The Chinese Bridge at Croome

The Chinese Bridge spanning the river with the church in the background

When Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was commissioned in 1751 to redesign both the house and the garden, the Chinese Bridge was one of the few features that he kept.

Originally designed by William Halfpenny in the 1740s for the 5th Earl of Coventry, the bridge spanned the river close to Croome Court and linked the house to the wider parkland.  

A section of snape map showing the Chinese Bridge
section of snape map showing chinese bridge
A section of snape map showing the Chinese Bridge

 
Sadly, the bridge is thought to have been lost to rot and decay less than 100 years after it was built.

As part of the on-going restoration of the parkland the National Trust reinstated the bridge more than 150 years after the original disappeared from the landscape.

How did we know what to build?

So that an exact replacement could be created, images of the historic bridge were needed to guide the new design.  

A painting by Richard Wilson in 1758 showing the Chinese Bridge and also a book from 1749 called ‘Developments in Architecture and Carpentry’ which showed the original designs by Halfpenny provided crucial evidence of the appearance of the bridge.

Richard Wilson view of Croome
Richard Wilson view of Croome
Richard Wilson view of Croome

Dredging of the river also unearthed large pieces of the original bridge which were well preserved from the water.  Archaeological excavations found the original footings of the bridge so its exact location was known.  

Dredged pieces of the old Chinese Bridge
 dredged pieces of chinese bridge
Dredged pieces of the old Chinese Bridge

 
Reinstating the bridge

The original plans drawn up by architectural designer William Halfpenny included many dimensions.

Halfpenny's drawing of the Chinese Bridge at Croome
Halfpenny's drawing of the Chinese Bridge at Croome
Halfpenny's drawing of the Chinese Bridge at Croome

The plans enabled the team from the Greenoak Company to create a design which matched the original bridge as much as possible.

The new design for the Chinese Bridge
new design for chinese bridge
The new design for the Chinese Bridge

 
Prior to work starting, a section of the river had to be drained and any wildlife relocated to another part of the river.

Chinese Bridge construction work
Croome Chinese Bridge construction
Chinese Bridge construction work

Work began and during its construction visitors where able to follow the build.  They also had the opportunity to chat to the contractors, have a go at woodwork or sit on one of the diggers at one of the special drop in activity days that took place throughout the works. 

Visitors learning about the Chinese Bridge construction
Visitors learning about the Chinese Bridge construction
Visitors learning about the Chinese Bridge construction

Finally, the last section spanning the river was hauled into positon with gigantic cranes.  
The bridge was constructed using oak and the upright legs of greenhart wood.  Over the years it was able to settle to allow the traditionally made joints to tighten.  The wood has gradually mellowed to a soft grey similar to the colour shown in the Wilson painting.

A colourful celebration took place to mark the official opening of the bridge in July 2015. 

The Chinese Bridge opening celebrations
chinese bridge opening celebrations
The Chinese Bridge opening celebrations

The bridge now proudly spans the river with the beautiful ‘Capability’ Brown parkland as its backdrop which we hope visitors will be able to enjoy for years to come.

The Chinese Bridge spanning the river
The Chinese Bridge spanning the river with the church in the background
The Chinese Bridge spanning the river