Sutton Bridge

Sutton Bridge

infobox UK place
country = England

static_image_caption =Crosskeys Bridge
official_name = Sutton Bridge
population = 3,936 [cite web | publisher = Office for National Statistics | url = | title = Neighbourhood Statistics - Sutton Bridge CP (Parish) | accessdate = 2008-02-19]
shire_district = South Holland
shire_county =Lincolnshire
region = East Midlands
constituency_westminster = South Holland and the Deepings
post_town = SPALDING
postcode_district = PE12
postcode_area= PE
os_grid_reference= TF475215

Sutton Bridge is a village and civil parish in south-eastern Lincolnshire, England on the west bank of the River Nene and close to the border with Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.

The early 19th century village consisted of a few farmhouses and cottages straggled along the track which passed for a main road.

Stretching to the east and north was a vast, fast flowing expanse of marshes known as Cross Keys Wash, through which the River Nene (earlier, the Wellstream) wound its way to the sea. The whole area is composed of sand and silt, shifting regularly as the water cut new channels. The track across the marshes between Lincolnshire and Norfolk was passable at low water and needed a guide for a safe passage. Livestock, travellers, wagons and coaches were lost into the quicksand of the marshes.

Since reclamation began in the 16th century of the estuary between Long Sutton and Sutton Bridge, The Wash House (now the Bridge Hotel) marked the start of the safe track and it was possible to hire guides to help the general travellers and also the drovers with their herds of cattle, flocks of sheep or geese safely over the marsh.

It was recorded by contemporary chroniclers that King John's crown jewels were lost crossing the Wellstream on 12 October 1216, when the baggage train of his army attempted to cross without a guide. King John had apparently taken the safer route through Wisbech in Cambridgeshire. The King died a week later of dysentery and he was succeeded to the throne by his 9 year old son, Henry III.

The first railway reached the village in 1862 with Sutton Bridge railway station. The actual operation of the railways caused problems when ships were using the river. With no radio communication between the two, news of the approaching ship depended on visual warning.

"The Sutton Bridge Dock Act" was passed in 1875. This authorised the construction of the dock and other necessary works, including connecting the dock to the existing railway. The wet dock was to be some convert|475|yd by convert|140|yd with a lock from the river of convert|200|ft|m by convert|50|ft|m. The length of the quayside was to be convert|1250|yd with a long timber jetty on the east side. On the west side was to be a coal jetty, equipped with a hydraulic lift to raise coal trucks to tip their loads into ships waiting beneath.

The dock gates weighed 35 tons each and 1.5 million bricks were used in constructing the dock entrance. An area of 13 acres was taken up by the dock itself and convert|600000|cuyd|m3 of soil were excavated. The first sod was cut on 1 January 1878 and 100 men, 50 horses and carts, 1 steam dredger and several barges were involved in the work.

The work was completed and the first ship to enter the dock (SS "Garland") did so on 14 May 1881, carrying 1200 tons of cargo destined for Messrs English of Wisbech. The excitement was spoilt somewhat as the dock entrance hadn't been dredged to a sufficient depth and the ship had to unload some of her cargo before entering the dock. However, towed by the tugs, "Pendennis" and "the Isle of Ely", she floated into the dock. In the following week, four other ships used the dock.

The official opening was planned for 29 June with great public festivities, however on 9 June part of the ground at the south west corner of the lock sank convert|10|ft|m, leaving the concrete facing unsupported. At the same time, a strip of earth at the back of the lock on the north side sank, carrying with it, two steam traction engines which had been used for pumping. They were buried convert|10|ft|m deep in the silt. Frantic efforts were made to repair the damage. Trainloads of sand, silt, rubble, clay and limestone were poured into the gaps to no avail. On the following Tuesday convert|500|ft|m of concrete facing on the opposite, west side of the dock itself were dislodged because the footings had been scoured away. On Wednesday, many more yards of the concrete cracked and subsided. All three ships which had been in the dock had got away safely with some difficulty. The great weight of concrete laid on shifting silt, together with inadequate timber piling would appear to have led to the collapse. Efforts to save the dock were soon seen to be futile and the plan was abandoned. The railway company lost a fortune and Sutton Bridge's growth as a port was halted for over 100 years until the current Port Sutton Bridge was opened in 1987.

The current swing bridge known as Crosskeys Bridge which spans the Nene was built in 1897 and was the third bridge to cross the river. John Rennie the Younger and Thomas Telford designed the first which was opened in 1831 as part of the Wash Embankment works. It was of timber and cast iron and opened up rather like Tower Bridge in London. The bridge was found to be awkwardly sited and in 1850, its replacement designed by Robert Stephenson was opened, its position being approximately halfway between where the original one stood and the present day bridge stands. It was a swing bridge, used only for road traffic until 1864 when the Midland Railway acquired powers to use it for rail traffic too. The current bridge was built in 1897 and cost £80,000 to build. It was hoped that the 1850 bridge could be left in position for rail use but the river authorities decided that two bridges so close together constituted a hazard for shipping, and it was removed.

The current (1897) bridge was dual purpose, serving both road and rail traffic until 1965 when the railway closed. It then took on its present day usage with road traffic travelling on the A17 between Lincolnshire and Norfolk.

The East Lighthouse is a lighthouse at Sutton Bridge. It was built, along with its twin on the west bank of the River Nene in 1831 to commemorate the opening of the Nene outfall cut. These were never functioning lighthouses and were merely markers to guide ships into the cut. Before the Second World War, the East Lighthouse was inhabited by the naturalist and artist Sir Peter Scott who bought a large area of the Ouse Washes and established a nature reserve of what is now the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

The lighthouse has since been used by the Fenland Wildfowlers Association.

Sutton Bridge and the surrounding area has recently seen an influx of new residents, mostly from the southern part of the United Kingdom. This has resulted in a healthy housing construction and improvement plan. Among notable residents is Ian Cashmore the presenter of television's "Ghosthunters" show.


External links

* [ Peter Scott & Sutton Bridge]
* [ Sutton Bridge in pictures]
* [ Sutton Bridge Community group]

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