South East Wales

Chepstow Bridge's 200 year-old crossing celebrated

Chepstow Bridge Image copyright John Burrows

Communities in Wales and England are celebrating the 200th anniversary of a historic iron bridge bringing them together across the River Wye.

The Grade I listed Chepstow Bridge was built by John Urpeth Rastrick in 1816, and remains the only five-arch iron bridge of its age to survive.

It played a crucial role in uniting south Wales with the West Country, until the Severn Bridge opened in 1966.

Sunday will see the original opening re-enacted, as officials meet halfway.

Monmouthshire council chairman Jim Higginson has the honour of greeting his Gloucestershire counterpart, Colin Hay, along with the president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Sir John Armitt.

Mr Higginson said it would be "an historic occasion".

"I'm delighted to participate in the ceremony marking 200 years of this magnificent bridge. I'm sure that it'll be a day to remember," he said.

Image copyright John Burrows

Chepstow mayor Paul Pavia added: "A huge amount of work has been invested in the event by the town council and local volunteers, especially John Burrows of the bridge's bi-centenary organising group, and I hope all our guests and local residents will enjoy and remember this historic day for years to come."

A foundation stone for the bridge was laid in 1813, and then in 1814 the contract to construct it was won by the Bridgnorth foundry of Hazeldine, Rastrick and Brodie, where engineer Rastrick was a managing partner.

Despite the scale of the task it was in place just two years later - at the cut price of £17,850 - about £1.2m today.

It spans 34 metres (112ft) across the Wye, and is maintained by both Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire councils.

The bridge replaced a wooden 10-arch structure that had stood on the Wye in one form or another for 500 years.

Image copyright John Burrows

"Once complete, it became the third largest iron arch road bridge in the world, so it was a very bold initiative for its time," added Gloucestershire cabinet member, Vernon Smith.

"Last year we helped to fund structural repairs and a repaint. It now looks fantastic for its 200th birthday and I hope it'll be used for another 200 years and beyond."

Celebrations begin at 13:00 BST at Beaufort Square in Chepstow, with a bi-centenary plaque unveiling, a historic car procession and a riverside fair, all bringing the month-long Chepstow Festival to an end with a firework display.

Image copyright John Burrows

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