I am sure you are all familiar now with the wonderful articles written by Stuart Miller-Osborne. Stuart is a great personal friend and customer of Hungerford Arcade. Here we have a story about the Railway Bridge just down the road from Hungerford Arcade. Many of our customers travel by train when they visit the Arcade and will be very familiar with its bridge. Please enjoy the story and pictures. I have included a picture of some Edie Stobart trucks at the end!
View From The Bridge
Something has changed in Hungerford High Street. If you look left as you leave the arcade you will see a rather odd looking mass of white sheeting and a complication of scaffolding. No, the artist Christo has not chosen our small Berkshire town for his next installation. The truth is much more ordinary than that. Our railway bridge is getting a new lick of paint, some essential repairs and I believe the addition of a Hungerford crest.
The first I knew of this was one morning about seven when a family of glum looking resident pigeons walked past me with their suitcases heading in the general direction of Salisbury. The father, the last in the group looked sadly down the hill and with a weak smile told me that they had been seven days notice to move and would only be allowed to return in ten weeks. I looked over his shoulder and there it was (or rather was not) our beloved bridge was covered in a mass of white sheeting and was silent except for the passing of the odd train.
But what of our railway bridge? We all accept its presence but usually ignore it and only glance up if a train is passing. It is actually the third bridge to cross the high street and rather eccentrically crosses a road that is on a considerable hill. The first railway had reached Hungerford in1847 (and Hungerford was to remain the terminus until 1862 when the track was extended towards Seend, not far from Devizes). This necessitated the building of the bridge over the road to Salisbury which was a considerable undertaking due to the width of the high street in the town. The embankments we see in the town today were created and further smaller bridges were built. These were located over the Croft, Parsonage and Marsh Lanes.
Originally designed for a single track this bridge was replaced in 1896 when the line was doubled. The bridge we see (or do not see) today dates from the mid sixties and replaced the late Victorian structure which I am told had developed structural problems.
Although quite plain it is a handsome structure and reminds me of many of the older bridges built well over one hundred years ago which we frequently see on the railway network. It is supported on both sides by a solid brick abutment (which dates from 1896). If you pass under the bridge walking towards the canal and turn immediately left then you will see a very impressive retaining wall (strengthened over the years) made of what I believe to be Somersetshire Red Brick. Although weathered it still retains the softness and colour of the original. I am not an expert on bricks, but have noted that a large number of railway related structures tend to use Staffordshire Blue Brick (which is very hard wearing). It appears here that a West Country stone was used.
The bridge is as familiar to Hungerford as is our splendid Town Hall and without it the town would feel naked. For one I cannot wait until it is unveiled again. Hopefully this would take place on a warm summers day . I would like to be walking towards the structure as a steam train raced across the bridge at full speed on whistle. At the same time an Eddie Stobart lorry would be passing underneath easily fighting the gradient of the hill. In my jacket pocket perhaps, there would be a first edition of poems by Hart Crane which I would read from as I sampled the local ale at one of the nearby inns.