The Chinese Bridge at Croome
Originally designed by William Halfpenny in the 1740s for the 6th Earl of Coventry in the popular Chinese style, 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 only 100 years after it was built.
So 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 of Croome and also a book from 1749 called “Developments in Architecture and Carpentry” provided crucial evidence of the appearance of the bridge.
The original plans drawn up by architectural designer William Halfpenny, which included many dimensions, enabled the team to create a design which followed the original bridge as much as possible.
Dredging of the river also unearthed large pieces of the original bridge and archaeological excavations along the banks of the river found the original footings so the exact location of the bridge was known. The pieces were well preserved from the water and later helped inform the design of the bridge.The workmen were then able to wade into the water to carefully collect any aquatic wildlife. During the process visitors watched as an amazing array of different species such as freshwater mussels, perch, tench, rudd and even eels where caught with nets and safely replaced into the river.
Visitors also enjoyed the opportunity to see the work in progress as the final section spanning the river was hauled into positon with gigantic cranes. They also had the opportunity to chat the 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.
The new bridge is made using English Oak by the Greenoak Company and will be left for a year to settle to allow the traditionally made joints to tighten. It is hoped that it will then be painted in an off-white colour, similar to the colour shown in the Wilson painting.
The bridge is ready for visitors to walk across and proudly stands spanning the river with Croome’s resident swans gliding underneath.