Maidenhead Bridge in 1810. Courtesy Maidenhead Heritage Centre
Maidenhead Heritage Centre is celebrating the history of the town’s bridge this summer, in an exhibition looking at how its construction created a road to prosperity and growth.
The display, running until August 31 2007, comes at an apt time as August 22 marks the 230th anniversary of the current stone bridge. The elegant arched structure replaced a series of wooden bridges that had provided a crossing over the river since about 1250.
The bridge was the making of the town, with revenue raised from tolls and plenty of coaching trade arriving in the town along the Bath Road.
“The bridge is to Maidenhead as the castle is to Windsor,” said Richard Poad, chairman of the Heritage Centre. “Without it the town would never have existed.”
“The bridge is a Grade I listed building and after 230 years is still going strong. It is a worthy symbol of Maidenhead, much used for local logos and appearing on souvenir items which can be found at the Heritage Centre.”
The bridge in 1780. Courtesy Maidenhead Heritage Centre
The wooden bridge was repaired many times during its lifetime, and was reputedly broken down on purpose during the Civil War. For its repair, Maidenhead Corporation was blessed with a right to oaks from Windsor Forest. The bridge had 85 wooden piles, spanning the river just upstream of the present bridge.
The stone bridge, with its 13 arches, was designed by architect Robert Taylor. It took five years to build and cost £15,741.
It was a time of great prosperity for Maidenhead, with coaching inns and other businesses in the High Street booming. A new Guildhall was also built at the same time.
Tolls were collected on the bridge until 1903.
Detailed copies of original plans for Maidenhead Bridge, from Berkshire Record Office, are on show, together with paintings and other images of the bridge – a popular subject for local artists.
Also on display are sections of the timber piles from the wooden bridge, dating from 550 to 250 years ago.