Iron Bridge, Spanish Town

Iron Bridge (Andrew Smith)

The Iron Bridge of 1801 soldiers on with no ongoing inspection or maintenance, but damage of various types is accumulating and no-one on the island is keeping track of its condition.  In 2000, when erosion by storm water in the Rio Cobre was seen to have undermined the masonry of the north abutment so severely as to threaten the bridge’s survival, the FGSJ contributed to its stabilisation. The photo above shows the concrete facing of that work.  Further work was carried out to restore its north abutment in 2009 after a large hole appeared right across the roadway close behind the abutment wall, threatening the stability of the entire span.  This was successfully carried out using lime and local sand as the mortar for the replacement stone walls.

FGSJ’s view: The FGSJ’s Andrew Smith inspected the frame in 2015 and discovered substantial voids in the abutments around the embedded, and significantly corroded, iron frame.  The FGSJ called then for a proper investigation of the frame’s bearings, but nothing has been done.  There is other damage to its ironwork, out-of-sight, out-of-mind beneath the eroding roadway, and the balustrade is no longer adequately safe.  If the bridge served somewhere more salubrious than the informal and notoriously violent settlement along the Old Road north of the bridge, it would undoubtedly be better valued.  One day, something will give way and then it will be too late.  It is entirely restorable, but the materials and skills are mostly not available on the island and so the work would be costly.

Its loss would further disadvantage local people for whom it provides a much more direct route into town than its replacement, and would be, in the history of engineering, of international significance.

Anne M Powers