Homersfield Bridge, dating from the early 1870s, spans the river Waveney on the Norfolk/Suffolk border near Alburgh and Wortwell. It is a very early example of the use of reinforced concrete and is Grade II listed.
The wrought iron framework of the arch is encased in concrete and the bridge is a forerunner of modern reinforced concrete structures. It became neglected after 1970 when a new road bridge was constructed to carry A143 traffic across the Waveney.
In the 1990s Norfolk Historic Buildings Trust became concerned about the bridge, but for several years but negotiations were hampered by problems of multiple ownership - seven administrative boundaries meet in the middle of the bridge!
The bridge was eventually acquired compulsorily by Norfolk County Council and was passed on to the Trust in 1994. Extensive repairs were completed in 1995, with grant aid from English Heritage, Norfolk County Council, Suffolk County Council, South Norfolk District Council and Waveney District Council, the Upper Waveney Project, Homersfield Parish Council and Blue Circle Cement.
In August 2020 the crest on the bridge was replaced having become the worse for wear and in September 2023 the ironwork was repainted as part of our maintenance programme.
In 1869 Sir Shafto Adair, Bart. of Flixton Hall, commissioned Ipswich architect Henry Eyton to build a bridge to replace the existing one on the Flixton. The bridge was to span the River Waveney, straddling the boundaries of Suffolk and Norfolk.
Eyton designed a bridge with a span of 48ft that could carry a safe distributed load of 200 tons. It was completed in the early 1870s at a cost of £344.
In 1907 the bridge was surveyed by H Miller who noted that a chain and padlock were fixed in the centre of the bridge for one day a year, generally when the river was in full flood. A toll of 2d was charged, although foot passengers were allowed free. Since that time the ownership and liabiity for the bridge fell into dispute. this confusion may be what saved the bridge form being demolished when it fell into disrepair.
An inspection in the late 1980s showed the concrete badly deteriorated, ironwork corroded and ugly concrete post and rail fencing erected for safaety measures.
The photos below show the bridge before it was repaired.
In 1990 it was agreed that the bridge would be restored as part of an overall environmental enhancment scheme. After a lengthy process to determine ownership and acquire the bridge funding was secured to cover the cost of the renovation, which was over £85,000. Homersfield Bridge was restored to its former glory and enhances an area of outstanding beauty.
Seven administrative boundaries meet in the middle of the bridge and at the official opening ceremony seven representatives, complete with their respective chains of office, cut the ribbon with seven pairs of scissors. Each piece of ribbon has been carefully saved for posterity.
The Bloody Hand
On the coat of arms on the bridge is a small red hand which is part of the heraldic crest of the Adair family who lived at Flixton Hall. The legend of the design tells of a young ostler who was beaten to death by his master, but before dying he left a bloody handprint on the wall as testimony of the assault. As a penance to commemorate the wicked deed the sign of the red hand was added to the family crest.
The truth, however, is that the crest carries the red hand of Ulster where the Adair family had been resident since the 1620s.
Flixton Road, Harleston