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Prebends Bridge

CLASS: Structure (Bridge)
PERIOD: 18th Century (1772-1778)
LOCATION: Durham City (NZ 271418) OS Explorer 308
ACCESS: Public
Prebends Bridge straddles the River Wear upstream of South Street Mill (pictured) and the Fulling Mill (at the western and eastern ends of the weir respectively) and stands close to the site of a previously used ford. It carries what was once a private road for the Dean and Chapter of Durham between South Bailey on the peninsula, through the Watergate in the city walls, to Quarryheads Lane on the other side of the river.

The bridge was built between 1772-78 on the instructions of the Dean of Durham, Thomas Dampier, and designed by George Nicholson, architect to the Dean and Chapter to replace a bridge that was washed away in the flood of 1771 (one of the abutments of which can be seen upstream on the western bank). The architect Robert Mylne, who designed Blackfriars Bridge and several bridges over the Tyne, provided advice on situation and form.

The Pevsner Architectural Guide describes Prebends Bridge thus:

"Three fine semi-cicular arches with voussoirs and lower parts of the piers rusticated. Part-balustraded parapet on a corbel course".

One feature that makes it truly unique however is the romantic verse by Sir Walter Scott inscribed at its western end overlooking a classic view of the cathedral:

"Grey towers of Durham
Yet well I love thy mixed and massive piles.
Half church of God, half castle ‘gainst the Scot
And long to roam these venerable aisles
With records stored of deeds long since forgot
"

The scene today is still very much like it was when Samuel Grimm sketched it (see the photograph in the gallery).