It stood proudly over the waterway in Elland for more than 200 years.
But now Elland Bridge, which suffered catastrophic damage in the Boxing Day floods, is no more – at least for the next few months.
The bridge over the Calder and Hebble Navigation has now been demolished, after engineers first removed historic stonework in a process almost like a giant jigsaw.
Contractors removed huge stone copings on top of the bridge, dressed stones over the arches, and remains of cast iron rope rollers which allowed boat tow ropes to run smoothly through the bridge when freight barges were pulled by horse.
These will be used in the new bridge which will look similar, but a strengthened concrete arch inside will make it stronger whilst reflecting the canal’s history.
A temporary clay dam will now be installed at either side of the bridge site so water can be drained from the canal below. This will allow foundations of the new bridge to be built.
The bridge, built around 1811 and grade II listed, has been closed since the force of the Boxing Day floods, which caused carnage across Calderdale, washed out foundations and undermined the road above.
Utility companies diverted services such as electricity cables, gas pipes and telecoms wires, which were carried on the bridge, and now cross the waterway via a temporary structure.
The Canal & River Trust is overseeing the project and a spokesman said: “The works are progressing well and the demolition of the bridge is now complete.
“The stone from the original bridge has been taken away where it’s being wrapped and logged ready for use when needed on the new bridge.
“We’ll be installing a temporary clay dam at either side of the bridge so that we can drain the water out of the canal immediately below the bridge (or at least where it was) and this will take about a week.
“Once finished it will enable us to get in and build the foundations of the new bridge. We expect that this element of the works will be able to start week commencing May 23 and take around four to five weeks.
“As things stand we still anticipate that the canal will be able to reopen to boats at the end of June.”#
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The trust is helping replace nearby Crowther Bridge, owned by Calderdale Council, and also severely damaged by the floods. Managing the projects in tandem means cost-efficiencies in design and construction.
It’s hoped both will be available for use by the end of the year. A temporary footbridge next to Elland Bridge will remain in place throughout the work.