Historic Essex Footbridge Saved

An unusual and historic footbridge has been saved from demolition and restored to its former glory following a vocal campaign by village residents, conservation bodies and members of the local Ramblers group. The footbridge generally known as Dick Nunn’s bridge is situated near Curd Hall Farm and spans the River Blackwater on footpath 37 in Coggeshall. This footbridge has a long and interesting history and was originally constructed in 1892 when a local blacksmith called Dick Nunn who had been unable to persuade the parish council to replace the existing decaying timber bridge decided to take the matter into his own hands and build his own bridge funding the work himself. The iron bridge was constructed in the blacksmith’s workshop, wheeled into position over the river, placed on concrete abutments and opened to the public in a grand ceremony on 31 August 1892 with several hundred people in attendance.

The bridge was of strong but lightweight construction being made of wrought iron members with a span of 30 feet and rise of 3 feet and painted pink, a colour which reflected the combination of iron oxide and white paint used. The footway consisted of timber planks bolted to the iron structure. The centenary of the bridge was celebrated in 1992 by villagers with many wearing Victorian costume and who were addressed by Tony Newton, the local MP at that time.

However in recent years the condition of the bridge had deteriorated and on 3 September 2019 the statutory highway authority Essex County Council issued a temporary closure order on the bridge deeming it unsafe and consequently preventing walkers from crossing the river at this point. Further investigations by the council concluded that the bridge was beyond economic repair and that it should be replaced by a new bridge built to current standards and the temporary closure order on the existing bridge was extended. This provoked an angry response from local residents and other interested parties who then began a vigorous campaign for the preservation and restoration of the existing bridge including starting a petition on Change.org to save the bridge. Following many months of campaigning and lobbying the existing footbridge was granted grade 2 listed status by Historic England on 12 October 2020 under listing 1471715 for reasons of architectural and historic interest. This obliged the relevant statutory authority Essex County Council to repair and restore the bridge to its original condition. The repair and renovation of the footbridge were undertaken during the summer and autumn of 2021 with the bridge finally being reopened to the public in mid October thereby restoring footpath 37 to its original line and completing the connection between Coggeshall village and the Essex Way in this location. A unique and historic footbridge thus has been preserved for future generations.

Geoff Farrow – Braintree & North Essex webmaster

With acknowledgements to Historic England, Coggeshall Museum and www.coggeshallhistory.com

Dick Nunn's bridge restored Oct 21