THE Canal & River Trust is carrying out a £650,000 upgrade programme on four of the Oxford Canal’s iconic wooden lift bridges.
A familiar part of the Oxfordshire landscape for nearly 250 years, the bridges were built to allow local farmers and residents to cross the newly dug canal.
However, with funding for the construction of the 18th-century canal tight, instead of more expensive fixed ‘humpback’ brick structures, cheaper-to-install lift bridges were built in their place along the Banbury to Oxford stretch.
The four bridges being upgraded are currently operated using a simple counterbalance system and are among 19 Grade II-listed accommodation lift bridges on the Oxford Canal.
CRT London & South East director Ros Daniels said the work would make them safer to operate and more durable while retaining their unique lock and heritage value. She added: “For many people these bridges are the defining feature of the Oxford Canal.”
Wear and tear on the ageing bridges, coupled with weather conditions and occasional incorrect usage, can result in the lift mechanism not functioning properly.
The trust has been granted Listed Building Consent for the installation of manual hydraulic winding mechanisms which will enable safer navigational passage for boaters and access across the canal for pedestrians and vehicles.
This work will enhance the longevity of the structure by providing more controlled opening and closing, while also preserving their special heritage interest.
Work on Chisnell lift bridge (No 193) has been made possible thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, while the installations at Shipton (No 219), Wolvercote (No 233) and Perry’s (No 234) are being undertaken as part of the trust’s winter programme of works.
Officially opened on January 1, 1790, the Oxford Canal originally carried coal from the West Midlands to Oxford and London and was a commercial success for almost half a century until the arrival of the railway.