The current ‘five arch’ stone bridge in the heart of Newport is actually the second stone incarnation of the Newport Town Bridge.
The first stone bridge opened around 1800. It replaced earlier wooden bridges, which suffered from the strong currents of the river Usk, as well as the difference in levels between low and high tides.
The first stone bridge was subsequently widened in 1866 with the addition of footpaths on both sides.
One issue with the original stone bridge was the need to span the river as well as a canal. This meant that on one side of the bridge there was a raised section, which created a dip either side of it. The raised section was necessary to accommodate horse-drawn canal traffic. In 1893, the issue of ‘the dip’ was corrected.
The old bridge had quite a history.
In 1839, it was almost destroyed by the Chartists. It was alleged that they wanted to blow up the bridge in an attempt to stop the mail coach.
In 1913, a visit from Harry Houdini resulted in an impromptu bridge-jump and shackled escape in the river Usk.
By 1911, Newport Town Council wanted a replacement. Work began in 1923 on the new bridge.
A temporary wooden bridge was built alongside while demolition of the old stone bridge was underway. Incredibly, all the power and gas lines and tramlines (with overhead power) were re-routed to the temporary bridge!
The Second stone bridge eventually opened in 1927.
Archive photographs: copyright of Newport Museum and Art Gallery
The new bridge featured added gold-painted stone cherubs – one on each of the corner pillars. The cherubs sit on top of the Newport coat of arms. One of the cherubs was photographed and used for the cover artwork for a single by the band, the Stone Roses. As a possible result of this, the cherubs were prone to be stolen.