A close inspection of the historic Grade II* listed Coalport Bridge yields many clues to its chequered history.
There are five spans in total: four are short, ranging from 1.8m to 4.4m and are made up of longitudinal cast iron beams topped with cast iron deck plates. The main 32m span over the Severn shows similarities to the world famous Iron Bridge 3km further upstream, but the crossing at Coalport began life as a very different type of structure.
On the faces of the masonry abutments vertical lines of brick infill mark where the vertical wooden members of the original timber bridge stood until the central pier in the river was swept away in the great floods of 1795. A closer look at the five cast iron arch ribs reveals a puzzling and apparently random mix of two distinct styles.
'In fact the ribs now are a mixture of some components for a bridge with a timber deck and a central span supported on three cast iron arch ribs, which was erected in 1800, and later components from 1818 when it was rebuilt as a five rib bridge with a cast iron plate deck, ' explains Shropshire principal bridge engineer John Williams.
'The original timber bridge abutments were still usable. A non-structural concrete deck topping was added in the 1980s, and a one vehicle at a time, two tonne weight limit and height restriction were imposed in 1995 The crossing was tolled until 1922: and the tollhouse at the northern end still stands and is also listed. Unlike the Iron Bridge, the Coalport Bridge has remained open to traffic, albeit with severe weight restrictions.