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Blunham Bridges

Blunham Bridges August 2009
Blunham Bridges August 2009

Two bridges next to one another on Tempsford Road, spanning the River Ivel are known simply as Blunham Bridges. They were listed by the former Department of Environment in March 1985 as Grade II, of special interest. The department dated the more substantial west bridge to the 17th or 18th century, noting 19th century additions. Its shape is very reminiscent of medieval bridges and it is first shown on a map, of the manorial estate, in 1719 [L33/286]. Quarter Sessions of 1828 concluded that the bridge was at least two hundred years old at that time and that responsibility for its upkeep lay solely with the parish [QBP1, 1828]. It was adopted as a county bridge in 1839 [QBM1, 288].

The west bridge is built of coursed ironstone and limestone, the later work being in red brick. There are five arches and a parapet, the latter mainly in brick with coping in vitrified brick and stone installed in 1866 [QBC3]. They were used when a further one foot three inches was added to the height of the parapet in 1893 [Hi/CM2]. This indicates that the parapet was either built, or, more likely, raised in height in the 19th century as a low stringcourse which may represent the height of the original parapet can be seen from the river on the downstream face. The triangular structures projecting into the river, known as cutwaters, probably reached up higher originally, forming refuges for pedestrians if crossing the bridge at the same time as a wide loaded cart. These were capped off with half-pyramid shaped stones when the parapet was raised,

The east bridge is a single span construction, built in 1823 during improvements to the navigation of the Ivel. The Historic Environment Record for Bedfordshire notes that the span of the bridge consists of five curved cast iron beams resting on abutments constructed from large blocks of sandstone. The beams are held together by a pair of ties at right angles to the carriageway. The deck is formed by iron plates resting on top of the girders.

The bridges underwent major repairs by Bedfordshire County Council in 1992. At that time, as Angela Simco noted in her book Bridges of Bedfordshire published by Bedfordshire County Council, Bedfordshire Archaeological Council and the Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England in 1997, a paved stone bed to the bridge was discovered under the easternmost arch was found, probably made at the same time as the bridge itself.

River scene at Blunham Bridges August 2009
River scene at Blunham Bridges August 2009