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Moy Bridge

Moy Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: May 14, 2018

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Farm Access Road Over Caledonian Canal
Moy: Highland, Scotland: United Kingdom
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1820 By Builder/Contractor: Plas Kynaston Iron Foundry, of Cefn Mawr, Wales and William Hazledine of Shrewsbury, England and Engineer/Design: Thomas Telford and William Jessop
Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
40.0 Feet (12.2 Meters)
Structure Length
65.0 Feet (19.8 Meters)
Roadway Width
10 Feet (3.05 Meters)
1 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This is the only known cast iron swing bridge in existence in the United Kingdom, and perhaps beyond. It is likely one of the oldest movable bridges of any kind in the United Kingdom as well. This is also a very unusual double-leaf design swing bridge. Essentially, the bridge is two bobtail swing structures that when closed form a single span. The bridge is hand-turned. The turning lever is inserted and operated from a post on the abutment (the white post in the extreme far left in the above photo), meaning the operator does not "ride" the bridge as is the case with many hand-turned swing bridges. A video showing the bridge opening is on YouTube here.

The bridge was open when HistoricBridges.org documented the bridge. Guest photos showing it closed are shown below.

Official Heritage Listing Information and Findings

Listed At: Category B (Bridge House), Bridge is Scheduled Ancient Monument, # 3447

Discussion (Bridge): (Institute Civil Engineers Historic Engineering Works no. HEW 0084/05)

Moy Turn-bridge (aka a swing bridge)

When planning the canal Telford and Jessop decided to adopt cast-iron turn-bridges, a development of those introduced at the London and West India Docks by 1805. Of several turn-bridges installed over the canal, only that at Moy now remains.

Moy Bridge, erected in 1820, has a span of 40 ft and is 10 ft wide. The ironwork was cast in Wales at the foundry of William Hazledine of Plas Kynaston and the original square-headed nuts and bolts of the period can be inspected. An engraved plan and section exists and a drawing by Thomas Rhodes of a timber version, but Telford stated that all the bridges on the canal were cast iron except the lock-gate footbridges.

The bridge comprises two counter-balanced arms pivoting on horizontal bearings with their ends meeting at mid-span to allow road traffic to cross. Until refurbishment in 1995, the counter-balance weights in the back of the frame above the bearings consisted of 3 ft long Jessop plate-rails formerly used for transporting spoil when cutting the canal, one of which is preserved in the ICE Museum at Heriot-Watt University.

The bridge is operated by hand from each side and until recently the bridge keeper had to row across the canal each time the bridge was opened or closed.

R Paxton and J Shipway, 2007.

Reproduced from 'Civil Engineering heritage: Scotland - Highlands and Islands' with kind permission from Thomas Telford Publishers.

Discussion (Bridge House)

Circa 1820. Single-storey, 3-bay symmetrical cottage, with central painted, corrugated iron porch, facing canal and adjacent to swing bridge (Scheduled Monument No 3447). Harled, lined out to west gable. Single window to each gable. Extension to rear with entrance door. Rectangular-plan garden to west of cottage enclosed by coped drystone wall.

Replacement 3-pane glazing in timber sash and case frames. 4-pane glazing in fixed timber frames to porch. End stacks with clay cans. Pitched, slate roof.

The interior was seen in 2013. The plan form of 2 principal rooms flanking a central hall is largely as original, with later kitchen to rear. Some simple cornicing. Slatted timber doors.

Statement of Special Interest
This former bridge keeper's cottage is likely to date 1820, when Moy Swing Bridge was constructed to provide access to Moy Farm which is still extant to the northeast. The isolated setting of Moy Bridge Cottage with bridge and garden has not changed greatly since it was built and adds interest to the building as an indication of its former functional relationship. The cottage is a good example of a bridge keeper's cottage with a single window to each gable for views along the canal of approaching traffic. Bridge keeper's cottages are an integral and important part of the Caledonian Canal, which at the time of its construction was the largest canal in the United Kingdom.

The whole of the Caledonian Canal is a Scheduled Monument which identifies it as being of national importance to Scotland. For this section of the Caledonian Canal see Scheduled Monument No 6492, 3447 and 2500.

The primary role of a bridge keeper was to maintain and operate the swing bridges and cottages were constructed adjacent to the bridge for convenience. Cottages were usually single storey with accommodation comprised of a living room and a bedroom, and sometimes with a small outshot to the rear, used as a scullery. As living standards improved these outshots have generally been enlarged for increased kitchen and bathroom accommodation, and this is evident at Moy Bridge Cottage. The cottages were often set in garden to grow vegetables and keep poultry and animals.

When planning the canal Thomas Telford decided to use a cast-iron swing bridge of a design similar to that used at the London and West India Docks of 1805. Although several swing bridges of this type were constructed, Moy Swing Bridge (Scheduled Monument No 3447) is the only original surviving swing bridge on the Caledonian Canal. It is still hand operated using the original winch and mechanism. The ironwork was cast at the foundry of William Hazledine in Plas Kynaston, Wales. The bridge swings in two halves and until recently the bridge keeper had to row across the canal each time the bridge was in operation to open the off-side leaf.

The Caledonian Canal is one of five canals surviving in Scotland but is unique among them as being the only one entirely funded by public money. The canal was part of a wider infrastructure initiative across the Highlands to facilitate trade and the growth of industry and, most importantly for the Government, to tackle the emigration problem resulting from the Highland Clearances, by providing much-needed employment. The experienced engineer Thomas Telford submitted a report in 1802 to Government commissioners which detailed the route and size of the canal. The canal connects Inverness in the north to Corpach, near Fort William in the west, by linking four lochs: Loch Dochfur, Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy. The total length of the canal is 60 miles, but only 22 miles are man-made.

Built to take sea-going ships, including the 32-gun and 44-gun frigates of the Royal Navy, the Caledonian Canal was designed on a much larger scale than other canals in Britain and the locks were the largest ever constructed at that time. This combined with the remoteness of the location and the variable ground conditions, make it a great feat of engineering and construction.

Telford was appointed principal engineer to the commission with William Jessop as consulting engineer. Although work began in 1804 rising costs and the scale of the project resulted in slow progress and the first complete journey was made on 23-24 October 1822. Whilst the canal was constructed for commercial use it was never a commercial success. Since its opening it was beset by problems and had to be closed for repairs and improvements in the 1840s. However the canal became popular with passenger steamers with tourism increasing following a visit by Queen Victoria on 16 September 1873.

Listed building record updated as part of the Scottish Canals estate review (2013-14).

Hume, J. (1977) The Industrial Archaeology of Scotland Volume 2: p.202.

Paxton, R. & Shipway, J. (2007) Civil Engineering Heritage: Scotland - Highlands and Islands. London. pp 160-1.

Miers, M (2008) The Western Seaboard: An Illustrated Architectural Guide. Rutland Press. p29.

Canmore ID: 23745 (Bridge)

Site Number: NH73SE 29


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