The Chinese Bridge at Croome
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.
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.
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.
Reinstating the bridge
The original plans drawn up by architectural designer William Halfpenny included many dimensions.
The plans enabled the team from the Greenoak Company to create a design which matched the original bridge as much as possible.
Prior to work starting, a section of the river had to be drained and any wildlife relocated to another part of the river.
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.
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 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.