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Maidenhead Road Bridge
River Thames, Maidenhead, Berkshire, UK
Maidenhead Road Bridge
associated engineer
Sir Robert Taylor
date  October 1772 - 1777
era  Georgian  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  SU900814
ICE reference number  HEW 1881
photo  Jane Joyce
The Georgian masonry road bridge across the Thames at Maidenhead was constructed as a replacement for a nearby medieval timber one. The Buckinghamshire-Berkshire county boundary was altered to ensure the new bridge would fall entirely within Berkshire. Now Grade I listed, the bridge has been credited with bringing prosperity to the town through increased trade.
From about the year 1250, the River Thames at Maidenhead was crossed by a piled timber bridge located slightly upstream of the present bridge site. In 1297, the structure was reported to be "almost broke down”. Regular repairs were carried out between 1298 and 1428, though by 1452 it was said that traffic "cannot cross without peril at certain times of the year through floods and the weakness of the bridge".
In 1530, antiquary John Leland (c.1503-52) wrote of "great warfeage of timbre and fier wood on the west ende of the bridge", presumably intended for repairs. Several episodes of remedial work were undertaken in the 17th century, "the bridge being in great decay". By 1714, it was said to be in a ruinous state and dangerous, despite the “privilege annex’d to it of cutting 3 trees annually from the King’s forest to repair it" (oaks from Windsor forest).
The road bridge that now carries the A4 over the Thames was designed by Sir Robert Taylor (1714-88), architect of the King’s Works. In 1772, a Parliamentary Act was passed for its construction and a contract let to John Townsend of Oxford for £14,500, with a bond for £5,000. The foundation stone was laid in October the same year.
Maidenhead Road Bridge is 144.5m long and 9.1m wide (9.9m wide including its stone parapets), and is composed of 13 semicircular arches. The seven main arches over the river are of Portland stone with rubble fill, varying in span from 10.7m at the centre to 8.7m at the sides. The approach spans, three on either side, are of brick with stone voussoirs and spandrel walls, varying from 6.1m to 4.9m in span. The river spans feature moulded cornices and balustraded parapets. The parapet walls of the approach spans are plain.
The central arch was completed in 1775, and the bridge opened to traffic in 1777. The eventual construction cost recorded varies from £15,741 to £25,000.
Tolls were charged for crossing the bridge until 1903. In 1834, according to parliamentary records, the revenue amounted to £1,245 a year.
In February 1950, the bridge was Grade I listed. Sir Nikolaus Pevsner (1902-83) described it as "Georgian masonry at its best”. It was cleaned and restored in 1977, and the brick soffits of the approach arches rendered in 1991-2.
In 2008-9, repairs and strengthening works to the river spans included an upgrade of the foundations of the river piers to minimise underwater erosion. Eroded stonework was also removed and replaced. Traffic flow was unimpeded as the work was carried out from barges on the river.
Maidenhead Road Bridge continues to carry two lanes of traffic. A 40 tonne vehicle weight limit has been imposed.
Contractor: John Townesend of Oxford
Research: ECPK
"Parliamentary Papers, House of Commons and Command”, H.M. Stationery Office, London, 1834
"Ferries of the Upper Thames” by Joan Tucker, Amberley Publishing Ltd, 2013
reference sources   CEH LondBB

Maidenhead Road Bridge