|Location Map ( geo)|
|1550s, 1808, 1925|
There are a number of bridges spanning the Esk in Musselburgh, but it is the two oldest that we will look at here. A stone bridge is known to have spanned the river in this historic town in the early 16th century, but was destroyed by an English army in 1548. The current Old Bridge is believed to have been built a few years later, financed by Lady Seton, and bares many similarities with Nungate Bridge in nearby Haddington. However, despite having stood for nearly half a millenium, the only substantial change made to the bridge since it was completed is that the approaches have been rebuilt as steps - in the mid 19th Century - to prevent vehicular access.
The old bridge consists of three large, shallow arches, the eastern one a flood arch spanning the river bank meadow. A small island lies on the downstream side of the river pier, although this seems to be as much a result of the deposition of sediment behind the substantial cutwater as a natural feature. The roadway across the bridge varies a little in width, and appears to have been cut back on the west bank to fit the steps in before meeting the street - it is possible that in the past the road dropped directly into Market Street, and that Eskside West is a later addition to the street plan. The courses of the stonework on the bridge show some signs of settlement or subsidence, but this is thought to be original.
The New Bridge lies a short distance downstream of the medieval structure, and dates back to the beginning of the 19th Century. Dates of 1806 and 1808 are associated with the bridge, either giving the start and end dates of construction, or perhaps a date when traffic first crossed, with full completion two years later, which is known elsewhere. It has 5 arches in total spanning the river, although only the middle three normally span water, the two end arches being flood arches over the riverbanks. The bridge was designed by John Rennie and it was remarkable at the time for the almost level roadway, when most bridges had a humped profile, as favoured by Thomas Telford.
The bridge was originally built at approximately 3 times the width of the Old Bridge, but was widened further in 1924/5 by Blyth and Blyth. They took down the stonework from the downstream side, and re-erected it to ensure that the elevation of the bridge remained identical. As with the Old Bridge, small islands have developed on the downstream side of the piers which are protected by semi-circular cut waters. This is possibly a result of the river being tidal almost as far as the bridge, which will regularly result in slow moving water, ideal for the deposition of sediment.