The Bridge, which crosses the river Teign to Shaldon, was the longest wooden bridge in England when built, at nearly a third of a mile long. Before the opening of this road bridge linking Shaldon with Teignmouth, travellers had the choice of making a crossing by the foot ferry or, if they had horses or a vehicle, of making a detour of some 12 to 14 miles, going down-river to the outskirts of Newton Abbot then turning back and returning on the opposite bank.
The Bridge was owned by the Teignmouth and Shaldon Bridge Company and opened on 8 June1827. Designed by Roger Hopkins, it was 1,671 feet in length and had 34 wooden arches with stone abutment walls of a considerable length at either end. There was also a swing bridge at the Teignmouth end, the deepest part of the channel, to allow sailing ships to pass up the estuary.
It cost around £19,000 to build, but the overall expenditure was about £26,000 due to the costs of the act of parliament and the purchase of the old ferry-rights from Lord Clifford. Permission to take tolls from the users of the bridge was granted by Act of Parliament in the 1830s and collection continued until the middle of the twentieth century. Its original toll house survives today at the Teignmouth end. Foot passengers originally pay 1d. each, and it was a principal thoroughfare for carriages etc., but its traffic reduced considerably after the opening of the railway which goes round by the north shore of the estuary. The original list of tolls is now housed in the Teignmouth and Shaldon Heritage Centre.
After only eleven years, on 27 June1838 the centre arches of the bridge collapsed, the timbers being eaten through by shipworm. It was rebuilt in wood, but collapsed again in 1893. This bridge remained in use until the 1920s but by then the nature of the traffic crossing the river had changed completely. The pedestrians, horses and riders and small carts and wagons of the 19th century had been replaced by cars, lorries and motor buses. In 1926, an Act of Parliament was passed, enabling widening and strengthening and this was finally completed in 1931 when a new 324 metre-long structure was opened consisting of four concrete-encased girders spanning concrete piers supporting a reinforced concrete deck.
On 28 October1948 Devon County Council bought the bridge from the Shaldon Bridge Company for £92,020 and tolls were abolished. The original paintwork was inadequate to deal with the environment, and repairs were required in 1960 and in 1980. In 1998 it was discovered that the bridge had severe structural defects and work to correct this continued until 2002, the bridge remaining open throughout. After this work was completed, residents nearby noticed that in certain wind conditions the bridge “whistles” – a problem which remains to today.
On a spookier note the bridge has reportedly had a number of ghost sightings, some extremely recent – only going back to the mid 90s. Apparently, a young boys clothing was found on the bridge – no one ever owned up to owning the clothes and nobody has ever been found. Another person reported seeing a tall, cloaked figure in the middle of the bridge. Seconds later, he had disappeared as quickly as he showed up.
The above information has been extracted from the following sources: