The lovely old bridge with its red sandstone weathered for more than 300 years is one of the sights of Berwick. The first bridge was a hundred yards higher up the river and was built of wood. In the reign of King John, we read, "the bridge at Berwick broke with great force of water, because the arches of it were low". It was restored by William, King of Scotland. We are told that James VI of Scotland was worried about crossing this wooden structure on his journey south to be crowned James I of Great Britain. "Is there ne'er a man in Berwick", be is alleged to have said, "whae can boo (work) stanes to mak' a brig ower the Tweed?" Whether the story is true or not, work on a new bridge was started in 1610. Progress was very slow and it wasn't until 1624 that the bridge was completed at a cost of £15,000. John Fuller's description in 1799 still applies today. "It is built", he writes, "of fine hewn stone, and has fifteen spacious and elegant arches. It measures 1,164 feet in length, including the land stalls. Its width is seventeen feet. At each of the pillars, which art fourteen in number, there is an outlet to both sides; without these there would be much greater danger either in walking or riding along the bridge than there is at present. The sixth pillar separates Berwick from the county Palatine of Durham. The battlements at the outlets at this pillar are always covered with sods as a guide to constables and others in the execution of warrants for the apprehension of delinquents (the pillar is still distinguished by having battlements higher than the others). The fourth gate of the town, together with the adjoining guard-house, shut up the bridge at its northern extremity. Towards the middle of it there are two strong wooden barriers 148 feet distant from each other. In order to give additional security to this mode of defence, they are made to project considerably beyond the battlements".
The quality of the workmanship in building the bridge is shown in the fact that after three hundred and fifty years it still stands as strong As ever.
The Royal Border Bridge, one of the finest railway viaducts in the world, was built in three years between 1847 and 1850. It was designed by Robert Stephenson. Two thousand workmen were employed and the total cost was £253,000. It is an imposing structure of twenty-eight arches, stands 126 feet above water level and is 720 yards long. The arches contain 1,710.000 bricks.
The Royal Border Bridge is considered one of the most striking railway viaducts anywhere, and the views of it, and from it when approaching Berwick station by rail from the south are breathtaking.
This modern bridge spans the river with four big arches. The northern span is 361 feet making it the longest concrete span in the country. When it was being built a bed of peat was discovered at the foundations of one of the piers. One hundred and eighty-six concrete piles, each thirty-six feet long and weighing two tons, were used to provide a solid bed. The bridge is considered by some a very heavy structure lacking in elegance, a fact which is conspicuous because it stands beside two magnificent earlier structures. However in my opinion it is one of the most striking bridges to be seen anywhere in the United Kingdom.
When built the Royal Tweed Bridge carried the Great North Road, the main route between London and Edinburgh. But since the early 1980's, Berwick has been bypassed, and the bridge now only carries local and tourist traffic.
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