The great news is that Ludford Bridge reopened at 4pm this afternoon, 6 May – a full week ahead of Shropshire Council’s most recent predictions. Even better news, is that this is a first class repair expertly supervised by mason Paul Arrowsmith.
The stonework does look rather new, pretty much as the bridge might have looked after it was restored in 1886. Check out the photos below to see what I mean.
Some people think the new stonework is awful. I disagree.
I’ve explained before that contractors could not recover the old stone that was knocked into the river by a hit and run tarmac delivery driver. There is still hope that the stone can be retrieved in future weeks. The stone will be dried and kept in the council’s store.
We used to have some stores of old stone in Ludlow, including at the back of the Charlton Arms. But those have gone. We were unable to source stone from Whitcliffe or Downton as these are heavily protected landscapes, including areas protected for their geology. Shropshire Council, with the approval of Historic England, sourced the new stone from Myddle (red stone) and Highley (white stone). The stone has been hand worked but it is inevitable that new stonework will look rather like new stonework.
Welcome to the shock of the new.
When I was a young archaeologist in London in the early 1970s, contractors were scrubbing down Portland Stone facades. Before the clean air acts came into force, the stonework had been stained black. As the scaffolding and hoardings came down, I recall people moaning: “The buildings don’t look old anymore.” It was the shock of the new. Whitehall, Horseguards, Trafalgar Square and historic buildings across central London look so much more vibrant and historic now that the stonework has been restored to its original state. We wouldn’t want white stone to be black now.
Like London, like Ludford. With the new stonework in place, we can now see what Ludford Bridge looked like in its heyday. It was red and light grey, not the dull mottled grey we are used to.
The new look won’t last that long with the weather we have around here. Give it a few years and the stone will weather in nicely. Meanwhile, I think we should admire the work that has been done and imagine what the bridge might once have looked like when it was newly built.
I think the masons have done a good job.
Thanks to Tim Gill for the photos below.
Paul Arrowsmith works on the final coping stone
New stonework on west side of bridge