Turner's painting features New Bridge - a bridge now in jeopardy

Wednesday 17th August 2016 12:00 pm
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AS many readers will know, around 1813 JMW Turner created a painting called ‘Crossing the Brook’, which features New Bridge at Gunnislake.

It is perhaps fortunate that Turner chose to depict this medieval bridge (also favourably mentioned by Nikolaus Pevsner), because unless action is taken soon his painting may be one of the few records of it left.

Devon County Council fails adequately to discharge its responsibility to keep the bridge in good repair, and neither it nor Cornwall County Council will countenance doing anything effective to reduce increasing volumes of traffic across it.

I understand that English Heritage seem likewise unconcerned. This is despite the air quality in Gunnislake falling far short of safe levels due to traffic pollution. Both councils seem content to see this Scheduled Ancient Monument damaged beyond economic repair, whilst the inhabitants of Gunnislake are poisoned by diesel fumes.

Repeated suggestions to limit traffic (particularly HGVs) by imposing a weight restriction on the narrow 500-year-old bridge have been dismissed with the excuse that the road is ‘a major trunk route’: that a single-track road across a vulnerable ancient bridge is clearly unsuitable to be a major trunk route is evidently of no relevance or interest to either council. Nor will they consider downgrading the road to ‘B’ status so that a restriction can more easily be imposed. So in thrall are they to the Road Transport Industry that they have actually erected traffic signs encouraging HGVs to use the route!

If you happen to visit Tate Britain where Turner’s painting is kept, enjoy his view of New Bridge – the real thing may not be around for much longer.

Hugh Gladden

Gunnislake

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