How city’s bridges make a difference to Norwich

Thousands of us cross over them as we head in and out of Norwich every day.

But have you wondered about the impact the city's bridges have on our day to day lives? Put it another way – take the bridges away and you may soon notice the difference as you try and head home or to work.

In days past, where there were no bridges, you were left only with ferries or fords to get from one side of the river to the other.

Bridges have played a crucial historical role in the development of the city. For example the Bishop's Bridge linking the cathedral to its church lands beyond the city and the Foundry Bridge helping to usher in the age of the railways.

The 1960s saw the introduction of a bridge of a different kind – the flyover across Magdalen Street. It was a key link in the inner ring road, but a bridge, some may argue, that did more to disconnect people and destroy a bustling street, than bring them together.

Meanwhile, November saw the last link of the city's latest bridge being put into place.

The �1.6m Jarrold Bridge, which has a J-shape to reflect its well known namesake, links the business development of Whitefriars to the city close to the car park of the Adam and Eve pub. This is ideal for the legal and professional staff heading to the courts and beyond from firms such as Mills and Reeve and Birketts, who are being drawn to what is becoming the new 'business, financial and legal quarter'.

Most Read

The bridge was proposed for the area as part of the regeneration of the former Jarrolds printwork site, and further along the Wensum two other bridges are also playing a key role in linking different sides of the city.

Stand on Riverside on football match days and see thousands of fans heading across the Novi Sad bridge from King's Street across to Riverside and along to Carrow Road to see how well used it can be.

While more recently, the Lady Julian Bridge linked the city end of King Street to the Riverside development.

Tellingly, these modern bridges are designed with walkers and cyclists in mind. You only have to head out of the city along Marriotts Way in the morning to see a rush hour of a different kind as cyclists make their way into Norwich – a journey made all the easier thanks to the new 'Dolphin' bridge, (if that is indeed its name) which allows you to follow the river right up to where the route ends near Halfords.

Think too of how St George's is now a key artery for pedestrians and cyclists heading in and out of the city.

Mike Loveday, chief executive of Norwich HEART (Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust), said bridges have played a crucial role in the economic development of Norwich from the early medieval period right up to the present day.

'The most successful one was the Foundry Bridge because it opened up the railway to the city,' he said. 'They built the bridge to connect the city to the station. Before that, if you were going to Great Yarmouth you had to go to Bishop's Bridge or Carrow Bridge, you couldn't go straight out of the city that way.

'Most other bridges were originally very old,' he added. 'The oldest one was Fye Bridge, which connected the Danish borough to the north and the Anglo Saxon borough to the south, so it linked two very important economic dynamoes.'

Yet, Mr Loveday, who had previously worked as a senior planner at Norwich City Council, agrees that not all bridges have brought the benefits one might expect.

'When the flyover was planned it was predicted that it would create thousands of new jobs and open up Anglia Square,' he added. 'But the long-term effect of it is that it has cut off that half of the city and done Magdalen Street a lot of damage. The access hopes for Anglia Square never really worked.

'When I worked at the city council and we were thinking about what we could do with Anglia Square I always said 'do something radical' and either bury the road or move it.'

Moves are again afoot to redevelop Anglia Square, but given that it was once rumoured that knocking the flyover down would cost �100m, don't expect to see it disappearing underground any time soon.

Gwyn Jones, city growth and development manager at Norwich City Council, has carried out research into the economic impact of the Lady Julian Bridge as part of a progress report to be submitted to the East of England Development Agency, which provided �730,000 towards the cost of the �2.5m bridge

'Surveys done at Riverside in 2007 showed that 8pc of people always visited the city centre too,' she said. 'But survey work this year showed this had risen to 24pc. That was hard evidence and the usage has also increased. In September 2010, 1,000 people were crossing the bridge and this had gone up to 1,150 in 2011. People are regularly using the bridge between two and six times a week, and it's being used by a cross-section of age groups and both men and women. In total, 65pc of people interviewed said they used Riverside more often.'

Now there are plans to improve street signs to make people more aware of how easy it is to get from Riverside to the city. And, while it may seem a long way off in the current economic climate of doom and gloom, the bridge also sits in the heart of the proposed St Anne's Wharf development for more than 500 new homes, which has been put on hold during the downturn after the developer involved went into administration.

'Everybody recognises that the bridge will stimulate the development of that area,' Ms Jones added. 'When the market picks up, having the bridge already there is only going to help the situation, and talking to people interested in developing the St Anne's Wharf/King Street area, they are definitely interested in having a bridge in the area.

'There is also anecdotal evidence that visitor numbers have increased at the Dragon Hall. The fact that they are much more visible means that more people come to them.'

Vicky Manthorpe, pictured left, administrator of the Norwich Society, which has produced a booklet, called 'Norwich Bridges Past and Present', said bridges have always played two key roles around trade and communications.

'By 1300 there were five bridges across the Wensum, more than any other city in England, including London,' she said. 'These included Bishop's Bridge, Whitefriars, St George's and St Miles Coslany.

'The early bridges were built of wood, but during the 16th century when the city was very prosperous, several were rebuilt using stone. In the 19th century there was an increasing awareness that action needed to be taken to modernise Norwich and Fye Bridge was rebuilt and a new Carrow Bridge was built, and the (later) Foundry Bridge was built in 1882.

'They were linking communities that needed to trade, and I don't think it's so different today. We have had three newer bridges which are all in commercial areas, and the Jarrold Bridge is connecting the new developments on Barrack Street to the city centre, while the Julian Bridge will connect what may be the St Anne's Wharf development to Riverside.

'It was a reflection of the importance of Norwich as a commercial and administrative centre and they linked various settlements on both sides of the river for trade and communications, the only other possibilities being the ferry or ford. Most of them are very interesting and have their own story.'

What do you think? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE, or email