Stoney Dene Bridge

Stoney Dene bridge undergoing repair
©Michael Turner
Stoney Dene, Lovelace Bridges Project
©Alan Johnson

Region: South East

Local Authority: Guildford

Owner Type: Government; Quango

Funding Body: SITA Environmental Trust (£13,000), Guildford Borough Council, Surrey Historic Buildings Trust, Horsley Countryside Preservation Society

Year of Intervention: 2005

Summary: Stoney Dene bridge has been repaired by Forest Enterprise with financial supprt from local bodies and assistance from volunteers.

Description: Stoney Dene is one of fifteen bridges built by the first Earl of Lovelace on his Horsley estate in Surrey in the mid nineteenth century. They were installed to ease the movement of felled timber along the switchback woodland tracks of this extensive plantation. Ten of the bridges are within the present Forestry Commission (FC) estate.
Issue: Stoney Dene bridge was the last of the surviving eleven structures to be listed grade II in 2001. From the time of the earliest available photograph of this bridge (c1961) it was evident that it was the worst-deteriorated example. FC engineers carried out repairs to ensure the safety of users of the bridge, but these did not prevent the gradual disintegration of the arches cladding the vault, abutments and wing walls, so that by the late 1990s, demolition of the structure seemed to be the only viable option. At that time, interest in the Lovelace structures was raised by the efforts of the Horsley Countryside Preservation Society (HCPS) and other local conservation bodies. This coincided with a changed strategy for FC towards the sustainability of archaeological and environmental heritage.

In September 2002, the inaugural meeting of the Lovelace Bridges Project was held in East Horsley, followed by the official launch of the project and a ceremonial ‘placing of the first flint’ by the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey. Investigation of grants to pay for the repairs showed that support might be available from the SITA Environmental Trust if social benefit was demonstrated. Forest Enterprise (the commercial arm of the Forestry Commission) submitted a bid for funding in 2004 on behalf of a broad partnership including HCPS. This resulted in a grant of £13,000, and the project received further financial support from Guildford Borough Council, the Surrey Historic Buildings Trust and HCPS. In 2005 Forestry Civil Engineering, as managers of the project on behalf of the Forestry Commission, engaged Andrew Norris Surveying to record the existing structure and to provide specialist expertise in building conservation techniques.

Work commenced in spring 2005 with volunteers from HCPS taking down clayware copings and defective flintwork and cleaning and stockpiling them for re-use. Specifications for the reinstatement of the bridge to its original design were prepared and tendered. The contract was awarded to Crowzon Ltd, a local builder with expertise in traditional masonry works incorporating lime mortar.

Outcome: The building contract to reinstate both arch rings, patch the intrados of the vault and stabilise damaged wing walls was completed in October 2005. Remaining work will be undertaken by HCPS volunteers who have, with external training and increased experience gained from their contribution so far, developed the traditional masonry repair skills necessary to achieve sustainable conservation repairs to the bridges on the estate.


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