Short history of Coldstream Bridge
A SHORT HISTORY OF COLDSTREAM BRIDGE
On passing over the bridge at Coldstream from the village of Cornhill we pass over one of the first bridges over the Tweed built in 1763. A committee was formed to oversee the project from both side’s of the Border, George Ballie of Jerviswood, James Kerr of Morrison, David Gavin, of Langton, Henry Collingwood of Cornhill, Sir John Paterson of Eccles, Francis Blake of Twizell and James Pringle of the Lees.
Robert Ried from Haddington was appointed overseer he first opened a Quarry on the boundary of Lord Home and Mr Pringles estate. (This I think would be at the top of Duns road below Quarry cottage). Many local tradesmen were used along with twelve soldiers from the Northumberland Militia who were from Berwick on Tweed. It was almost a year before the famous engineer Smeeton was called in for advice. He was sent a copy of the plans; he returned them with various suggestions for minor improvements but no major alterations. The Earl of home laid the foundation stone on 18th May 1762 on the south side.
Smeaton made a trip to Coldstream on the 26th July to give his general approval to the work on the southern abutment and the first pier which was built on rock .He also made some improvements to Reids plan flattening the whole structure by levelling the approach roads and reducing the steep rises at each end. He also introduced the diagonal approach road at the north end. Which it is responsible for the great number of motor accidents over the years until they put lights up at the Marriage house. It now forms the main road onto the town.
On the 28th October 1765 though much work was still to be done the bridge opened for carriages and foot passengers, defrauding the ferryman John Henderson his living. The ferry crossing was above the bridge below the Ford.
On the 6th April 1767 it was decided to make the bridge a toll bridge as it was over budget.
Robert Ried constructed the tollhouse at bridge level at a cost of £27.00, immediately below it from the riverbank upwards he built a two-story house. John Henderson the ferryman was appointed the first toll-gatherer.
Though the bridge has need constant repair and maintenance there has been few major repairs. The cauld was built a few years after the bridge to stop erosion, as the middle and north pier were built on gravel this was a major improvement. In 1828 the spandrels were taken down and the gravel removed. It was causing the walls of the bridge to bulge. In 1960-61 the bridge was widened very intelligently the footpaths were cantilevered out and the parapets were rebuilt in stone.
The bridge has stood soundly against many floods notably those of 1782 1798 and the big flood of 1948 still in living memory when the Market Square was flooded.
Coldstream Bridge is the greatest of John Smeaton’s works to survive unspoiled but the part played in its design and construction by the burgh’s unsung hero, Robert Reid, must not be forgotten. They produced a monument of great strength and beauty. Those who hurry across in cars often overlook it, but it is much loved by the town of Coldstream
Also we must remember the famous bard Robert burns crossed this bridge on ……….
See the plaque that was put up by the Coldstream Burns club in middle of the Bridge.
It is also a very good vantage point to see the salmon in the slap stream.
Facts and figures of the bridge Foundation stone lay 18th May 1763. Bridge opens for traffic 28th October 1766 Total length 458 feet Length between abutments 353 feet 6 inches. Five main spans 58 feet; 60 feet 5 inches; 60 feet 8 inches; 60 feet 5 inches; 58 feet. Two abutments arches 20 feet each width including parapets 25 feet. Width of roadway 22 feet. Cost under £6.000.
When Telford was instructed by Parliament in1820 to survey the road from Edinburgh to London, it was found that the A697 road through Coldstream was fourteen miles shorter than the A1. So a by pass was proposed for Coldstream, straight on over the bridge passed Castle Law loop back on to the 697 at Greenlaw. Only a fraction of this proposal was ever carried out. Telford did achieve something. He found the toll was only to be on the bridge until the debt was paid off. Therefore, a substantial amount was over paid. He got the toll abolished.