10 June 2013

Birmingham's Oldest Structure: The Zigzag Bridge

I have been part of a project in Witton and Perry Barr over the last month, exploring the history of these areas along the River Tame. Tame, I'm told, means a 'dark' river, and relates to the fact that it flowed slowly. Perry Bridge, or the Zigzag bridge as it is affectionately known, has been a constant across the River Tame since 1711, and even before then a bridge crossed at this point. The bridge is thought to be the oldest non-building structure in Birmingham. The drawing of the zigzag bridge, above, was produced in 1798; the shape is so that pedestrians could get out of the way of the carts and carriages. It was usurped in 1931/2 when the larger Art Deco Perry Bridge was built next to it (see below), but the 300 year old structure can still be used by pedestrians (and to play Pooh Sticks).

This point is said to be where King Charles I crossed the Tame on his way to Aston Hall when that building was attacked during the Civil War.

The area used to be very rural (it was not part of Birmingham till 1928) as can be seen from the drawing below from 1801, showing a small cottage with the River Tame running by. Standing here today are some industrial buildings, and a green spot where herons like to sit and rest; I've been watching them whilst visiting the area. If you are interested in the history of the Witton and Perry Barr areas, especially along the River Tame, you can visit the project blog: http://tamedproject.blogspot.co.uk , or if you have any stories to tell about your memories of the area please email me jenni.colesharris@gmail.com

Images from a selection held at BMAG, the full collection can be viewed here.

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