17 May 2013

Post 4) Ups and Downs

Clay render of the Drawbridge across the Frome, from today's Hippodrome to Baldwin Street. This was produced by aligning William Halfpenny's plan of the 1714-1755 drawbridge with the 1885 1:500 os map and from Samuel Jackson's pencil drawing BMAG M2919.
Since 1239, the lowest bridging point across the Frome from the old city to Gaunt's hospital and St Augustine's was the twin arch Christmas Street bridge, lined each side with tall jettied timber buildings.

In 1714, to facilitate construction of the new Georgian Streets in the former Gaunt's orchard, a bascule lifting bridge was built at the south end of the Quay near the great tower, of two 16 feet timber leaves and two stone arches, worked by rope and hinged overhead lifting beams. This gave a 30 foot clearance at river level for Trows, Brigs and other medium to small coastal ships.

This bridge was replaced by a stronger pair of timber leaves in 1755 and four cast iron pillars worked rack and pinions, driving subterranean cogs in the piers to raise the bridge, worked by one man each side turning handles on the towers.

St Giles Bridge of two stone arches came between the drawbridge and Christmas Street Bridge in the same year, at the head of the quay, as an extension of Small Street across to the timber wharf at Under-The-Bank.

In 1796, timber outriggers widened the drawbridge deck to around 30 feet, as pictured above. On August 10th 1827 this drawbridge and arches were heavily modified or rebuilt to give a 40 foot clearance for ships with a cast iron swivel bridge of 120 tons, replaced again in 1868 with a more robust heavier swivel unit of 130 tons aligned with Clare Street, lasting until 1893 when the upper Frome harbour was culverted into a 22 foot channel and the sides filled in.

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