|Location Map ( geo)|
|From:||Bath City Centre|
|Bath and North East Somerset|
There are those who probably feel that this bridge doesn't deserve to be mentioned on a website dedicated to roads, but in the history of bridges in the UK, it is one of the most important, not to mention famous, of the pre-Victorian structures still standing.
William Pulteney and Bathwick
William Pulteney was an important man in Georgian Bath. He owned a lot of land in the surrounding area, most notably the vast Bathwick Meadows. These were primarily flood plain for the River Avon, and frequently became waterlogged in the winter months. However, William had grand plans to create a 'new town' to rival that of the Wood's on the west side of the city. It was, nevertheless, twenty years after the bridge opened before the plans for Bathwick became a reality.
The biggest problem he had was the River Avon. It lay between his land and the highly fashionable city centre, with bridges to the north and south only. His grand scheme needed a new bridge, and so he set about getting one built. However, he didn't want just any old bridge, he wanted a spectacular bridge, one which everyone would talk about, and one which would provide a seamless link from his new town to the city. The bridge was designed by Robert Adam.
The first thing that people notice when crossing Pulteney Bridge, as you probably already know, is that you can't see the River. This is the 'seamless link', a bridge lined with shops so that the new residents of Bathwick were firmly linked to the city itself. The architecture is classical, with pediments, pilasters and tiny leaded domes at either end. The shops are not deep - ten to twelve feet, and the roadway not especially wide, but when opened in 1770 it was a revelation, so different from the inhabited medieval London Bridge, and indeed any other bridge in the country.
As suggested above, Pulteney bridge is really quite small. Below the roadway, there are three archways spanning the river, and remarkably the area between the arches is cellar space for the shops above. The road itself is closed to most traffic, but in order to help the flow of traffic in this crowded city, buses taxis and bikes can still cross. However, the large concrete bollards that formerly restricted traffic have now been removed.
The bridge has two facades, the very familiar public one which overlooks the weir to the south, and the more private northern facade which is still adorned with the projecting timber structures which provide additional space for the shops on the bridge. In Victorian times, both sides looked like this, but thankfully the southern face was later restored to its former glory.
The final point of interest is that on the city side of the river, the row of shops is shorter on the southern side than the northern side. This is to facilitate movement around the junction into Grand Parade, whilst closing the gap to the existing terrace (now long gone) on the northern side.