Kelso Bridge

(Rennie's Bridge)

A historic bridge over the River Tweed, the Kelso Bridge (often referred to as Rennie's Bridge) is located a quarter-mile (0.4 km) south of the town centre. Comprising five arches each spanning 22m (72 feet), the bridge is 7.3m (24 feet) in width. The foundations were sunk deeply into the bedrock, a lesson learned from the previous bridge that was constructed c.1755 but which collapsed in 1797 due to its inadequate foundations. Coffer dams, pumped dry by a watermill on the river bank, were used to access the river bed.

This new bridge was designed by John Rennie (1761 - 1821), one of his finest and said have been the model for his Waterloo Bridge in London. It was built 1801-04 by Murray & Lees at a cost of £12,876. His design was unusual for the time, in that it has a level road over semi-elliptical arches. The use of decorative Doric columns between each of these arches, connecting narrow pedestrian refuges to semi-circular cutwaters below, is reminiscent of the nearby Teviot Bridge. When the old Waterloo Bridge was demolished in 1936, two of its lamp standards were gifted to Kelso and installed on the parapet.

There was a toll house at the northeastern (town) end of the bridge, where a payment for crossing had to be made. These tolls continued to be collected long after the cost of the bridge was paid off and the local people rioted in protest in 1854. Three years later the tolls were withdrawn but the toll house remains, now known as Bridgend Cottage. The remains of a pill-box from World War II can also be seen at this end of the bridge, with gun-slits cut through the parapet.

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