High Bridge – Lincoln, England - Atlas Obscura
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Lincoln, England

High Bridge

The oldest of the three remaining bridges in England with buildings on top of them. 

This medieval stone arch bridge, one of the oldest in England, crosses the River Witham in the historic city of Lincoln. The High Bridge was built in 1160, while the current timber-framed structures built into the bridge deck date to around 1550.

Bridges with buildings on them used to be common in England, of which the most famous was the old London Bridge. There are currently only three such structures left, and this bridge in Lincoln is the oldest. (The others are Pulteney Bridge in Bath, Somerset, and Frome Bridge, also in Somerset.)

The High Bridge originally housed a chapel, which in the medieval era was even more common than bridges with secular buildings on them. But the chapel was torn down in 1762. The bridge now supports a short row of Tudor-era timbered buildings occupied by a café and a shop selling traditional English baked goods.

At one time, a large stone obelisk was built on the bridge to house an outlet of the town’s water supply. This was removed in the 1930s due to fears about how its weight would affect the old bridge. (A replica can be seen in the nearby St. Mark’s shopping center.)

The bridge’s arch forms a narrow and crooked opening dubbed the “Glory Hole” by the boaters who pass underneath. The “hole” is the only way to get through from the River Witham to the ancient harbor of Brayford Pool. The harbor connects to the Fossdyke Canal, which was built by the Romans in the second century (and restored by King Henry I in 1121) to link the town of Lincoln to the River Trent.

Know Before You Go

High Bridge is located near the bottom of High Street (hence the name), in what is now a pedestrian area. The buildings on top of it house the Stokes High Bridge Cafe and Proper Pastry Shop. There are some steps leading down from the bridge to a riverside walkway below, which provides a good view of the bridge.

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