long. At the southern end, where the village street leads off to the church, the houses are concentrated. At the beginning of the street, among the brick cottages of the 18th and 19th centuries, are several timber-framed buildings: Tudor Cottage, which has a jettied gable-end to the street, may be of the 15th century, and Greycroft has a cruckframed gable-end with blocked openings at two levels. Further down the street, Buckholt House is a fair-sized 18th-century brick house of two stories and dormered attics, with a bow to the full height on the south and beside it, moved from the west side of the house, a doorway with fan-light, pediment, and Doric pilasters. Many of the larger houses of the village are well spaced along the two sides of the green. They include Frampton Court and the Grange on the east side and Manor Farm on the west side, which are discussed below, (fn. 53) and some late-17th- and 18th-century houses in brick of which the largest, Frampton Lodge at the north-east corner of the green, is of three stories and has a modillion cornice, long and short quoins, and a pedimented doorway. There are also some timberframed and thatched houses round the green, including one near the southern end containing a cruck truss.

The green itself has retained that 'air of neatness and cultivation' noticed in the late 18th century. Richard Clutterbuck, who drained the green in 1731 (fn. 54) and built a new road along it, has generally received the credit for redeeming it from the state of a marsh, (fn. 55) but the green was described as 'a very pleasant place' 20 years earlier. (fn. 56)

Frampton-on-Severn c. 1800

The village was a relatively large one and in minor ways acted as a centre for an area stretching beyond the parish boundaries. In the Middle Ages Frampton had a market and a fair. (fn. 57) An attempt in the early 14th century by the lord of the manor, Robert FitzPain, to create a borough of Frampton (fn. 58) seems to have come to nothing. No burgess tenure is recorded (fn. 59) the only possible indications that have been found of a surviving tradition of borough status are a charge, in the early 17th century, of usurping the privileges of a borough (fn. 60) and references between 1683 and 1718 to houses as being in the borough. (fn. 61) The high proportion of non-agricultural occupations in Frampton in more recent times (fn. 62) may result from the attractiveness of the village as a place of residence, not only for the more independent tradesmen but also for gentry and professional people who would draw other tradesmen there to provide for them. Thomas Daniel, licensed in 1643 to practise medicine, (fn. 63) is the earliest known of many physicians and surgeons in Frampton. (fn. 64) The inhabitants in 1798 included an accountant, a surgeon, two cabinet-makers, and a 'carver'. The carver was John Pearce (fn. 65) and funeral monuments by him and by two later Frampton masons, Wilkins and Bennett, are to be seen in the churches of the district. (fn. 66) Four clergymen, of whom the vicar was not one, were living in Frampton in 1842, (fn. 67) and from 1856 the large number of private residents gave employment to such trades as chemist, milliner, music-teacher, piano-tuner, and wine merchant. (fn. 68)

The continuing eligibility of the village has led to the building of several modern houses there and the conversion of cottages and small farm-houses into middle-class houses. The major expansion of the village, however, has been the building by the rural district council of an estate of c. 200 houses north of the green there were a few small houses there in the late 19th century and a row of council houses was built before the Second World War, but most of the houses were built in the 1960s. Of the outlying settlements most are single farm-houses. Park's Farm, in the south-east corner of the parish, was built in the 17th century, a two-story house with a timber frame largely concealed behind later brick and rendering it has a rectangular plan, with a central chimney-stack of brick between the front door on one side and on the other a newel staircase to the first floor and attics. Walk Farm, at the north corner of the parish, was perhaps built in the same period, a square-framed building standing on a low stone plinth and cased in brick in the early 19th century. Nastfield (formerly Field) Farm, 1 mile east of the church, was built shortly before 1777 (fn. 69) in brick on a high ashlar plinth, and has a symmetrical entrance front which breaks forward beneath a pediment with a blank bullseye at the centre the brackets of the modillion cornice and the plat-band are of terra cotta. Townfield Farm, between Nastfield Farm and the village, and two farm-houses in the eastern corner of the parish at Netherhills were built of brick in the late 18th or early 19th century. East of Netherhills is Fromebridge Mill, (fn. 70) with an 18th-century mill-house of rendered brick reputed to have been an inn in the mid 19th century, a pair of cottages of perhaps the same period, and a row of seven two-room cottages built c. 1800. There were also once a farm-house or houses called Woodend and Puddiford's, near Claypits (fn. 71) the name Puddiford's recalls a family with land in Frampton in the 13th century, (fn. 72) and there was a piece of manorial waste called Woodend Green, with one house beside it, in 1782. (fn. 73) At Oatfield, on the road to Wheatenhurst, there were five houses by 1879, two more had been built by 1920, (fn. 74) and there were altogether 11 in 1968. South-east of the north end of the green are six small houses of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Frampton village is linked with Arlingham, where there was an ancient crossing of the Severn, and with the Gloucester-Bristol road by Perry Way, which follows the line of a Roman road (fn. 75) and was recorded by that name in 1302 (fn. 76) it was a turnpike road from 1726 to 1874, under the same trust as the Gloucester- Bristol road. (fn. 77) That road, marking the south-east boundary, was partly repairable by the parish. (fn. 78) It crossed the Frome by a bridge called Frome Bridge in 1328, (fn. 79) which was to be mended by the lord of the manor and the men of Frampton in 1378. (fn. 80) There were plans for rebuilding the bridge in 1740 (fn. 81) and c. 1867, (fn. 82) by which time it was a county bridge. (fn. 83) Road improvements in the mid 20th century totally altered both Frome Bridge and Wickster's Bridge, by which the road crossed Wickster's brook 2 miles south-west. Wickster's Bridge, recorded c. 1363 as out of repair, (fn. 84) was mended in 1675 (fn. 85) and 1759, (fn. 86) and by 1859 had become a county bridge. (fn. 87) Buckle Bridge and Warth Bridge are mentioned above.

In 1086 27 people in Frampton were enumerated, (fn. 88) and in 1327, though only 12 people were assessed for tax, Frampton had the highest assessment in Whitstone hundred. (fn. 89) Frampton had 85 names, one more than Stonehouse, on the muster-roll of 1542, (fn. 90) and there were said to be 329 adults in 1603. (fn. 91) There may have been a decline in the mid 17th century: whereas 105 families were given in the return of 1650, (fn. 92) in 1672 only 47 houses were assessed for hearth tax, (fn. 93) and the number of adults was said to be 249 in 1676. (fn. 94) From 500 people, living in 100 houses, c. 1710 (fn. 95) the population grew to 600 c. 1775 (fn. 96) and 860 in 1801. It continued to grow until 1831, and then fell from 1,055 to 730 in 1911. Thereafter there was a steady rise to 1,096 in 1961, (fn. 97) but by 1968 further building had taken the total well beyond that figure.

Two unlicensed victualling houses were presented in 1595, (fn. 98) and the 'Boar's Head' was recorded in 1643. (fn. 99) There were two unlicensed alehouses in 1667, (fn. 100) and in 1689 Quarter Sessions ruled that all the alehouses in Frampton be suppressed except the Old Inn and the 'Crown'. Six months later a similar order excepted only the 'Nag's Head' and the 'Golden Heart', but it was also stated that the alehouse near the bridge (presumably Buckle Bridge) ought to be licensed. (fn. 101) There were four victuallers in 1755, (fn. 102) one of whom kept the Bell Inn at the north end of the green, recorded in 1740, (fn. 103) rebuilt in the 19th century, and extant in 1968. Before 1807 there was an alehouse called the 'Old Swan', (fn. 104) and in 1838 there was a public house (the 'Bell') and 7 beershops. (fn. 105) Apart from the 'Bell' there were three public houses in 1939, (fn. 106) of which the 'Three Horseshoes' remained in 1968.

The Frampton Volunteers were raised in 1798 under Nathaniel Winchcombe of Frampton Court, and drew about half their number from nine neighbouring parishes. They were disbanded sometime after 1806. (fn. 107) A friendly society was active from 1816 to 1843 or later, (fn. 108) and in 1842 its club-day was held on Frampton Feast Monday. (fn. 109) Frampton Feast, to judge from the date on which it was held, was a survival from the medieval fair. (fn. 110) A pleasure fair on the green was held at the time of the feast, (fn. 111) and although the feast was discontinued during the Second World War the pleasure fair survived and the feast was revived in 1966. (fn. 112) A Literary and Mechanics' Institute, founded in 1852, (fn. 113) became defunct c. 1890. (fn. 114) Some of its activities were taken on by a Parish Institute, which had a hall built in 1907 by an anonymous benefactor. (fn. 115) The hall remained actively in use in 1968.

In 1643-4 a parliamentary garrison at Frampton served to keep the royalist forces at Berkeley under some control. (fn. 116) In 1662 an unusually severe storm did much damage to the village, destroying a house and 12 barns and uprooting 357 trees. (fn. 117) In 1631 and 1650 opponents of inclosure caused some unrest in the parish, (fn. 118) and in 1766 a riotous mob of 50 began to pull down John Sansum's house. (fn. 119)

The history of Rosamund Clifford (d. c. 1176), (fn. 120) Henry II's 'Fair Rosamund', has been embroidered from the 14th century onwards with much imported legend (fn. 121) and has filled many pages purporting to tell the story of Frampton. (fn. 122) She is authentically linked with the parish only by her father Walter's lordship of the manor and by his grant to Godstow Abbey, where Rosamund was buried, of the mill at Frampton for the good of the souls of his wife Margaret and his daughter Rosamund. (fn. 123) John Clifford (d. 1684) may have fostered the Rosamund story locally: he named one of his daughters Rosamund, (fn. 124) he had his pedigree copied with the original Rosamund included, (fn. 125) and the first recorded use of the name Rosamund's Green (fn. 126) was in the year after he bought his estate in Frampton. (fn. 127) He may have been responsible for the belief that Rosamund was born at Fretherne Lodge, (fn. 128) where his ancestors had lived, but after the demolition of that house (fn. 129) Frampton Court (fn. 130) and, later, the part of Manor Farm called Rosamund's Bower (fn. 131) were regarded as her birthplace.

How the first Severn Bridge changed bridge building for ever

Every year millions of drivers use the Severn Bridge without giving it a second thought.

But when it was built 51 years ago, having been talked about for decades, it changed suspension bridge design forever.

Michael Parsons is the most senior surviving engineer to have worked on the Grade I listed structure, which carried the M4 for 30 years.

“It goes back to the failure of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in America, which failed because of a phenomena called flutter,” the 89-year-old said.

“When we started building the Forth and Severn Bridges we realised we would have to solve that problem.”

Famous footage shows the Washington state bridge collapsing into Puget Sound on November 7, 1940. At the time it was the third longest suspension bridge in the world.

It fell victim to 40mph winds within months of opening on July 1, 1940, and the engineers here knew that given the fierce winds across the Severn Estuary they could not afford a similar failure.

The plan for the Severn Bridge was to use an open truss design that would strengthen the carriageway.

This was what was used on the Forth bridge, in Edinburgh. It was the dominant design in the US, where it can be seen on San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge and New York’s Brooklyn Bridge.

Things did not go to plan.

Michael said: “During testing my boss, Gilbert Roberts, came in to my office and said, ‘Parsons, I am going to the National Physical Laboratory, because the model they were testing has broken from its mooring and has broken.’

“This was the model I had developed for Sir Gilbert on a shallow truss.”

Soon the project, being run by Freeman Fox & Partners and Mott, Hay & Anderson, had to go to tender.


On 25 October 1960 two tanker barges collided in heavy fog near to Sharpness on the River Severn.

They got caught by the tide, lost control, and smashed into one of the bridge's pillars.

The bridge partially collapsed and one of the boats, which was carrying petrol, caught fire and exploded.

The other vessel was carrying a cargo of black oil which ignited and burnt for several hours.

Five men lost their lives in the disaster.

Now research has shown that it may have been a dangerous sideways current that caused the Wastdale H and the Arkendale H to collide.

Also a previously unseen report from a confidential preliminary enquiry into the disaster claims that one of the captains was 'inept' in the handling of his vessel.

In the formal public enquiry, which followed in May 1961, neither of the boat's skippers were blamed for the accident.

However, in researching a radio documentary to mark the 50th anniversary of the disaster, BBC Radio Gloucestershire reporter Andy Vivian has discovered a new set of statements and written evidence on the incident at the National Archives in Kew.

The confidential file gathered by the Board of Trade's Marine Safety Division which was responsible for carrying out a preliminary enquiry into the disaster, has never seen the light of day until now.

The official appointed to carry out the enquiry was P. W. Burgess, who was the senior surveyor for the port of Bristol.

The statements he collected provide more detail from George Thompson and James Dew, the two skippers involved, regarding the decisions they made that night, in the minutes after their vessels had collided and become joined together.

In response to this report officials at the Board of Trade were fairly complementary about Thompson's handling of the Arkendale H but issued some tempered criticism of the decisions made by Dew on the Wastdale H.

The report to a superior of the Marine Safety Division of the Board of Trade, Capt J H Quick, from his inferior Capt A C Manson states: "Since the distance to the bridge was something less than half a mile they had thus a maximum period of six minutes in which to extricate themselves and regain control.

"Being able to sit calmly after the event and weigh up the circumstances, I am of the opinion that the best chance of getting out of this situation would have been given had the Wastdale gone full astern and the Arkendale full ahead on port helm.

"This would have brought them apart and helped to bring them head to tide. I believe that an anchor underfoot might also have assisted.

"The Arkendale's master did in fact go ahead on port helm but his efforts were nullified by Wastdale's full ahead on starboard helm.

"To the extent that he went ahead on starboard helm to "push the other vessel off" I consider that the master of the Wastdale displayed ineptitude in the handling of his vessel, but this was by no means culpable negligence."

Another factor which has not been highlighted before has also come to light, and suggests that a natural phenomenon peculiar to the stretch of river where it occurred may have contributed to the accident.

Dense fog on the night of the incident meant the vessels both dropped past the entrance to Sharpness harbour and found themselves further upstream than they should have been, having to battle against an incoming tide to regain the harbour entrance.

The area they found themselves in was half a mile upstream, near the entrance to Sharpness old dock, which had long since been blocked off.

The shore here juts out into the river and is known as Sharpness Point, and the tide runs much faster here.

Prior to the collision, both vessels were travelling roughly in parallel, with the Wastdale on the shore side.

The Arkendale may have been making more progress since Thompson talks about the Wastdale dropping back out of the fog.

Captain Thompson said that the Wastdale then sheered round to starboard and hit the Arkendale near the bow.

Up until now this collision has been put down to the difficulties caused by the fog.

Fred Larkham from Newnham, who is probably the most experienced river man on the Severn today, and who understands better than anyone the tides on this stretch of the river, says the tanker skippers would have been unfamiliar with a dangerous current which occurs north of Sharpness:

"At the old dock there is a strong tide and also the back eddy which causes problems. This is caused by the tide rushing by the pier and it takes a starboard turn and comes back into the shore and then back down the gully and runs out by the pier.

"This could push the bow off. It would spin you into the main flood tide. Maybe one or two round turns in the tide and you'd be up to the area where the collision occurred."

To mark the 50th anniversary of the disaster two memorial stones have been unveiled on the banks of the Severn.

One is situated at Lydney Docks and a second is located at Purton.

Relatives and friends of the crew who lost their lives were there at the unveiling.

The plaques and their dedication ceremonies were organised by Paul Barnett, chairman of Friends of Purton.

There is also a special exhibition about the disaster currently showing at the Dean Heritage Museum until 16 January 2011.

You can find out more about the Severn Bridge Disaster by listening to Andy Vivian's six-part documentary on BBC Radio Gloucestershire all next week (25-30 October 2010), and for seven days afterwards on the BBC iPlayer, on Chris Baxter's mid-morning programme and on Faye Hatcher's programme .

The Severn Bridge Disaster will also feature on BBC1's Inside Out (West) on Monday, 25 October, 2010. The programme will be available on the BBC iPlayer for 7 days after broadcast.

Design and Contract Preparations

Initial Design – Contract Preparations

Design work on the new crossing included further detailed studies, a hydraulic model to test pier positions, mathematical modelling, a bathymetric survey, and geotechnical and topographical surveys for the route corridors. Extensive research was carried out into wind shielding and also into climate change issues, which indicated a potential rise in sea levels. The viability of engineering concepts and innovations were confirmed, together with the buildability and quality of the scheme.

Extensive consultations were undertaken with all those affected to ensure that concerns were fully understood and positively addressed in the development of the scheme. Wide ranging studies were carried out into the existing environment, potential impacts were identified and removed where feasible, and proposals were developed for reducing remaining adverse impacts. The consultations also included navigation interests, industry, landscape advice, and the Royal Fine Arts Commission regarding the main bridge and other structures.

A series of public exhibitions was held in England and Wales in areas affected by the proposals, initially showing the results of the study and then the changes adopted as the design was developed to take account of local concerns and the results of surveys

Contract Arrangements

In April 1989, tenders were invited for the main crossing and toll Plaza. The tender details included highly detailed technical requirements, contractual/financial issues, constructional aspects, and environmental monitoring. Separate bids were sought for two possible scenarios:
(a) to design, construct and finance the crossing, and to assume responsibility for operating and maintaining both it and the existing Severn Bridge during a concession period, in return for the toll revenue from both bridges during that period, and
(b) to design and construct the new crossing in return for staged payments from the government.

In 1990, following a rigorous assessment of the tenders, the Government accepted, in principle, the proposal of Severn River Crossing plc to design, construct, finance and operate the second crossing. Severn River Crossing plc was a consortium set up specially to bid for the project. It included major investment banks, a British contractor, John Laing plc, and a French contractor, GTM Entrepose.

Obtaining Parliamentary Approval 1990 to 1992

Authority to build the scheme was obtained through Parliament. A hybrid Bill was used to seek the powers required to construct the estuary crossing and the approach roads, to compulsorily purchase the land, and to charge tolls. The Severn Bridges Bill was lodged in November 1990 and, after thorough examination of the scheme by Parliamentary Committees, Royal Assent was granted in early 1992. The immense value of the extensive and detailed consultations, with over 40 affected parties, was shown by the small number of formal objections that were presented against the Bill. A Concession Agreement, between the Government and Severn River Crossing Plc, was signed and construction was started in Spring 1992.

Final Design for the Second Crossing. 1992 to 1993

The Second Crossing is comprised of a cable stayed bridge spanning the main navigation channel, with a two kilometre length of approach viaduct on either side. At 5 kilometres, it was the longest river crossing of this type in the country.

The Viaducts.

There are 20 spans of approach viaduct on either side of the main bridge and each span is made up of 27 separate units of hollow concrete box girder, tensioned together using high tensile steel strands.

The Shoots Bridge.

The centre-piece of this crossing of the Estuary is the cable stayed bridge over the main navigation channel, known as the Shoots. The main channel resembles a steep sided trench at this location and, although it is only about 300m wide at the base, the pylon legs had to be set back, well away from the top edge of the trench, to ensure stability. After careful consideration, a main span of 456m was agreed upon. At the time of its design, there were no cable stayed bridges operating anywhere in the world with a longer span, although the Pont de Normandie in France was well under construction with a span of 856m.

Other Works

Outline of the Second Bridge

In parallel with these activities, the detailed design of the motorway approach roads was undertaken and tender documents were prepared. This work included the resolution of many issues affecting areas local to the roads, dealing with environmental, landscaping and community issues, and incorporating a wide range of mitigation measures.

Tenders for the approach roads were invited in October 1992 and contracts were awarded in time for construction to start in Spring 1993. The challenge was to construct the second crossing and the approach roads in time for an opening in 1996.

Next Page

Short but fascinating walk, mainly along the Severn flood defences. Iconic views of the two Severn Bridges dominate the landscape.

The first Severn Bridge is a suitably impressive place to begin a journey around the British coastline. Completed in 1966, it is 1.6 km long, and spans 888m between the two towers. Each tower is 168m high and bears the weight of almost 12,000 tonnes. The bridge took two years and £8m to build. It is a breathtaking piece of engineering.

Contrary to widespread belief, the land you can see on the far side of the bridge is not Wales, but part of Gloucestershire.

From the Bridge, we descended the footpath towards Aust. A short path to the left crossed the top of the motorway toll booths to reach Severn View motorway service station, but we continued to the river’s edge, briefly visiting the village of Aust on the way.

We reached the Severn at Old Passage. At first glance, this seems an inconsequential collection of a few houses, but there is more history here than meets the eye.

On the bend by the Severn is Old Passage House. It stands out from the rest of the buildings, and its size and elevation suggest it may have been a hotel serving the ferry that ran from here in earlier times. The building, parts of which date from the sixteenth century, and the ferry are depicted in an eighteenth century painting (below). But just how ancient is this ferry service?

We know that a rival ferry, at New Passage (a few miles downstream) , was in existence in 1727. This was the year that Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, published his Tour Thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain, in which he expressed a clear preference for the newer ferry,

“There is also a little farther, an ugly, dangerous, and very inconvenient ferry over the Severn, to the mouth of Wye namely, at Aust the badness of the weather, and the sorry boats, at which, deterr’d us from crossing there.”

Perhaps his disdain is justified, for we know that at least three ferries from Old Passage were lost with all hands, in 1839 and 1844 and 1855.

Manorial records show that the ferry was in use as far back as the 1100s. It is also known that the Romans shipped men across the Severn somewhere along this section of coast, and it has been suggested, very plausibly, that the name Aust derives from Augustus, the Roman emperor. It is possible that Old passage, as a ferry site, has a very long history indeed.

Unable to compete with the new railways, the ferry closed in the 1860s. It gained a new lease of life, however, with the rise of the motor car, and reopened in 1926. It served as the only car ferry across the Severn for nearly forty years, until finally closing on 8th September, 1966, the day before the Severn Bridge opened.

Bob Dylan at Aust ferry, 1966

There are many photographs of the Aust car ferry available, including several in the Francis Frith collection. One of the more famous photographs is the one used to publicise Martin Scorcese’s 2005 documentary film of Bob Dylan, No Direction Home. If you look carefully at the photo, just above the car, you can see the Severn Bridge, which opened about three months after this photograph was taken.

After possibly two thousand years as a crossing-point, the remains of Aust ferry today seems quite poignant:

At low tide, it is possible to walk along the beach from here under the Severn Bridge, and beyond towards Gloucester. We walked as far as the Bridge. There was lots of mud. Midge likes mud.

Behind the beach rises Aust Cliff. Although not particularly high, the cliff is remarkable for the different strata of rock visible as horizontal bands across the face. The lowest red mudstones are around 250 million years old, and are evidence of dry conditions, when wind-blown red dust was deposited on sun-baked mudflats. The white layer near the bottom of the cliff is gypsum, created when salt-rich lakes, trapped in this desert, evaporated. Later, around 205 million years ago, huge volcanic activity split the single continental plate apart, and the red mudstones of Aust were flooded by the Jurassic Sea. Over the next few million years, debris on the sea-bed formed into the layer of white limestone near the top of the cliff. Thousands of fossils of marine animals have been found in this layer this was, after all, the Jurassic era, the age of the dinosaurs, when there was an explosion of new life-forms on our planet.

Everything on this fascinating section of coastline seems to have a story, or deserve mention. Electric pylons are not normally noteworthy on a walk that is not the case here. At 148m high, the pylons to the west of the Severn Bridge are not quite the tallest in the country, but they carry the longest powerline span anywhere in the UK. They are more than a mile apart.

Walking back through Old Passage, we resumed our walk westwards. A stretch of quiet road led to a footpath along the top of the bank that forms the flood defences for this part of Gloucestershire. To our right was the large expanse of the Severn floodplain, a haven for birds. Beyond, as a backdrop, was the Second Severn Crossing.

Not unexpectedly, because of the birdlife it attracts, part of the saltmarsh has been granted special protection. The Pilning Wetland Reserve is a Ramsar site, as well as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. According to a noticeboard, over 240 species of birds have been recorded here, including curlews, dunlin, turnstones, and bar-tailed godwit.

Since Old Passage, we had been following the Severn Way, a 220-mile long-distance footpath that I walked some years go. It is a brilliant path, following the River Severn from its source high in the Plynlimon Hills, through Llanidloes, Shrewsbury, Worcester, Tewkesbury, and Gloucester, until eventually reaching the Bristol Channel. It used to end at Severn Beach, but has since been extended to the centre of Bristol. Being of similar length and similar focus, it invites comparison with the Thames Path National Trail. I think the Severn Way is the superior trail, but others may disagree. You can get to know the Severn Way by visiting Paul & Pam’s blog they have been walking the trail from its start, and will soon be finished!

The boat depicted on the Severn Way waymarks is a Severn trow, a cargo vessel unique to the River Severn. These craft were specially designed for river use, with flat bottoms and wide bilges. Despite a long history, they have not been used for almost a century, and today it is more common to see small hovercraft on the lower reaches of the Severn.

The pleasant path alongside the marshes led to New Passage, consisting of a few modern houses. Unlike Old Passage, there is no sign of the ferry which used to run from here. It closed shortly after the Severn Railway Tunnel was opened in 1886, and we have only an eighteenth century painting to suggest its whereabouts. The hotel in the picture was demolished in the 1970s.

Just beyond New Passage is the Second Severn road bridge, built between 1992 and 1996 to relieve pressure on the first Severn Bridge. At 3¼ miles, it is the longest bridge in the UK. Personally, though, I don’t find it as graceful a structure as the original Severn Bridge. It carries approximately 20 million vehicles a year, three times as many as the older Bridge.

Unseen, the Severn railway tunnel runs beneath Severn Beach. Part of the Great Western Railway, it was the longest railway tunnel in the UK for more than a century, until the Channel tunnel link was built under London in 2007. It is over 4 miles long.

We followed the flood wall beneath the motorway bridge, which shortly led to the village of Severn Beach. Severn Beach has an unusual history, in that it was created in 1922, from sratch, as a seaside resort conveniently located near the railway. It was popular with Bristolians for many years, although has recently declined. Most of the attractions have closed, and the village is now little more than a commuter village for Bristol.

Having reached Severn Beach railway station, this was the end of our first, rather short, day of walking the coast. We had not actually planned to begin walking until tomorrow, but took advantage of a glorious evening to begin the journey. The railway goes no further east than Severn Beach, and we had no accommodation, so there was little alternative but to turn around and re-trace our steps. However, in this warm evening, the sky was coloured with pastel shades of yellows and pinks, and the walk back was no hardship.

Distance = 6½ miles Ascent = 16 metres

Tomorrow, we have a full day for walking, and it is a section I am looking forward to. Initially following the coast to Avonmouth, we will then head south to follow the River Avon into the heart of Bristol. This walk will be the subject of my next blog.


On the night of 25th October 1960 - a Tuesday - 16 vessels, many carrying cargos of oil from Swansea or petrol from Avonmouth, were heading up the Severn aiming to enter Sharpness Harbour on the late tide.

At 9.15pm, about a mile before Sharpness they encountered a very dense fog, rolling off the Berkeley bank.

Trying to find the harbour entrance while avoiding collision with other vessels, two of the tankers drifted past Sharpness and found themselves half a mile upstream where the river narrows and the tide flows faster.

They were the Arkendale H and the Wastdale H, both owned by John Harker Ltd. The Wastdale was carrying a cargo of 350 tons of petrol, the Arkendale a similar quantity of heating oil.

It was now gone 10pm and both vessels were battling against the strong tide to regain the harbour entrance. The fog was so dense that they were just yards apart when they saw each other.

At about 10.20, their bows touched and the two vessels were immediately sucked together along their entire length. Unable to draw apart, they were spun clockwise and driven upriver by the tide where, minutes later, they collided with the 17th pier of the Severn Railway Bridge, sending it flying into the river.

The two spans supported by the pier, crashed onto the tankers below. A spark ignited the petrol that was now pouring from the damaged Wastdale and soon the whole river was a mass of flames as oil from the Arkendale added to the conflagration.

Fortunately, the last train of the day had passed over the bridge just a few minutes before the accident. It was a close run thing.

By the time the train reached Sharpness, the bridge was no longer intact. The two tankers, dragging several hundred feet of railway line were brought to a halt on a sandbank just above the bridge.

In the water the crew were swept upstream by the tide and their cries for help could be heard from both banks. Disoriented by the swirling waters it was over an hour before one of them, George Thompson - captain of the Arkendale, managed to swim to the bank at Awre.

About an hour later, carried back downriver by the ebbing tide, a second, Jim Dew - captain of the Wastdale, reached the Forest shore near the bridge and presented himself naked at a local pub.

Several local boatmen told the police it was too dangerous to launch a dinghy and more substantial rescue craft were trapped inside harbour gates by the falling tide. But despite the dangers, on each bank there were brave men who launched small rowing boats in search of survivors.

On the Forest side, father and son Walter and Mike Cadogan from Awre, searched in vain. But Tommy Carter and Charles Henderson, setting off from the eastern bank, rowed right across the river to a point below the bridge where they heard the cries of Jack Cooper, the engineer on the Arkendale, whom they rescued and carried safely to Lydney harbour.

The five other crew members did not survive and it was many days before all their bodies were retrieved.

For two years there was a plan to rebuild the bridge and school children from Sharpness and Berkeley continued to attend Lydney grammar school thanks to a special train via Gloucester laid on by British Railways. But this was the era of Beeching and sometime after 1962 the plans were quietly dropped, bringing to a close the link between the communities of Lydney and Sharpness which had lasted for over 80 years since the bridge was completed in 1879.

It was several years before the bridge was finally demolished one firm went bust in the process. Now just the stone tower which supported the swing section over the canal remains and, of course, the two wrecks are still to be seen at low tide resting in their sandy grave.

7 Iconic Bridges of England

The best of England’s magnificent bridges span the ages standing strong, connecting communities and creating vital access across our waterways.

Here we take a look at seven of England’s finest bridges, and what makes them special:

1. Humber Bridge, Hull, Grade I listed

At 1,410 metres long, the Humber Bridge was the longest single-span suspension bridge in the world when it was built in 1981, a record it maintained for 16 years. It remains in the top ten longest spans worldwide and is the longest that you can walk across.

The bridge is supported by massive cables – almost enough cable to go round the earth twice. Despite its enormous size and strength, the Humber Bridge has an elegance that is in harmony with the landscape. The sandy concrete towers and muted deck, echo the colours of the reeds, grass, pebbles and sand of the shores and muddy brown of the Humber it crosses.

2. Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol. Grade I listed

Spanning the Avon Gorge in Bristol, the Clifton Suspension Bridge is famously known to be based on a design by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. However, little is reported about the contribution by a woman who was one of the foremost engineering, inventing and designing minds of the Georgian era.

Sarah Guppy was a prolific inventor, patenting a design for safe foundations for bridges ‘whereby the danger of being washed away by floods is avoided.’ This patent for piling foundations came into being in 1811 and formed the blueprint for the iconic bridge that Brunel would design 19 years later.

Before the bridge was completed in the 1850s, intrepid passengers could cross the gorge in a basket slung from an iron bar. It has been the location of the first bungee jump in 1979 and the last ever Concorde flypast in 2003.

3. Severn Bridge, Gloucestershire, Grade I listed

A physical embodiment of the near 500 year union between England and Wales, the 1966 Severn River Crossing is granted the highest level of protection by listing. It was the first bridge in the world to use the revolutionary concept of a streamlined deck and inclined hangers, and an early example of a fully welded steel deck. The structure is a symbol of the industrial heritage of South Wales which it is the gateway to, and where some of the country’s wealth was quite literally forged, providing infrastructure for the whole British Empire.

Before the bridge opened in 1966, people waited in their cars for the jeopardous trip on the car ferry in Aust, to avoid a 60 mile round trip to Gloucester. A promotional image for Martin Scorsese’s film No Direction Home, about the life of Bob Dylan, features an image of Dylan standing in front of the ferry terminal in May 1966, not long before it closed for good. The Severn bridge can be seen almost complete in the background.

4. Tees Transporter Bridge, Grade II* listed

The Tees Transporter or Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge has become a landmark that embodies the town it which it stands. It was the largest bridge of its kind when it was finished in 1911 and remains the longest existing transporter bridge in the world at 851 feet long.

The bridge is one of only six known operational transporter bridges remaining in the world, three of which are in Britain. During World War II the superstructure of the bridge was hit by a bomb but despite this, the gondola and The Transporter Bridge are still running in perfect order.

5. Iron Bridge, Telford, Shropshire, Grade I listed

The Iron Bridge in Shropshire is a symbol of the dawn of the industrialised age – the world’s first bridge made from cast iron.
It was built by Abraham Darby III to join the towns of Coalbrookdale and Broseley across the River Severn. The Darby family had produced iron goods like cooking pots and tram rails for some time, and perfected the technique of smelting iron with coke, allowing for cheaper production.

The bridge itself was cast at Darby’s ironworks in Coalbrookdale, a venture that would put Abraham Darby III in debt for the rest of his life. The bridge was opened to traffic in 1781 and was in use until 1934. It now stands as a monument to the industrial revolution.

6. Tyne Bridge, Tyneside, Grade II* listed

The defining symbol of Tyneside, the Tyne Bridge was the biggest single-span bridge in the UK when it was opened by George V in 1928. The structure was built using shipbuilding techniques with rivets and panels welded together. It was a mammoth task and the workmen risked their lives to construct the crossing – working up to 200 feet above the river without safety harnesses or ropes. Despite the dangers of the job, only one worker died during construction.

The bridge and nearby structures are used as a nesting site by a colony of around 700 pairs of black-legged kittiwakes, the furthest inland in the world.

7. Tower Bridge, London, Grade I listed

One of the most recognisable bridges in the world, Tower Bridge takes 61 seconds to open, which it does around 1,000 times a year. When it was built in 1886, it was the largest and most sophisticated bascule bridge (a bridge with a section which can be raised and lowered using counterweights) ever completed.

Originally, the hydraulics used to open the bridge were powered by steam, then in 1976 they were replaced by ones powered by electricity and oil.

Watch the video: Westminster Lectures: The Severan Dynasty