Market Place & Queen Victoria Memorial c.1903

Northbrook Street c.1906

Cheap Street c.1900

Newbury Bridge

Newbury Bridge is a well-known landmark along the Kennet and Avon Canal, it has been the feature of many paintings and photographs over time. The first known bridge that was built across the River Kennet during the period of the Middle Ages. The earliest reference of the wooden bridge is of it being reconstructed during the 14th Century, using wood cut down from trees to the south of Newbury at Wash Common.

5th February 1623 The wooden bridge at the south side of Northbrook Street was 30ft in length and 20ft wide and had shops on it spanning the River Kennet. The bridge suddenly collapsed and fell in to the River. A letter was sent to the Clerk of the Council to the Prince of Wales, the owner of Newbury Manor asking for a contribution of around £40-50 toward repairing Newbury Bridge. Without Newbury Bridge, travelling from one side of the town the other meant that the only way people would be able to cross the river, was a mile long diversion.

the bridge at newbury c.1792
The Bridge at Newbury c.1792

1644 During the Second Battle of Newbury, the Royalist placed a guard on Newbury Bridge to stop an attack from the south of the town.

1683 During the winter months there was a server frost, the River Kennet became frozen for many weeks. When the weather finally warmed up during the new year, the town suffered flooding as the Kennet thawed out.

1723 The River Kennet was made navigable through to the River Thames at Reading, the river was known as Kennet Navigation.

1726 Newbury Bridge was swept away by floods, another wooden bridge was later constructed.

1769 The wooden bridge with timber framed houses over hanging the river on either side was demolished. A new triple arched bridge was built by Mr James Clark out of stone and brick, the first stone was laid on 28th July. It would take three years to complete, at a cost of over £700. Each arch is supported by pilasters, the two outer arches were used as a storage area for the adjacent buildings. Over time the two outer aches of the bridge have become incorporated in the adjoining Georgian buildings, leaving only the centre arch visible.

1794 The Kennet Navigation extension to Bath was started, and would be completed in 1810 and become the Kennet & Avon Canal. Barges would now be able to travel from London to Bristol. Due to the bridge pre-dating the canal, there is no towpath under the bridge. Barges were horse-drawn, and would tie up just before the bridge. The horse was then taken to the other side of the bridge, the towrope was attached to a float and floated back under the bridge to be reattached to the barge. Over time, groves have been worn by hauling lines under bridge, they can still be seen in present times.

newbury bridge with damage from a hovis lorry c.1928
Newbury Bridge with damage from a Hovis Lorry c.1928

1904 The pair of Victorian globe lights in the centre of the bridge were replaced by street lights, they would be removed during the 1940s.

1920 The tops of the wooden piles that supported the main arch had rotted away, the bridges foundations were strengthened with a concrete inverted arch.

1928 The bridge was involved in a road traffic accident when a Hovis lorry drove into the east side of the bridge, resulting in seven of the balusters falling in to the Canal.

1940 During the second world war, the military were aware that the Newbury Bridge if bombed as a key point by the German Luftwaffe would be a problem being that it was on the main route through the town. Another bridge was built out of large girders (originally made for the Maidenhead by-pass that was put on hold) just east along the Kennet & Avon Canal, the new bridge would be known locally as the American Bridge.

29th September 1950 Newbury Bridge became a Grade II Monument by English Heritage (List entry No.1290920).

1970s Bridge Street became one-way to traffic, traffic lights installed at the south end of Northbrook Street and the north end of Batholomews Street.

newbury bridge across the kennet and avon canal c.1904
Newbury Bridge across the Kennet & Avon Canal c.1904