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Countess Wear Bridge

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Countess Wear Bridge
Location Map ( geo)
A379, Countess Wear - Geograph - 1370109.jpg
The Bascule Bridge over the canal
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Bridge Road, Countess Wear
Highway Authority
Opening Date
(Exe Bridge:) 1774, 1842, 1938 (Canal Bridges:) 1821, 1879, 1893, 1936, 1972
On road(s)
Crossings related to the A379

Countess Wear Bridge is on the original Exeter Bypass replaced in part by the M5. There are three bridges at this location including two over the Exeter Canal and one for the River Exe.

The bridge was originally classified as part of the A378. When the bypass was built, it used the bridge instead of any new construction, becoming part of the A38 and a notorious bottleneck. Today, with the arrival of the M5, it has now lost its primary status and is one of the spurs of the A379 around Exeter.

The old Arch Bridge

Originally built between 1771 and 1774, the old arch bridge across the River Exe consisted of 7 spans of similar size - around 25 feet each. In 1842 the central span, and the one to its east, were demolished and replaced with a single span of about 60 feet. The reason for this is unclear. However, the widening of the bridge in 1938 to over 3 times its original width was for a very obvious reason. The substantial increase in traffic, especially with the new Exeter bypass crossing the bridge, necessitated a much wider road deck. This was achieved by constructing a matching series of arches on the downstream side, with stonework fronting a reinforced concrete structure behind.

The Canal Bridges

Lying a few hundred metres to the east of the River Exe is the Exeter Canal, which must also be crossed by the A379. Today there are two bridges spanning the canal, one for each carriageway. The older bridge is the Swing Bridge, which dates from the construction of the bypass in 1936, and replaces a series of earlier swing bridges on the same site. Indeed, it is the longest lived of all of the canal bridges in this location, with its predecessors suffering variously from being badly balanced, too low (and so prone to flooding) or just not big enough.

The westbound carriageway is carried by the newest of all the bridges at Countess Wear, and is a Bascule Bridge, which lifts rather than swings. Built in 1972, just a few short years before the M5 arrived to relieve it, the bridge is built partly from Aluminium to reduce the weight.


Countess Wear Bridge
Related Pictures
View gallery (1)
A379, Countess Wear - Geograph - 1370109.jpg
Crossings of the Rivers Exe and Barle
River ExeExe Head Bridge • Exford Bridge • Hele Bridge • Exebridge • Stuckeridge Bridge • North Devon Link Road Bridge • Kennedy Way Bridge • Exe Bridge (Tiverton) •
Great Western Way Bridge • Bickleigh Bridge • Cowley Bridge • Exe Bridges • Countess Weir Bridge • Exe Viaduct
River BarleGoat Hill Bridge • Tarr Steps • Dulverton Bridge

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