Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Double Arched Prison Bridge on the Bath Road.

Rope wear still visible on the metal post.
Many canal bridges in or near Devizes have two arches, the canal flows under one and an old rail track once passed under the other.  At Caen Hill, the canal rises 237ft in two miles from Lower Foxhangers to Devizes, and the mighty flight of 29 locks required thousands of bricks to build their chambers.  The largest exposure of Gault and lower greensand clay in Wiltshire was discovered during the building of the canal, and the "The Devizes Brick and Tile Company" established a brickworks at the bottom of the hill which was in production until 1961.  Here forty workers  and four kilns produced  2.5 millions bricks per annun, which during the building of the locks, were loaded into wagons and pulled up the hill by horse drawn rail trucks.  Several buildings in Devizes were also built using the same bricks, most notably Roundway Hospital Chapel, the large houses in Pans Lane and Potterne Road and the offices of Ansties' Snuff factory in the Market Place.

The photo above shows Prison bridge, so named because Devizes Prison with 210 cells, a staff of forty and a wretchedly harsh regime for the inmates once stood nearby.   This is bridge 142, and has a metal post still showing rope wear.  Horses passed under this arch pulling barges along the canal, and without the metal guards, the ropes would have eroded the brickwork.    From Reading to Bristol, bridges are numbered 1 to 214, and the locks in reverse, numbers 107 to 1.  Here on the Bath Road, bridge 142 meets lock 47.   The bridge has lost it original brick wall, probably knocked down by passing traffic. White metal railings now serve to stop vehicles driving off the bridge into the lock!
to the left:  Bridge 142 track tunnel, with lock 47 and information post.  The little white bollards are for mooring up boats waiting to use the lock.
These marker posts along the canal give boaters and fishermen information about what is permissable near locks.  This one indicates, "No fishing on the lock landing stage within the arrows" and "Clear up after your dog." 

The view below shows the other side of the two arched bridge.  The metal posts protected the brickwork from rope wear during the 100 years or so that the canal transported goods by barge from Bristol to Reading, and eventually to London on the River Thames.  To the right of the canal arch is a plaque commemorating the canal manager who supervised the building of the Caen Hill flight, the last section of the K & A Canal to open in 1810.   It is a mighty piece of canal engineering by Mr. John Rennie, and is the "Sixth Wonder of the Britishwaterway's Canal Network."
left:  The canal passes under the bridge and to the right, the track tunnel.  Note the white metal railings over the top of the bridge which now replace the original brick wall.  A small part of the wall can still be seen top left.

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