“The nation, without doubt, is in serious danger of losing faith in the testimony of our poets and painters to the exceptional beauty of the land which has inspired them. The poets, from Chaucer to the last of his true British successors, with one voice enlarge on the overflowing sweetness of England, her hills and dales, her pastures with sweet flowers, and the loveliness of her silver streams. It is the cherishing of the wholesome enjoyments of daily life that has implanted in the sons of England love of home, goodness of nature, and sweet reasonableness, and has given strength to the thews and sinews of her children, enabling them to defend her land, her principles, and her prosperity. With regard to the three Sonning bridges, parts of them have been already rebuilt with iron fittings in recent years, and no disinterested reasonable person can see why they could not be easily made sufficient to carry all existing traffic. If the bridges were to be widened in the service of some disproportionate vehicles it is obvious that the traffic such enlarged bridges are intended to carry would be put forward as an argument for demolishing the exquisite old bridge over the main river which is the glory of this exceptionally picturesque and well-ordered village; and this is a matter of which even the most utilitarian would soon see the evil in the diminished attraction of the river not only to Englishmen, but to Colonials and Americans who have across the sea read widely of its beauty. Remonstrances must look ahead, and can only now be of avail in recognition of future further danger. We are called upon to plead the cause for the whole of the beauty-loving England, and of all river-loving people in particular.”
Gallantly does the great painter express the views of artists, and such vandalism is as obnoxious to antiquaries as it is to artists and lovers of the picturesque. Many of these old bridges date from medieval times, and are relics of antiquity that can ill be spared. Brick is a material as nearly imperishable as any that man can build with. There is hardly any limit to the life of a brick or stone bridge, whereas an iron or steel bridge requires constant supervision. The oldest iron bridge in this country—at Coalbrookdale, in Shropshire—has failed after 123 years of life. It was worn out by old age, whereas the Roman bridge at Rimini, and the medieval ones at St. Ives, Bradford-on-Avon, and countless other places in this country and abroad, are in daily use and are likely to remain serviceable for many years to come, unless these ponderous trains break them down.
The interesting bridge which crosses the River Conway at Llanrwst was built in 1636 by Sir Richard Wynn, then the owner of Gwydir Castle, from the designs of Inigo Jones. Like many others, it is being injured by traction-trains carrying unlimited weights. Happily the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings heard the plaint of the old bridge that groaned under its heavy burdens and cried aloud for pity. The society listened to its pleading, and carried its petition to the Carmarthen County Council, with excellent results. This enlightened Council decided to protect the bridge and save it from further harm.