The destruction of many of Worcestershire's ancient bridges in the first half of the 19th century on the grounds that they were not suited to the modern day traffic at that time, was disastrous. Many were of great historical interest, and of great beauty, but the County authority, whose duty it was to maintain them have in the past been induced either to destroy them and build a new bridge, or to transform the old one so that it bears little resemblance to the original. Only very recently can it be said that much attention has been given to the need to preserve bridges as part of our heritage, or even to consider the environmental setting of the design of the new bridges. This is generally done today, and some of the recent bridges are very fine indeed and worthy of a place with the old, whilst others are a monstrosity.
In 1902, the County Council caused a list of bridges then existing in the county to be made. There were then nearly a thousand bridges, 944 to be exact, but the transfer of the parishes of Yardley, Kings Norton, Northfield and Quinton to Birmingham in 1911, the number was somewhat reduced. Even then, it was estimated that out of around 900 bridges, there were less than 50 of antiquarian interest. Many of these have now gone.
Mr Willis Bund, who was Chairman of the County Highways and Bridges Committee for some 40 years, wrote in 1920, an invaluable paper on the Bridges of Worcestershire, deploring the loss of the old bridges, but even he had no word of appreciation for the iron bridges of the 19th century.
Since them, we have come to a wider appreciation of our environment. Today, Pershore Old Bridge, Powick and Eckington Bridges are now scheduled as ancient monuments. Other bridges, such as Telford's iron bridges over the Severn, are now acknowledged to be both beautiful and historic.
The First Bridges
Originally there were no bridges, and the streams and rivers were crossed by fords and ferries. The danger of crossing in floods, or at night and the inconvenience of waiting for the ferry led to the building of bridges. At first a crossing was y stepping stones, then a footbridge at the side of a ford, the horseman or cart still using the ford; then over the most-used crossings a wooden bridge wide enough to take a cart was built. In the 14th and 15th centuries the most important of the wooden ridge were replaced by stone bridge.