Tag Archives: bridge

Wandering: Arundel to Littlehampton (Part Two)

12 Apr

Although Ford was the midway point of our walk we didn’t feel compelled to stop. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be worth stopping, as there are several interesting things to see.

Train crossing Ford railway bridge

I have already mentioned the busy railway bridge, just beyond this is a jetty with moorings for variety of small craft, and a little bit further down the river is a small flotilla of house boats.

Boats on the River Arun

To be honest there wasn’t a lot of activity on the river, we were passed by four or five small boats, but clearly the boating season hasn’t got into full swing yet. Since leaving Arundel it was obvious however that we were getting nearer the sea, by the widening of the river, something that we hadn’t noticed north of Arundel.

Ford church

Ford itself is perhaps best known for it’s prison and it’s market, but for those with an interest in family history there is the small parish church, just a short distance from the river. Those with an interest in aviation should be aware of the Hawker Hunter which stands guard over the former airfield (too distant for my little camera to do it justice).

Don't get your feet wet!

None of these “attractions” were on our itinerary (but I may well be back another day to take closer look at the church and plane) as we were pressing on to Littlehampton, anxious to get there before it rained or before the river level got any higher and we found ourselves paddling.

The approach to Littlehampton was a little disappointing to be honest. There was an amusing attempt to beautify a sewage works with some paint and daffodils, which made me smile, but still failed to disguise the fact that it was a sewage treatment works.

Sewage works and daffodils

Before long we were within earshot of another busy road and much traffic. The approach to the road bridge was the least picturesque part of the walk, the bank was littered with rubbish, everyday rubbish like bottles and cans, but also heaps of rubble. Such a shame after such a lovely walk up to then.

Littlehampton's gas holder

Beyond the road bridge things picked up somewhat. Immediately beyond the bridge was Littlehampton Marina, which may sound quite pleasant, but it sits opposite an industrial area and the gas holder that we had observed from the start of our walk at Arundel.

Littlehampton has seen a lot of redevelopment over the past couple of decades, and although we didn’t spend a lot of time in the town (long enough for chips and ice cream though) what I saw of it was very nice, another place I really ought to get to know better.

Littlehampton Harbour

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Wandering: Arundel to Littlehampton (Part One)

10 Apr

Last Saturday the conditions were very similar to the previous Saturday (when my wife and I walked from Amberley to Arundel) when we returned to Arundel to continue our walk along the River Arun to Littlehampton on the West Sussex coast.

It was mostly overcast again, but there were probably a few more breaks in the cloud and it didn’t seem quite so cold as last week. There had been a little rain during the previous week but this had seemingly had little effect on the ground conditions, and the only wet patches were where the river was overflowing (this stretch of the river is tidal and it was high tide).

Technically our walk began at the railway station, but there is little of interest on the short walk into town, apart from the Arundel Lido, which proudly boasts the best value car park in Arundel.

Arundel Castle and Post Office

The real starting point was the bridge crossing the river into the centre of the town and although we were following the river we had to leave its banks almost immediately and make our way through residential streets. It has to be said that they were surprisingly nice streets with some lovely old buildings.

After about ten minutes we were out under the road bridge and back on the western bank of the river and heading out into open country. Ahead of us the countryside was mainly flat as we were heading away from the hills of the South Downs towards the sea.

The River Arun (heading south to Littlehampton)

For a long time the only real landmark ahead was the gas holder at Littlehampton, little more than a rectangle on the horizon. Behind us however was still Arundel with its rows of houses, church, cathedral and castle layered upon the side of the hill.

As we were walking away from Arundel we had to keep turning around to witness the town shrinking and disappearing into the greyness. The wonderful thing about the meandering course of the river is that every time we turned round Arundel was in a slightly different place.

Arundel and the River Arun

Occasionally the sun broke through the cloud, but these sunny spells were short-lived, although one break in the cloud did allow the sun to spotlight a row of houses in the town. Perhaps it would have been more spectacular if it had spotlighted the church or cathedral, but it was nevertheless an inspiring sight to witness.

Ford railway bridge

The midway point of our walk was the railway bridge at Ford, about 2¾ miles from Arundel. After a couple of miles of near solitude on the banks of the river Ford brought with it a flurry of activity. Although Ford does not have a particularly large railway station it is on the busy coastway line, with trains coming from the north (Arundel), south (Littlehampton), east (Brighton) and west (Chichester) and beyond.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Wandering: Amberley to Arundel (Part Two)

3 Apr

After visiting North Stoke Church we walked back up the road and continued on the footpath south to rejoin the River Arun at South Stoke. The reason for leaving the river bank in the first place was so that I could cross the Gurka Suspension Bridge (as it is named on the OS map) between North and South Stoke.

The name suspension bridge conjures up images of mightly road or railway bridges, but this is a smaller version, crossing a tributry of the river, which after the recent dry weather didn’t really warrant such an elaborate bridge, but I am sure in wetter years it is essential.

Gurkha Bridge

The bridge was constructed in 2009 by The Queen’s Gurkha Engineers (which explains how it got its name) to replace the previous structure which had been damaged by a falling tree. It’s not really the sort of thing you would expect to come across during a walk in the Sussex countryside, but it is a wonderful piece of engineering nevertheless.

I was particularly pleased to cross it because it was the absence of a bridge here a few years ago that forced me to take a diversion which seemingly added a couple of miles to my walk, although in truth it probably wasn’t that much further.

South Stoke Bridge

After crossing the bridge the footpath lead us back to the river bank near South Stoke and another reasonably new bridge, and much more functional than the Gurkha bridge, as witnessed by the herd of cattle that were driven over it shortly after we had crossed it.

South Stoke Church

We were now of the western side of the river and had a pretty much clear run to the town of Arundel now. We didn’t stop at South Stoke Church, it is a lovely church, with a fantastic steeple, but one that I visited last time I was walking here.

River and Railway

It was now just a case of following the river as it flowed towards Arundel, the railway line was also following the river and our walk was often interrupted by passing trains. As a lover of trains (both old and new) this wasn’t a problem for me, but some may not be so keen on these intruders disturbing the tranquil natural landscape.

Arundel Castle

Eventually the bulky outline of Arundel Castle appeared on the skyline, rising above the surrounding countryside and the town itself which was still mostly hidden behind trees. We were still some way off the town, with still a couple of miles to go along the river (although probably nearer a mile if we had taken the road directly into town).

When we arrived in the town it was lunchtime and despite the fact that we had only been walking for a couple of hours it seemed a long time since breakfast and we were only too pleased to find a pub and take the weight off our feet and relax over lunch.

Arundel is a great town for antique shops (and a rather good bookshop) and in general has a diverse selection of shops, although due to the presence of the castle it is probably more geared towards the tourist these days.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Finding the Broken Bridge: Part One

13 Sep

One of the key sources in finding the location of the bridge where the accident that nearly cost Thomas KINGHORN his life took place has been a book called The Manchester and Glasgow Road: Vol 2 by Charles George Harper. Published by Chapman & Hall Ltd, London in 1907 it is now available for download on Internet Archive.

Chapter 34 of the book describes the road leading up to the bridge, albeit from the opposite direction from which the mail coach was travelling on that fateful night:

The old Glasgow road, that goes up from Moffat past Meikleholmside, and so across Ericstane Muir, is everything a road should not be. It is steep, narrow, exposed, and rugged, and, except as an object-lesson in what our ancestors had to put up with, is a very undesirable route and one in which no one would wish to find himself. It has not even the merit of being picturesque.

Further along the road things did improve, apparently due to the efforts of Thomas Telford:

The road that Telford made continues onward from Beattock in more suave fashion. It follows the glen of Evan Water for nine miles, and the three of them-road, river, and Caledonian Railway-go amicably side by side under the hills, to Beattock Summit and down to Elvanfoot, where the Elvanfoot Inn of other days now stands as a shooting-lodge.

Finally the author describes the bridge where the accident happened:

Elvanfoot Bridge, that carries the road over the Evan (i.e. Avon) Water, looks down upon a pretty scene of rushing stream, boulders, and ferns, or "furruns," as a Scotsman would enunciate the word.

It all sound quite picturesque and the author even includes a sketch of the scene:

The Broken Bridge

Of course if you have read my earlier blog posts (like this one) you will know that on the night of the 25th October 1808 the bridge gave way and sent the mail coach, passengers, driver, guard and horses plummeting into the swollen river below.

The author describes the incident in some detail, although it is not clear where he got his information from, or whether it can be relied on, although the facts do pretty much tie-up with the newspaper reports. This uncertainty is a shame because the book provides an excellent piece of evidence for the exact location of the bridge:

For many years the bridge was not properly mended, funds being scarce on these roads; and the mail, slowing for it, lost five minutes on every journey. The part that fell may still be traced by the shorter lime stalactites hanging from the repaired arch. It is still known as "Broken Bridge," in addition to "Milestone Brig," from the milestone on it, marking the midway distance between Carlisle and Glasgow: "Carlisle 47 1/2 miles. Glasgow 47 miles."

That milestone would be the key to finding the location of the bridge, in the days before detailed Ordnance Survey maps and long before GPS it is a fixed point on a certain route (the road between Glasgow and Carlisle) and even if it wasn’t there now it would probably be shown on earlier maps. If all else failed I could resort to tracing the route on a map and measuring the distance.

More about Thomas KINGHORN’s “dreadful accident”

9 Sep

Long time readers of my blog might remember me writing about my 4x great grandfather Thomas KINGHORN and the accident he was involved in whilst working as a guard on the mail coaches.

I haven’t given up on the idea of finding out more about Thomas KINGHORN and the accident. Ideally I would like to be able to find out where the accident occurred so that one day I will be able to go and visit the spot where my 4x great-grandfather nearly lost his life.

Having recently joined the Surrey library service I have been able to take advantage of free access to the 19th Century British Library Newspaper Collection. I had previously found a brief mention of the “dreadful accident” in The Times newspaper and it seems the story was widely reported across the country.

The source of the various different articles appears to have been a report from Moffat, Dumfriesshire, Scotland which was possibly first published in the Carlisle Journal, which is not part of the collection, but it does appear to have been reprinted, possibly in full, in the Caledonian Mercury.

The report in the Caledonian Mercury (published in Edinburgh, Scotland) on the 29th October 1808 contains much useful additional information, naming several of the key figures involved in the rescue who are not mentioned in any of the other reports as far I am aware.

MOFFAT, Oct. 26.-We had yesterday a most dreadful storm of wind and rain, and the rivers in the neighbourhood came down in torrents, such as have never been seen by the oldest people here. Among other damage occasioned by it, we are sorry to state that a shocking accident has happened to the mail coach from Glasgow to Carlisle. At the bridge over the river Avon, about nine miles from this, at Howcleuch, betwixt nine and ten o’clock last night, the coach had just got about half way over, when the bridge gave way in the middle of the arch, and the coach, passengers, horses, &c. were instantly precipitated in the river, a fall of about 30 feet. There were four inside and two outside passengers. The two outside passengers, and two of the horses were killed upon the spot, and the other passengers made a miraculous escape with their lives; though we are sorry to say they were all very considerably hurt. The coachman and guard were also much hurt; the former had his arm broken, and was otherwise much bruised, and the guard received a severe contusion on the head.

The other coach from Carlisle to Glasgow, was narrowly prevented from falling into the same precipice. It was coming up just about the time the accident happened, and, from the darkness of the night, and the rate the coach necessarily goes at, must inevitably have gone into the river, at the same breach in the arch, had not one of the passengers who escaped given the alarm.
"By the exertion of the coachman and guard of the other coach, the passengers who survived (a lady and three gentlemen) with the coachman and guard, who had fallen into the precipice, were enabled to extricate themselves from the dreadful situation into which they were thrown, and conducted to a place of safety till other assistance was afforded them.

Much praise is due to Mr Rae, the postmaster here, one of the proprietors of the coach, for his exertions and assistance on the occasion. Immediately, on hearing of the accident, he set out, in the middle of the night, with several of his servants and others, in two post chaises, and gave every possible assistance to the passengers, &c. and, by this means, we are happy to say, the London mail and other valuable articles in the coach have been saved.

Mr Clapperton, surgeon, is also entitled to much praise for his ready assistance upon this occasion; and the exertions of John Giddes, one of Mr Rae’s servants, are particularly deserving of notice, who, at the risk of his life, went down into the river with a rope fastened to his body, and saved the life of the lady (one of the passengers) and some of the mail bags, which must otherwise have been carried down the stream.

The coach and harness are completely destroyed. Mr Rae has loft two valuable horses by the accident, and the other two are severely hurt and bruised.

The bodies of the two passengers who were killed, have been found, and have been brought here this morning; they are Mr William Brand, merchant in Ecclefechan, and Mr Lund, of the house of Lund & Toulmin, of Bond-street, London."

As you can see there is much information contained in this report that I need to follow up. Did Mr Rae (the postmaster) or Mr Clapperton (the surgeon) keep a diary? Were any of the rescuers recognised for their bravery?Where were the two victims buried? Were their deaths reported elsewhere?

Then of course there are further questions, such as what were the names of the four passengers that survived? When was the bridge rebuilt and was it’s re-opening reported? and most importantly where exactly was the bridge?

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