Grosvenor Bridge (Chester)
Oblique view of the Grosvenor Bridge, taken from the South bank of the river.
|Heritage status||Grade I listed|
|Height||50 feet (15 m)|
|Longest span||200 feet (61 m)|
The Grosvenor Bridge is a single-span stone arch road bridge crossing the River Dee at Chester, England. Located on the A483 Grosvenor Road (grid reference SJ402655), it was designed by Thomas Harrison and opened by Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld on 17 October 1832. The first traffic passed over it in November 1833.
At the time of its construction, the bridge was the longest single-span arch bridge in the world, a title that it retained for 30 years. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Chester only had one river crossing, a narrow medieval bridge at Handbridge, the Old Dee Bridge. Heavily congested, it delayed movement through the town. Building a new bridge was prohibitively expensive until Thomas Telford proposed a new road between Shrewsbury and the Irish ferries at Holyhead to facilitate trade between the two islands. The route would have bypassed Chester, greatly reducing the potential income from the lucrative Irish trade routes. A committee was appointed to consider plans for a new bridge to quicken movement across the city and encourage traders to continue to stop there.
Chester was at the time a major shipbuilding city, and a very tall bridge was required to allow ships to pass underneath. A design by the architect Thomas Harrison featuring an arch 60 feet (18 m) high and 200 feet (61 m) wide was chosen. When constructed, it would be the largest arch in the world, described by chief builder James Trubshaw as "a lasting monument to the glory and superiority of Great Britain". The arch is of limestone from Anglesey, the rest the bridge gritstone. Its span remains the longest masonry arch in Britain.
Original plans called for a bridge between Chester Castle and Wrexham Road. However, Harrison was concerned soft ground there would not support heavy piers. Telford found a drier area downstream and construction was moved there, requiring Wrexham Road to be deadended in one direction, the other leading to the bridge. The first stone was laid by the Marquess of Westminster on 1 October 1827.
The unfinished bridge was formally opened by Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and her daughter, Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent (later Queen Victoria), who were driven through a triumphal arch staged on its roadway to a 21-gun salute on 17 October 1832. Construction was finally completed in November 1833, and a toll imposed to pay the £50,000 (£4,240,000 as of 2015) construction costs, a large sum at the time. The toll proved harmful to trade and was abolished in 1885 when maintenance was transferred to the Chester Corporation.
Harrison died two years into construction; his pupil William Cole completed the job.
- Historic England, "Grosvenor Bridge, Chester (1375839)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 15 July 2012
- The Grosvenor Bridge, Black and White Picture Place, retrieved 10 December 2006
- Hartwell, Claire; Hyde, Matthew; Hubbard, Edward; Pevsner, Nikolaus (2011) , Cheshire, The Buildings of England, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, p. 250, ISBN 978-0-300-17043-6
- Skerton Bridge, Engineering Timelines, retrieved 30 November 2011
- UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2015), "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
- Champness, John (2005), Thomas Harrison: Georgian Architect of Chester and Lancaster 1744–1829, Centre for North-West Regional Studies, University of Lancaster, pp. 125–127, ISBN 1-86220-169-2
Copper-plate engraving of the bridge soon after completion, showing the view up-river towards Handbridge
Modern photograph of the Grosvenor Bridge, taken from the Roodee.