Galton Bridge is a road bridge spanning the new Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN) Main Line in the Galton Valley. The bridge once carried traffic and is now open to pedestrians only. It is a wonderful example of cast iron engineering that was so aptly delivered by Thomas Telford across the UK.
|Maintained by||Historic England|
Free street parking
Smethwick Galton Bridge – 60 m
Open 24 / 7
What is the best way to enjoy this attraction?
This attraction is best enjoyed as part of the Galton Valley Trail.
It’s worth walking across the bridge so you can see the views and the 65ft (20m) drop to the canal underneath. Whilst up top, you can enjoy the detailing of the stone piers, lights and railings.
Then head down to the canal underneath, there is a path at the north end of the bridge. This is where you can get the best view of the mighty bridge spanning the valley. You’ll also see the modern Galton Tunnel that carries Telford Way and the neighbouring railway viaduct (also Grade I listed).
Galton Bridge is open to pedestrians only and serves as a handy crossing for commuters arriving at the adjacent railway station.
How long does it take to see this attraction?
Galton Bridge will take around 10 minutes if you are planning to enjoy the view up top before walking down to the canal underneath.
Is this attraction suitable for a picnic?
There is no spot to picnic at the bridge; however, there are adequate spots further along the Galton Valley Trail.
How do I get to this attraction?
Smethwick Galton Bridge railway station is located right next to Galton Bridge.
If you are coming by car, park where Roebuck Lane meets Summit Close. There are no parking restrictions on the road; however, be mindful this is still a busy industrial area with plenty of HGVs driving around. You will not be able to drive across or park on the bridge.
If you are planning to visit the bridge as part of the Galton Valley Trail, visit the trail page to find out the best options for transport.
History of Galton Bridge
1769 – The BCN Main Line canal originally crossed Smethwick via two flights of locks. It became clear the canal was inadequate to meet the demand that followed.
1790 – The construction of a cutting was completed to the design of John Smeaton, which reduced the height of the canal and halved the number of locks. This improved the navigation time and reduced the strain on the water supply. Summit Bridge was constructed by Smeaton to carry Roebuck Lane over his new cutting.
1824-1829 – Additional improvements were completed by Thomas Telford. He bypassed the locks at Smethwick by constructing a new, wider canal that ran parallel at a lower height to Smeaton’s line above. The new canal ran through a much deeper cutting, which formed Galton Valley, and this new artificial landscape required a second bridge to continue carrying Roebuck Lane. This is how Galton Bridge came into existence.
Galton Bridge has a near identical design to Mythe Bridge, which was completed by Telford three years earlier in 1826. The ironwork and panelling was manufactured by Horsley Ironworks in Tipton, who also produced many roving bridges on the BCN network and the Engine Arm Aqueduct. It it most likely the material for Galton Bridge was delivered via the BCN Old Main Line.
Galton Bridge and Galton Valley are named after Samuel Tertius Galton, a Quaker industrialist who sat on the BCN committee at the time of construction . The bridge was reported in 1830 to be the largest canal bridge in the world .
1852 – The south stone abutment was extended to accommodate an additional arch for the new Stour Valley railway line from Birmingham New Street Station to Wolverhampton, which can be seen in this photo from 1957.
1963 – This fantastic photo details what the bridge looks like under the road surface when it was removed for repairs.
1973 – The bridge is listed as a Grade I structure .
1975 – Traffic is no longer permitted to cross the bridge after the number of vehicles exceeded the two-tonne weight limit. A new tunnel was constructed to the east of Galton Bridge that supports the modern road dual carriageway named Telford Way. Therefore, the view you see in this photo does not exist anymore.
Architecture and dimensions
The cast iron bridge contains a single span arch measuring 150 ft (45.7 m) set in between brick abutments. It is formed from six girders pierced in a diagonal lattice pattern with lattice bracing between the spandrels. The name ‘Galton Bridge’ is cast above the centre on each side, ‘Horsley Iron Works 1829’ is said to be cast in four places. .
- Hadfield, C. (1985) The Canals of the West Midlands. Newton Abbot: David & Charles (Publishers) Limited.
- (1830) The British Almanac of The Society For The Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, For The Year 1830, pp. 245. London: Charles Knight.
- Historic England (2020) Galton Bridge Including Attached Railway Bridge Span, Roebuck Lane Birmingham Canal Birmingham Level. Available at: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1214833 (Accessed: 6 December 2020).