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28 October 2014

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Worcester Bridge

Worcester bridge being rebuilt

Elgar and the bridge

The story of how Edward Elgar rescued part of the main river bridge in Worcester when it was redesigned.

Edward Elgar

  • Elgar loved wordplay: His Enigma Variations contained clues as to the people who inspired each of the pieces: His daughter was called Carice, using part of each of his wife's forenames Car(oline Al)ice: His house in Malvern was called Craeg Lea, an anagram of C(arice), A(lice) and E(dward) Elgar
  • Elgar liked sport: he played golf (you can see his clubs in the Elgar Birthplace Museum, and in later years was interested in horse racing.
  • Elgar had two locomotives named after him. The Sir Edward Elgar was a Bulldog class loco., number 3414 it was built in 1906 and withdrawn from service in 1938.  There was also a Brush type 47 diesel locomotive which had nameplates specially cast in the former GWR style
  • There are 65 roads named after Elgar in the UK, including six in the counties of Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

In 1781 a new stone bridge was constructed in Worcester by the great engineer John Gwynne R.A., who also built Shrewsbury, Atcham and Magdalen (Oxford) bridges which still stand today.

By 1841 the traffic had increased considerably and the River Severn Engineer E. Leader Williams designed a cast iron footpath on each side, for pedestrians to use, and an iron ballustrade.

This graceful structure survived until the 1930's when it was decided to widen each side of Gwynne's bridge with stonework.

This would make the bridge three times wider and also meant that the ironwork would be sent to the scrap heap.

In 1932 Elgar's friend Billy Reed wrote;-

"One day when I arrived at Marl Bank (Elgar's last home on Rainbow Hill) I was rushed off to see what they were doing at Worcester, widening the bridge over his beloved Severn: the old familiar bridge he had known all his life.

"I was taken there so often that I guessed he had something in his head about it.

"At last it came out - he could not bear to part with the old iron ballustrades that were being removed; so he bought two lengths of them and had them brought up on lorries to Marl Bank and set up there on a concrete bed.

Elgar with his dog

Elgar with his dog

"I thought they looked rather crazy in the garden, but took care not to say so; for he was so delighted when they were set up that we had to go out repeatedly to study them from all points of view and discuss what colour they should be painted.

"He decided to keep them as like their old selves as possible.

Iron ballustrades rescued by Elgar

Iron ballustrades rescued by Elgar

"I think he used to go out and imagine that the Severn was flowing under them as of old."

Leaning on HIS bridge he scored his Severn Suite for orchestra.

In the 1960's Marl Bank was demolished and a local enthusiast salvaged the ironwork and the prize rose he planted in 1930.

last updated: 12/03/2008 at 10:02
created: 25/07/2005

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