Canal Bridge Number 12

Grand Union Canal: Bridge Number 12
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Nigel Cox –

Bridge number 12 is a small bridge with very little traffic. It connects what is now known as Brewhouse Lane to the cottages at the other side of the canal including the Crown and Anchor cottages, and is known as New Bridge. On 11 March 1987 the bridge was listed as a Grade II listed structure with Historic England for its special architectural or historic interest. The record states that it was built in the early 1800s from brick, stone, and cast-iron. There are cambered cast-iron beams on stone supports, brick piers and parapets, with coped stone piers to the approaches. Also of note are the 3 iron ties to beams and 4 shallow brick barrel vaults to underside. On the tow path side there are iron posts to either angle of pier.

Ordnance Survey, Six-inch to the mile, England and Wales 1842-1952 Northamptonshire XXXVI.SE (includes: Long Buckby; Norton; Whilton.) Published 1884. (my addition of a label) Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC-BY-NC-SA)

The bridge originally would have been built to access the wharf by foot or cart on the tow path side of the canal, where the boatbuilders John and George Watson had their businesses. During the 1840s that area became a brickyard with the later addition of limekilns, owned by John Thompson, who was also a coal merchant. A wharf, or at least an unloading area, remained at that part of the canal for the boats to load and unload coal, bricks and stone for the Thompson family – John wasn’t the only Thompson in the coal merchant trade.

The bridge also allowed cart access to the Crown and Anchor public house for the brewery to deliver their goods. As the years progressed, dwelling houses were built, eventually the brickyard and wharf closed and the Crown and Anchor was turned into two cottages. The small listed bridge remains the only vehicular access for the residents on the tow path side of the canal.

The bridge has been a constant in the ever moving life of Long Buckby Wharf for 200 years – if only it could tell us what it’s seen! Businesses coming and going, children growing up and starting their own families (5 generations of my family would have walked across this bridge), the ebb and flow of people, the rise and fall of the canal industry from working horse drawn boats through to steam powered ones and then to a leisure industry, the change from horse and cart to motor vehicles, and, unfortunately, the tragedies of the canal.

As a listed structure now, this little bridge is protected from development or major change and will hopefully have at least another 200 years of history ahead of it.

*Updated to include the remedial works that have taken place. Daventry District Council holds records of all planning applications that are available for public inspection and through this I have found that the bridge has been inspected twice in recent years. In June 2003 a Principal Inspection took place and found that the brickwork of the abutments and parapet wall needed to be cleaned and repointed, and the cast ironwork to be cleaned and painted. A later inspection in December 2017 found that the entire east (towpath side) parapet needed to be rebuilt along with other minor brick repairs and pointing. Because the bridge is listed, special care was taken with this work – where possible the original bricks had to be reused and any new ones needed to match existing bricks. The mortar had to be as like as the original as well. All bricks and the mortar had to be inspected by the local heritage advisor before the work started. A missing bridge number sign also had to be replaced, matching the style of nearby bridges. The documents include photographs and plans which are copyright restricted so I am unable to share them here, but can all be seen on the Council website.*

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