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28 October 2014

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You are in: Gloucestershire > Coast > Point 4 - Westgate Bridge

Watercolour of old medieval Westgate Bridge

Medieval Bridge(Gloucester City Museums)

Point 4 - Westgate Bridge

The modern structure here bridges the River Severn at an important and historic crossing point...

Standing on the pedestrian bridge here that spans the East Channel of the River Severn you can almost feel two thousand years of history - and it's all really down to this location that Gloucester is situated exactly where it is.

The River Severn

The East Channel of the River Severn

The Romans had settled and set up camp in Gloucester (or Glevum as it was known) to control the river crossing to Wales, as this was the lowest point on the River Severn where it was possible to cross.

In later times there would have been fords, or "lodes" as they're known on the Severn, close to here - the modern names such as Upper Lode and Wainlode give you an idea of where they were.

Narrowboat on River Severn

Narrowboat on River Severn

The River Severn here is split into two narrower channels (you are standing above the East channel - you'll see the West channel later on in the walk) forming an island, and it's thought that the earliest bridge was built here because it was easier to build two shorter bridges than one long one.

In fact there's evidence that originally there would have been THREE river channels here. The eastern most channel is now dried up but the remains of a medieval bridge are still buried beneath present day Westgate Street.

Until fairly recently, in 1966 when the first Severn Crossing was built near to Chepstow, this remained the most southerly crossing point on the river, and all traffic coming from and going into Wales used Westgate Bridge.

Westgate Bridge

The new Westgate Bridge

The original medieval bridge had five great arches. This was replaced by a single span bridge, designed by Robert Smirke, in 1816. Then in the 1970s two new wide-span bridges were built, one for each direction of traffic flow.

When that bridge was replaced by the present one in the late 1990s workmen managed to keep the crossing open to cars and lorries at all times due to a clever bit of engineering -  they built a new, third span, which was opened before they rebuilt the first span, and then the third was slid into place, replacing the second! The new set of bridges were completed in 2000.

Continue across the bridge and follow the blue signs, towards Maisemore, using the footpath along the side of the main road. Take care here as the road is often busy with heavy traffic. Carry on for 1km (about half a mile), and follow the footpath as the road curves to the left (blue signs to Ross/Chepstow). Continue, crossing the West Channel of the River Severn on the modern road bridge. When you reach a gate on the left (signposted "Gloucestershire Way") go through it, doubling-back onto the old stone-built Over Bridge.

last updated: 01/04/2008 at 11:24
created: 11/07/2005

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