The Iron Bridge was built in 1834 by Russell and Brown of Worcester out of cast iron. It has six arches, each spanning 40 feet (12 metres), and it carries a roadway 24 feet (7 metres) wide. Including the masonry approaches, the overall length is 800 feet (244 metres).
It acts as a viaduct across the Longbrook Valley. Before it was built, the northern route into Exeter used to plunge down and up what is now Lower North Street. Imagine what it was like to drive a laden cart up such a steep street in bad weather and mud!
The stone in the masonry approaches is very mixed, and was probably reused from demolished buildings. There is plenty of Heavitree Stone amongst it all.
Along the northern end of Lower North Street there are a number of solid arches filled with a mishmash of stone and brickwork to create garage and workshop frontages. From Exe Street you can see the retaining wall at the southern end. It is another stone cocktail, though a little less higgledy-piggledy.
Exeter has always been a city in flux, being knocked down and rebuilt over and over, yielding plenty of building material for reuse. Perhaps there has been too much demolition at times, but there could well have been more. Thomas Sharp’s plans for the ‘rebuilding’ of Exeter after the Blitz would have meant the demolition of the Iron Bridge to build a ring road!
- Historic England Listed Building – https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1103886
- Historic England Pastscape – https://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=448410
- Demolition Exeter blog, North Street – http://demolition-exeter.blogspot.com/2010/11/brief-history-of-north-street.html
- Demolition Exeter blog, Debenhams – http://demolition-exeter.blogspot.com/2011/09/debenhams-nos-1-to-11-sidwell-street.html
- Exeter Memories – http://www.exetermemories.co.uk/em/ironbridge.php