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The Andrews Pages Picture Gallery : Godalming, Surrey
A selection of photographs and postcards of a Surrey country town
 
Unstead Bridge / Trowers Bridge, 1898 and Today


This bridge almost certainly originally had five arches spanning the River Wey, with two smaller ones on either side of a higher central arch, but if it did the central arch was removed well over a century ago and replaced by the curious five bar gate contraption we can see in the images above and below. Eventually the modern railings and a concrete span or lintel (shown on the 2018 photographs lower down the page) were installed.

The bridge can be accessed from Meadrow via a narrow private road, which is only accessible to non-residents on foot, or by other footpaths from the Catteshall area. The towpath from central Godalming to Guildford runs alongside the River Wey; it is now used by walkers and cyclists as well as horse drawn barges.

A National Trust sign beside the bridge tells us that "it probably formed the entrance drive to Unstead park and was built some time between 1760 and 1782"[1]. Both the Manor Inn and Tiltham's house are slightly downstream, towards Guildford, and the NT tells us that the former was built on the site of a tanyard whilst the latter property was possibly built for the tannery owner. The Ordnance Survey map of Godalming, dated 1872, does not show evidence of a tannery. However, the following sale notice was published in 1864 and bears out the NT's claim:

The Meadrow Tan Works, Godalming, Surrey, together with the costly modern Machinery and Plant.
TO BE DISPOSED OF BY PRIVATE CONTRACT, the valuable FREEHOLD TANNERY, known as the MEADROW TAN WORKS, situate at GODALMING, SURREY, occupying site of about five acres, bounded on one side by the navigable river Wey, on the other side by the turnpike-road, and within little more than a mile of two railway stations.The works, which acquired a high repute for the character of their manufacture under the management of their former proprietor, Mr. Nichols, were almost entirely rebuilt by the late proprietor, Mr. Gibson, in the year 1854, and fitted with approved modern plant and machinery. There are upwards of 500 pits ...
[Among the buildings listed were a] manager's residence, and five cottages for work people, with gardens[2].

The riverside tannery was, in its day, a very large business and would have made full use of the river to transport materials in and goods out.



There were five bar hinged gates attached to the upper central section of the bridge in 1898,
with some kind of mechanism at the bottom. The road across the bridge appears to be
angle iron that probably supports planks. Compared with the strength and bulk of the
rest of the bridge the side rails look decidedly flimsy. They possibly represent a temporary
repair, or were designed to be easily removable. Further information would be welcomed.


The origin of the name "Trowers Bridge" is curious and evidence of its derivation would be welcomed. This postcard is obviously labelled Unstead Bridge. A painting of the bridge, by Phyllis Nelson, was for sale a few years ago. It was entitled 'Unstead Bridge, Farncombe' and was painted in 1945[3] and shows a much flimsier central section to the bridge, before the current railings and lintel were put in place. This raises the possibility that it was designed to be moveable.


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The bridge in 2018
Sadly, now swamped with ivy.



The view upstream


The view downstream


1 and 2. "Unstead Bridge, Godalming". No publisher. Postcard not used but the stamp box proved the postal rates of "Inland 1/2d, Foreign 1d", indicating it was published before 1918. Francis Frith published the same view of the bridge in 1898.
Postcard in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
3 and 4. Photos of the bridge, August 2018. © Andy Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References:

[1] See both the sign itself and Exploring Surrey's Past: Trowers Bridge, Godalming.

[2] Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, 9 September 1864 - sale notice. This was one of numerous advertisements. It was re-advertised in 1866. In 1870 the plant and machinery, as well as the tannery's building materials, were for sale (Surrey Advertiser, 12 March 1870). This was the end of the road for Meadrow Tannery.

[3] Advertisement of an art dealer, selling the 1945 painting.