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Civil Engineering heritage: Scotland - Highlands and Islands

Date 2007

Event ID 932210

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account


(Institute Civil Engineers Historic Engineering Works no. HEW 0888)

Bridge of Oich or Victoria Bridge, Aberchalder

This economical suspension bridge over the Oich was erected by James Dredge of Bath in 1850, and tastefully refurbished by Halcrow-Crouch and Morrison Construction for Historic Scotland in 1997, attracting a conservation award from the Saltire Society in 1998 on the recommendation of the Panel for Historical Engineering Works.

The Panel had encouraged Historic Scotland to refurbish the bridge following the sudden demolition of Dredge’s Ness Islands bridges in 1990. Victoria Bridge carried mainroad traffic until bypassed by the present concrete bridge in 1932, after which it ceased to be adequately maintained and was eventually closed.

The bridge has a span of 155 1/2 ft and two main chains 17 ft apart, comprising a series of rods varying from 6 ft– 7 1/2ft in length and 78

in. nominal diameter, which pass over 18 ft high masonry towers to meet at the bridge centre where they are anchored to the deck. At the towers

these chains consist of 12 rods in parallel, reducing progressively in number towards mid-span. A similar arrangement exists on the landward side of the towers, with the chains being anchored below ground level.

Trussed wrought-iron transoms support the decking transversely.

By reducing the cross-sectional area of the main chains towards mid-span and his suspender arrangement, Dredge produced a light and yet strong bridge, almost certainly erected without scaffolding, in ‘barely two

months of workable time. The whole of the ironwork about twenty tons was forged and fitted upon the spot, with the exception of a small portion of metal castings, and the Highlanders in the locality of the bridge, with the

exception of three smiths and a few Aberdeen masons, did the whole of the work; and the bridge was asphalted,painted, gravelled and completed, at less cost than that of a rude timber bridge.’

Dredge constructed 50 bridges of this type from 1837–54 of which this is now the best surviving example in Scotland.

One of his Ness Islands footbridges, Inverness, dismantled in 1988, was re-erected in Whin Park, Inverness, but with its deck propped.

Dredge’s largest span Scottish bridges were over the Clyde at Blantyre and Victoria, Lochaber, Fort William, over the Lochy, which was of 250 ft span and 17 ft wide, replacing the ferry. It was erected in 1849 for a cost of less than £2000, compared with £8000 for a stone bridge, and served for 98 years.

R Paxton and J Shipway, 2007.

Reproduced from 'Civil Engineering heritage: Scotland - Highlands and Islands' with kind permission from Thomas Telford Publishers.

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