What can I expect when visiting Mythe Bridge?
You can see the original toll house and booth on the eastern approach to the bridge.
Walk over the bridge and enjoy the detail of the iron railings and stone piers.
The bridge also offers a stunning view of the Malvern Hills to the north and the Severn flowing majestically on its way to the sea.
Once you have crossed the bridge, locate a public pathway that starts immediately opposite the traffic light on the western approach to the bridge. This path will lead you around the back of a rowing club onto a driveway that leads down to a floating jetty on the river. This is where you can get the best view of the bridge and its intricate ironwork.
If the rowing club is open, feel free to ask for permission to venture onto their grassy bank where you can get a closer view of the arched stone abutments.
How long does it take to see Mythe Bridge?
It will take you around 20 minutes to see the bridge from above and around the side of the rowing club. Walking to the bridge from Tewkesbury town centre or our nearby car parking spot will take around 10 minutes, so you will need at least 40 minutes to see this attraction.
How do I get to Mythe Bridge?
Tewkesbury no longer has a railway station. If you decide to arrive in the town by bus, follow the River Avon north and cross the bridge that carries the Mythe Road. Keep walking and take a left onto the A38 by the water treatment plant. You’ll come to the bridge shortly after. It’s roughly a 10-minute walk to the Mythe Bridge from the town centre.
If you are arriving by car, park on King Johns Close, it’s a public cul-de-sac with ample room at the end. It’s the same directions as detailed above.
History of Mythe Bridge
Up until the completion of the Mythe Bridge, the only way to cross the River Severn near Tewkesbury was via two ferries that had been operating since ancient times .
1823 – An act of Parliament was obtained to construct a new bridge over the Severn near Mythe Hill just outside of Tewkesbury, which is also known as ‘The Mythe’.
George Moneypenny was originally hired as engineer and architect. A bridge of three arches was designed and work proceeded. Considerable progress had been made before the bridge foundations were revealed to be insufficient and so Moneypenny was removed from the project. He subsequently brought action against the trustees of the bridge for withholding the percentage they agreed to pay him, which they justified by stating Moneypenny had provided an inadequate design. He later recovered his costs on appeal, which amounted to upwards of £300 or more .
Thomas Telford was then brought in to assess the problem and provide a solution. Telford concluded that although the location had been judiciously selected, an examination of a bore revealed the bottom to contain soft alluvial matter, which rendered the placing of two piers in the river very objectionable .
Telford proposed a new design, which used one arch instead of three. He argued that one arch would free the river of impediment and reduce the liability of damage from navigation vessels. Telford wrote in 1823:
“Looking therefore to this bridge, over such a fine navigable river, passing through a beautiful valley, at a proper distance from an ancient town, with its immediately adjacent scenery, and having the Malvern Hills in the distance, it seems not presuming too much to assert, that the picture will not suffer by comparison with any other which can be selected.”
The trustees approved Telford’s proposal and work commenced .
Before the bridge was finished, it was apparent that Moneypenny had neglected to acquaint himself with the nature of the riverbed, incorrectly estimated the expense required to construct the adjoining roads, and entirely omitted other specifications required for such a project to be aptly delivered.
An additional £16,000 was required to complete Telford’s design and so a new act of Parliament was required however, it was delayed. As a last resort, a nearby resident called Thomas Taylor agreed to advance the required amount to complete the bridge providing he had priority of payment and another act of Parliament as a guarantee. The bridge ended up costing over £35,000 (£3.5 million in 2019) compared with the original estimate of £20,700 .
1826 – Mythe Bridge opened on 12th May and in a few years, the trustees found that the toll receipts were insufficient to pay the legal amount of interest. The route carried by the bridge had no sufficient merit to attract the long traffic between Hereford and London, as contemplated by the initial promoters. The heavy tolls also were too much for the local growers of agricultural produce when delivering to their markets . The tolls averaged about £450 per annum, of which £84 a year came from foot passengers only.
1891 – The trustees of the bridge sold their interest, and the bridge became county property and free to use .
1923 – The bridge decking remained in the condition laid by Telford until this year when the decking was strengthened by a concrete slab .
1952 – The bridge is listed as a Grade II* structure .
1990 – A 7.5 ton weight limit accompanied by a restriction to single-line traffic was imposed following a comprehensive assessment of its structural capacity .
1992 – The bridge was rehabilitated by strengthening overstressed compressive members with steel plates, which were bonded to the cast iron using epoxy resin, and additional vertical and plan bracings were installed . As a result, its capacity was increased to 17 tons, which was essential for the Tewkesbury fire brigade to cover the villages on the other side of the Severn . The roadway is now reduced to carrying single file traffic and has traffic lights at either end to control the flow of vehicles.
The bridge has now been placed by Historic England on the Heritage at Risk register detailing slow decay with no agreed solution .
2021 – The bridge is featured in the Tewkesbury Festival of Lights, which commemorated the 900th anniversary of Tewkesbury Abbey. It was a delightful display of light and imagery inside the abbey and we were pleasantly surprised to see the Mythe Bridge included as part of the show, which included other major milestones in the history of Tewkesbury.
Architecture and dimensions
Mythe Bridge contains a single arch spanning 170 ft (52 m) constructed from cast iron. The arch is supported by six ribs with small X-bracing carrying the diagonal crossed bracing to the spandrels beneath the beam to the roadway and balustrade. There are stone abutments on each bank vaulted with 6 pointed arched tunnels containing stone quoins and separated by attached colonnettes . The purpose of these tunnels is to allow the passage of floodwater.
The stonework and embankment were delivered by contractor Hugh Mc Intosh. The cast-iron was provided by William Hazeldine, of Shrewsbury . The design of Mythe Bridge was replicated again by Telford with the construction of Galton Bridge in 1829.
- Bennett, J. (1830) The History of Tewkesbury. Tewkesbury: James Bennett.
- (1867) ‘The Mythe Severn Bridge (From The Rushley Measdows)’, Longdon, Bushley, Queenhill And Holdfast Almanack And Year-Book, p. 3.
- (1893) ‘The Mythe Bridge’, Longdon, Bushley, Queenhill And Holdfast Almanack And Year-Book. Tewkesbury: J. Garrison, p. 1.
- Tilly, G. (2002) Conservation of Bridges. London: Spon Press.
- Historic England (2020) Mythe Bridge, A438, Tewkesbury. Available at: https://historicengland.org.uk/advice/heritage-at-risk/search-register/list-entry/372790 (Accessed: 16 December 2020).
- Historic England (2020) Mythe Bridge. Available at: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1282810 (Accessed: 16 December 2020).
- Cragg, R. (1997) Civil Engineering Heritage Wales and West Central England. London: Thomas Telford Publishing.