Friday, October 14, 2011

The first Cookham Toll Bridge.

First Cookham Toll Bridge.
As the chain ferry in the late 1830’s was slow and frequently had chain breaking due to wear and a fast flowing river at times, the result was the formation of The Cookham Bridge Company.

On 25 May 1839 a Mr Freebody was contracted to construct the bridge for £3,140 with George Treacher as the designer. Freebody was also contracted for a further £225 to build a Toll House and gates on the Buckinghamshire side of the river. Work started on the construction of the bridge in the Summer of 1839, and was finished by the end of the year, over-budget at a total cost of £4,224 The bridge was wooden and had 13 spans, nine of 24 ft and four of 18 ft. Cookham Bridge opened on 1 Jan 1840 and was let to a Mr Bolton at an annual rent of £350 although by 1844 it was only producing £330 per annum in tolls.

Due to its wooden construction and the preservation of timber using creosote under hydraulic pressure was not yet in use. The bridge required a lot of maintenance, in 1859 George Treacher reported to the Cookham Bridge Company that several of the piles were "very much decayed and likely to give way". In Treacher's opinion the bridge was unlikely to survive the winter, so a Mr Cook of High Wycombe was engaged to make emergency repairs at a cost of £96 12s 2d. The repairs did little to stop the decay and five years later in 1864 the new surveyor, a Mr. Carter, described the bridge as "not dangerous, but not safe." “It may colapse if a heavy vehicle passes over it.” By 1866 the situation had deteriorated to such a degree that the lessee asked for a reduction in rent as the toll income had fallen off due to people being too afraid to use the bridge.

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