Summit Bridge is a road bridge spanning the old BCN Main Line canal in Smethwick. It is an original example of Georgian brick engineering before the advent of cast iron as a popular construction material.
|Maintained by||Canal & River Trust|
Smethwick Galton Bridge – 230 m
What is the best way to enjoy this attraction?
This attraction is best enjoyed as part of the Galton Valley Trail.
There isn’t much detail walking over the top of the bridge and the view is not as spectacular as the neighbouring Galton Bridge. For the best view, head down the steps next to the southern end to the BCN Old Main line below.
Turn left, walk under the Summit Rail Bridge (completed in 1869), stop a bit further on and turn around. The view towards the north-west face of Summit Bridge through the neighbouring railway bridge reveals a delightful trio of arches representing the Georgian, Victorian and Post-war eras.
Summit Bridge crosses the BCN Old Main Line canal, which can be quite muddy during the colder months, so a pair of suitable walking boots are highly recommended.
How long does it take to see this attraction?
Summit Bridge will take around 10 minutes if you are planning to enjoy the view through the rail bridge.
How do I get to this attraction?
Smethwick Galton Bridge railway station is a 5-minute walk from Summit 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.
History of Summit Bridge
1769 – The BCN Main Line was originally constructed between Birmingham and the coalfields next to Wednesbury and West Bromwich. The canal had to cross a hill at Smethwick, which it originally did so via a series of locks at either side of the summit. It became clear the canal was inadequate to meet the unexpected demand that followed.
1790 – The construction of cutting was completed according to the design of John Smeaton, which reduced the height of the canal and the number of locks. Summit Bridge was built to carry Roebuck Lane over the new cutting . The embankment at the side of the bridge roughly marks the original height of the Smethwick summit at 491ft (150m) before it was lowered by Smeaton to the current level of 473ft (144m).
1970s – The new Summit Tunnel that carries Telford Way was built adjacent to the south-east face of Summit Bridge. This photo of the bridge in 1926 displays a view that is no longer possible thanks to the construction of this modern route.
2007 – The bridge is listed as a Grade II* structure .
Summit Bridge continues to carry traffic to this day, albeit not as much since the construction of the new dual carriageway. It is a testament to the skill and high-quality craft delivered by Smeaton and other engineers during the Industrial Revolution. The structure is over 230 years old and it still carries modern HGVs accessing the adjacent industrial estate. Even its counterpart Galton Bridge was closed to road traffic and it’s 39 years younger, not bad for an old timer!
This bridge is made from red brick with brick copings and a sandstone keystone. There are protruding brick pilasters, a double string course, and curving flanking abutments with short protruding end piers . On the north-western face, there is a cast iron plaque with the Roman numerals ‘MDCCXC’ which reads ‘1790’.
- Baggs, A. P. et al. (1976) ‘Smethwick: Communications’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 17, Offlow Hundred (Part), pp. 96-98. Ed. Greenslade, M. W. Available at: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/staffs/vol17/pp96-98 (Accessed: 6 December 2020).
- Historic England (2020) Summit Bridge. Available at: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1391875 (Accessed: 6 December 2020).