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Devon County

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Before the opening of the road bridge linking Shaldon with Teignmouth, travellers had the choice of making a crossing by the foot ferry or, if they had horses or a vehicle, of making a detour of some 12 to 14 miles, going down-river to the outskirts of Newton Abbot then turning back and returning on the opposite bank.

Shaldon Bridge c.1932

View over Shaldon Village and the Bridge c.1932

In 1827, the Shaldon Bridge Company opened a new bridge and, at the same time, purchased the ferry rights from Lord Clifford. The bridge they built is not the one in the picture above.

The very first bridge was made of wood and was designed and built by Roger Hopkins. It was claimed at the time to be the longest wooden bridge in England with a length of 1,632 feet and 34 arches and the second longest bridge in Europe.  It had stone abutments at both ends and a swing bridge at the Teignmouth end to allow passage for tall masts.

This bridge lasted a relatively short time; in 1838 it collapsed and upon examination the whole structure was found to be riddled with shipworm.

Shaldon Bridge 1838

Shaldon Bridge in 1838
Courtesy Devon County Council

Between 1838 and 1840 a new stone bridge was built and in spite of the nature of its exposed position, remained in use until 1893 when, it was closed again to be completely refurbished. This bridge remained in use until the 1920s but by then the nature of the traffic crossing the river had changed completely. The pedestrians, horses and riders and small carts and wagons of the 19th century had been replaced by cars, lorries and motor buses.

In 1926, an Act of Parliament was passed, enabling widening and strengthening and this was finally completed in 1931 when a new 324 metre-long structure was opened consisting of four concrete-encased girders spanning concrete piers supporting a reinforced concrete deck. After World War 2, traffic increased in volume and individual vehicles carried heaver loads so a weight restriction was imposed.

An examination of the structure in 1998 revealed serious defects affecting the safety of the bridge and the decision was taken to strengthen the fixed spans, widen the carriageway and strengthen the lifting span at the Teignmouth end. Work was finally completed at the end of 2002, and so important had the bridge become to life in the area, that it was open to one-way traffic throughout the whole period of its refurbishment - something of an achievement for the engineers.

Shaldon Bridge Tollhouse

The original toll house remains at the Teignmouth end of the bridge.

Permission to take tolls from the users of the bridge was granted by Act of Parliament in the 1830s and collection continued until the middle of the twentieth century.

The original list of tolls is now housed in Teignmouth Museum.

The Toll House, Shaldon Bridge

© Richard J. Brine

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