I recently read Peter Ackroyd's fine book, "Thames: Sacred River", a work that examines the river that runs through our capital. I read of its early origins, its course from source to sea, its role in trade and commerce, how it was and is used for pleasure, the way artists and writers have depicted it, even how it was a conduit for the city's effluent and the steps taken to return it to life after being for so long, at least in London, little more than an open sewer, and much else. Through fifteen sections and forty five chapters, each of which almost stand alone, Ackroyd looks at the many facets of the Thames. At a number of places he discusses the sites where the river was bridged and the importance that early peoples assigned to such places. This is a subject that has long interested me, and one that I was thinking about when I took today's photograph.
In the British Isles a relatively high number of archaeological finds are associated with bridges. The weapons - swords, daggers, shields, spear etc - of early peoples have often been discovered in river beds near bridges or in the banks and land surrounding them. This is thought to indicate the high value, reverence even, that was placed on a crossing of of a river, the flow itself being seen as something akin to a life-force. The Romans shared this kind of esteem for flowing water and often placed altars by bridges. Medieval religious orders built bridges with chapels on them for similar reasons, but also as a means of raising funds for the maintenance of the crossing.
Deeping Gate bridge has the year 1651 carefully carved on one of the upstream cutwaters. There are no ribs on the underside of the arches, and these are rounded, not pointed. Both of these suggest that the date signifies when it was actually built rather than rebuilt or restored. Consequently it is very unlikely to be a crossing point that experienced the devotional offerings and activities described above. Today it continues to fulfil its original purpose as a crossing point, and now, as at the time it was built, the narrowness of the road means only one vehicle at a time can pass over it. On the day I photographed it the sky, the sun, the reflective surface of the river and the early autumn tints on the trees made a composition that, apart from the road signs and telegraph poles, could have been seen on and similar day over the past couple of hundred years.
For further information about this bridge and a couple more of my photographs of it see here and here.
photograph and text © Tony Boughen
Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 10.4mm (28mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/400
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On