What can I expect when visiting Bewdley Bridge?
You can start from either side of the Severn. This guide will start on the southwest bank from Bewdley town centre. As you head down Severn South Side, notice the cast iron balustrades.
The stone embankment offers a fantastic viewing platform of the south bridge face. Can you spot the arms of Bewdley in the centre?
Walk under the twin towpath arches.
Can you spot the hinges of the iron gates that once spanned these arches? Once you have taken in the view from this point, head back up to the road above.
Start crossing the bridge, where you will be treated to wonderful views of Bewdley’s Georgian waterfront.
Notice the central pedimented tablet that displays the arms of Bewdley on the other face.
Continue crossing then look back, the handsome rows of stone balustrades form an elegant entrance into Bewdley town centre.
An octagonal border in the pavement marks out where the tollhouse once stood.
Walk around the tollhouse via Riverside North for a closer view of its foundations. You can also see modern repairs. When ready, head through the adjacent twin towpath arches.
Notice the low arched viaduct to the north-eastern entrance to Bewdley Bridge. The balustrades here are also made of cast iron.
You may wish to pop into Bewdley Museum, which contains a model of the original medieval bridge.
The museum also contains the original carved stones that once adorned the bridge and were removed when it was strengthened during World War Two to accommodate tanks and other heavy vehicles. The stones were carved by master mason John Simpson from Shrewsbury. The left stone displays the coat of arms of Shropshire, the right displays Bewdley’s coat of arms.
How long does it take to see Bewdley Bridge?
It will take you around 10 minutes to see the bridge from both sides of the Severn. You may wish to extend your visit by exploring more of Bewdley or taking a walk along the river to take in the Worcestershire countryside.
Is Bewdley Bridge suitable for a picnic?
There are no immediate picnic spots next to the bridge. There are plenty of benches along the riverbank and you can walk further out of town to find a more rural setting; however, there is a decent fish and chip shop with seating adjacent to the bridge. Mind the seagulls though!
How do I get to Bewdley Bridge?
There are car parks near the bridge off Load Street and Dog Lane. There is a bus stop on the B4190 next to the bridge with services to and from Kidderminster. Bewdley Railway Station is a 2-minute walk, it is serviced by the Severn Valley Railway, which runs heritage services to and from Kidderminster and Bridgenorth. Change at Kidderminster for national rail services to the West Midlands and beyond.
History of Bewdley Bridge
1795 – Severe storms during the winter cause multiple streams along the Welsh Marches to swell, which resulted in the Severn bursting its banks. This catastrophic flood swept away the original bridge that stood at Bewdley including several other crossings along the river. The residents of Bewdley applied for an Act of Parliament to raise money for a new bridge and hired Thomas Telford as the engineer. Telford was the county surveyor for Shropshire and was starting to use cast iron at the time, most notably for the Longdon-on-Tern Aqueduct and Buildwas Bridge.
1798 – The new three-arch bridge is completed by respected mason John Simpson of Shrewsbury according to Telford’s design. Stone is quarried at Arley and floated down the river four miles. The bridge was constructed rapidly in one season thanks to prolonged dry weather and the expertise of Simpson . It is unclear why Telford opted for stone rather than extending his enthusiasm for cast iron. Perhaps he wanted his structure to complement the splendid Georgian waterfront of the town? The bridge cost £9,264  (£1,217,000 in 2020).
1835 – A coach crosses the Bewdley Bridge when the horses gave a sudden jerk. The bolt connecting the horses with the fore wheels of a coach gave way, which overturned the vehicle with a tremendous crash. Seventeen passengers sustained injuries, thankfully there were no deaths .
1853 – Samuel Mole, labourer, was charged with having at Bewdley, a stolen a quantity of coal, which was the property of Cornelius Lister. The prosecutor proved that Mole assisted Lister to unload a boat of coal, for which he gave him 6d. Mole then asked Lister to let him stay on board with a man named Millward. Lister went to the boat the next morning and found he was missing about two carts of coal. Samuel Boraston was on Bewdley Bridge the previous night and saw Millward carrying coal from a boat to a barrow, and Mole wheeling it away and offering it for sale. A witness named proved that Mole offered to sell him the coal for a shilling .
1891 – Worcestershire County Council takes ownership of Bewdley Bridge from Bewdley Town Council from 1st April . It was agreed the town council would pay £102 in two annual instalments to bring the bridge into repair and continue to pay the corporation that lit the bridge. The town council would retain ownership of the tollhouse .
1950 – Bewdley Bridge was first registered as a listing structure .
1952 – The Minister of Works refused to provide a grant to preserve the octagonal tollhouse at Bewdley Bridge despite an appeal to him by MP Gerald Nabarro .
1960 – A highway and bridges committee report states the tollhouse at Bewdley Bridge is to be demolished at a cost of £3,500 (£82,430 in 2020) and replaced with a commemorative plaque. The tollhouse is removed shortly after .
2020 – An ordnance from World War II is discovered in the river close to Bewdley Bridge. A 100 m cordon was enforced by the police, who recovered and disposed of the bomb .
Architecture and dimensions
The bridge is constructed of ashlar and cast iron. It consists of three arches over the river, two towpath arches on either side and 14 arches on the north-eastern bank extending about 50 metres to south-east
The balustrades on the river are made of stone, those on land are made of cast iron. The three main arches feature rusticated voussoir and triangular cutwaters with pyramidal caps, which pilasters rise to the moulded cornice below the balustrade which has bulbous balusters. The central pedimented tablets in each balustrade bear the arms of Bewdley .
The central arch has a span of 60 ft (18.3 m) with a rise of 18 ft (5.5 m). The other two arches each have a span of 52 ft (15.9 m) with a rise of 16.75 ft (5.1 m). The overall width of the bridge is 27 ft (8.2 m) and its balustraded stone parapet is 3 ft 10 in. (1.2 m) high .
- Rolt, L. T. C. (1986) Thomas Telford. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd.
- Telford, T. (1838) in Rickman, J. (ed.) Life of Thomas Telford, Civil Engineer, Written by Himself. London: James and Luke G. Hansard and Sons.
- (1835) ‘Freighful Coach Accident’, Worcester Journal, 23 July, p. 3.
- (1853) ‘Pleaded Guilty’, Worcester Journal, 3 March, p. 3.
- (1891) ‘Highway Matters’, Worcester Chronicle, 14 February, p. 5.
- (1890) ‘Bewdley Town Council The Charges Against Members of The Council’, Worcester Journal, 2 May, p. 7.
- (1952) ‘No toll-house grant’, Birmingham Daily Gazette, 6 September, p. 5.
- (1960) ‘Plan to Build in Selected Villages’, Birmingham Daily Post, 13 July, p. 17.
- Rawlins, J. (2020) ‘Bomb found under Bewdley Bridge identified by experts’, Malvern Gazette. Available at: https://www.malverngazette.co.uk/news/19528249.bomb-found-bewdley-bridge-identified-experts/ (Accessed: 23 December 2021).
- Historic England (2020) Severn Bridge Including Flanking Arches and Balustrade. Available at: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1100000?section=official-listing (Accessed: 1 January 2022).
- Cragg, R. (1997) Civil Engineering Heritage Wales and West Central England. London: Thomas Telford Publishing.