Historic bridge reopens two weeks after lorry crash

An ancient bridge in Mid Devon is reopening two weeks after it sustained significant damage when a lorry crashed into it.

Bickleigh Bridge, on the A396 near Tiverton, was shut early on Tuesday, May 18, when a large lorry collided with it after trying to negotiate the narrow structure.

The lorry was stuck in the hours after the crash, while engineers assessed the bridge to see if there was major structural damage.

There had been concerns it would be shut for three weeks, but workers were able to make repairs and it is reopening today (Monday, May 31).

The bridge had been closed to traffic since the accident, although pedestrians and cyclists have been allowed access. The same day, engineers assessed the damage and a scaffold was erected within 24 hours to allow repairs to begin.

The damage to the bridge
The damage to the bridge
(Image: Lewis Clarke)

Stone masons have been working every day in all weathers to repair the bridge as soon as possible so that the busy main road can be reopened. Despite the dreadful weather conditions in the first week progress on the repairs went well, and the road will open sooner than anticipated.

As with repairs to all Devon County Council-owned historic bridges – Devon has the largest number of highway bridges in the UK at 3215 – lime mortar has been used to rebuild the masonry elements. The original stone and copings were retrieved from the river below for reuse.

The repairs have included re-building the spandrel wall, which supports the arch fill and is a structural element, and the parapet wall.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council’s cabinet member for highways management, said: “I understand that while the damage looked extensive, the integrity of what is a very strong and well-built bridge was not affected.

“There was no damage to the main load bearing arch and the speed of which the bridge is to be reopened is a testament to the hard work and professionalism of our engineers and contractors.”

More than £130,000 has been spent in recent years on repairs to the historic and ancient bridge, which was originally built in the late 16th century.

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It was largely rebuilt in 1809 after flood damage, but the bridge cannot accommodate more than a single lane of modern day traffic and has no pavement for pedestrians, which has led to the recurrent damage being caused.

The cost of this latest collision is not known, but a Freedom of Information Request to Devon County Council, which was submitted last year, revealed that the bridge repair history costs for Bickleigh Bridge over the last 15 years – from 2005 until August 2020 – totalled £133,440.

Devon Live – Devon News