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Joseph Treffry and the Bridge Too Far

Imagine the view of the Fowey estuary today with a towering suspension bridge spanning the harbour. Impossible? Well, that was the vision of Joseph Treffry of Place during Cornwall’s industrial revolution.

Treffry, who had trained as a civil engineer, was one of Cornwall’s foremost mine owners and had built new docking facilities at Fowey to enable larger ships to export his tin and copper ore. He also built Par Harbour for the same purpose, and created a mineral tramway linking Par with Newquay, where he made significant improvements to the harbour at the north Cornwall town.

In 1834, Treffry had plans drawn up for an ambitious bridge across the River Fowey. It was to be constructed upstream from Caffa Mill and Bodinnick, with new approach roads either side.

The proposed suspension bridge would be 500 foot across, with the road deck 80 foot above high water, and would feature twin towers 180 foot high. As with other large bridge projects, tolls would be charged to cross, with monies raised going towards maintenance.

An Act of Parliament was required to allow construction of the bridge, and legal documents were drawn up by Coodes solicitors of St Austell (still a thriving firm today) and dated 12th November 1834.

However, the project never saw the light of day. Whether the application to Whitehall was unsuccessful - or ever made - is not known, or perhaps it was simply a case of the costs involved proving too prohibitive for the economic benefits envisaged.

Undaunted, Joseph Treffry did build his towering ‘bridge’ a few years later. Opened in 1842, it was the spectacular Treffry Viaduct spanning the Luxulyan Valley.



An image of Joseph Treffry


By all accounts Treffry was a benevolent entrepreneur. In 1822, his Fowey Consols mining company was the most productive in the county, employing 1,680 workers. He was the first mine owner in Cornwall to offer sick pay to his miners and their families. He became High Sheriff of Cornwall in 1839, and died in 1850.

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