THE OLD SMITHY BRIDGE

by Adrian Tharme

August 2017


No surprise that there was a range of views on the best traffic management system for the "new" Main Street bridge!

It was, however, a welcome surprise to get so many requests for information about the bridge's history. Here goes!


Until 1750-60 the only road into the "Kirktoun of Lochwinnoch" from Ayrshire was via Ladyland, Glenlora, across the River Calder at Bridgend, past where the school is today then east along Braehead until the road merged with St John's Hill about 60 metres up from the gates into Auld Simon.

 

 

This was the core of the village at that time with houses, hotels, shops, pubs etc. packed around the Eastend and stretching only as far as the "tounfit" at Factory Close (now known inexplicably known as St Winnoc Road). From here, going west to the Calder, there were only the two large houses of Calderhaugh and Calder House. South of the Regent Moray Bridge at Bridgend there were fords, often impassable due to flooding, but no other substantive bridge crossing.

Two inter-linked projects entered their embryonic stages in the mid to late 1700's. There was a proposal to develop a small hamlet at Newton of Barr and a much bigger plan to expand the "Kirktoun of Lochwinnoch", as outlined above, to encompass much of the central village that exists today.The "Plan for the New Town of Lochwinnoch", developed by the MacDowalls, became the most significant legacy to the village left by the then Lairds of Castle Semple.

On the left of the picture is the start of a row of 6 houses and a joiner workshop which were officially "Calderhaugh Cottages" but known in the village as "Dodds's Row" (pronounced by locals as "Raw"). There were 19 families tenanting this group of houses which were owned by 4 spinster sisters, Janet, Annie, Maggie and Edith Dodds who lived at Newton of Barr. The joiner workshop was that of Mr Connel before he moved to larger premises on Calder Street where his granddaughter, Anna Fox, lives today. In the photograph, the workshop is the lower building adjacent to the bridge.


 

Integral to the success of both plans, however, was the requirement for a bridge to be constructed over the Calder. An arched, stone bridge was opened in 1769 and this provided the infrastructure which allowed the nascent plans for Newton of Barr and the NewTown to be progressed. Over the next twenty years the MacDowalls sold feus between the new bridge and the Johnshill where houses, shops, weaving workshops and a mill were built; the planned new town was taking shape along the Main and High Streets we know today.

This bridge remained in place for 133 years until it was demolished on 22nd April 1902 to be replaced by a metal bridge which was, in turn, upgraded last year. Over the years, the bridge has been known locally as the "New Bridge" signifying its relationship to the earlier Regent Moray Bridge at Bridgend, as the "Old Bridge" when a third structure over the Calder was opened in the early 1800's, and more affectionately as the "Old Smithy Bridge" indicating its proximity to the village blacksmith's forge up to the 1990’s. The photograph of the original bridge was taken in the 1800's and is one of the extraordinary legacy of images left to the village by Peter Dewar. The bridge is officially known as LOCHWINNOCH BRIDGE. 


 As for the other two bridges over the Calder, the information available is not complete.

 

regent moray bridge

The earliest written mention of the Regent Moray Bridge is 1650 by Montgomery of Westlands. However, the name suggests that the bridge might have been in place much earlier. The Great Lord Sempill fought for the Regent Moray in 1568 at the Battle of Langside. This association brought advancement to the Sempills and not surprisingly the bridge they built was named in recognition of the Regent's patronage. If anyone has information which would help identify the actual year for the bridge that would be very much appreciated.

The bridge was repaired and widened in 1814 with evidence of this under the archway still visible from the roadway. More recently work was completed to repair damage caused to the structure by a tanker lorry. The Regent Moray Bridge is one of the emblematic structures of old Lochwinnoch and it is hoped funding can be found for the inevitable further restoration work needed in the future.

CALDER BRIDGE

The Calder Bridge was constructed sometime between 1807 and 1848. A survey of the village completed by T Richardson, Surveyors of Glasgow, in 1807 shows a ford where the bridge stands today. A later survey undertaken in 1848 by James Craig, Surveyors shows a bridge in place. Again, if anyone can provide the evidence which pinpoints the actual date of construction that too would be very useful to complete the records.