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Pulteney Bridge, Bath
Georgian elegance to cross a river
Bridge builders have produced some magnificent ways to cross rivers and seas. Modern engineering has seen some huge bridges built, taking an incredible effort and cost to complete. Today I am taking you to a bridge completed in 1774 in the City of Bath, England - Pulteney Bridge. It’s one of the most charming that you will see.
The bridge crosses the River Avon and connects the city with land owned by the Pulteney family. It was designed by Robert Adam, son of architect William Adam. Robert spent five years studying architecture in Rome, and the influence of that training is shown in the design of the Pulteney Bridge. It is built of limestone in the Palladian style and, like the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, has shops along both sides. There are only four bridges in the world that have shops on both sides. In nearby Frome, you can see the town bridge with shops on one side.
Within twenty years of the bridge opening, alterations were made. Shops were expanded, and facades changed. At the end of the eighteenth century, the bridge had been damaged by floods and had to be rebuilt, but to a similar design. Over the next century, alterations to the shops included cantilevered extensions on the bridge’s north face, the side that few of the public go to see. The extensions are not pretty, looking like a hotchpotch of ground-floor extensions to terraced houses, except these are floating above the river.
To preserve the bridge, only buses and taxis, along with the thousands of pedestrians, are allowed to cross it. Sadly, some shops have become vacant due to the after-effects of Covid and other financial issues affecting businesses.
The bridge is 148 feet (45m) long and 58 feet (18m) wide and is very close to the city centre and a must-see place when you visit Bath. For those that like to know, the cost in 1774 was £11,000, not a figure that you can equate easily into modern costs. The bridge is Grade 1 listed to protect it for future generations.
There are many more wonderful things to see in Bath. Do subscribe to Roland’s Travels as I will be visiting regularly and writing about them.
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