NUNEHAM RAILWAY BRIDGE, also known as Black Bridge
[ As to the name "Black Bridge" I notice that the old name for the big wood to the east of
Nuneham Park used to be "Black Wood". The railway goes nowhere near it, but maybe the wood
for the first bridge came from there? I recently met a Radley rowing man who knew
the bridge under this name. ]
The bridge has, it seems, a very similar history to Appleford Railway Bridge (which is only a mile or so down the line, though much further by water). As with Appleford Bridge I can so far find no picture of the 1844 original.
1844: Isambard Kingdom Brunel built a timber bridge to carry the Oxford - Didcot Railway Line.
1856: An iron bridge built.
1882:Black Bridge, Nuneham Courtenay, Henry Taunt -
Black Bridge, Nuneham Courtenay, Henry Taunt, 1882
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT3857
1873: from Sherwood's 'Oxford Rowing' -
1873: Coxswainless Fours were established. They were
arranged to be rowed from the lasher to the island at
Nuneham, as level races, but the steering was so atrocious
that this latter idea was soon abandoned.
We can well remember the sorry plight of one of the crews as we saw them one day, dripping wet, and shivering in the cold wind on one of the piers in the middle of the river under Nuneham Railway Bridge; too cold to swim, and with no friendly boat in sight to take them off, and their own boat a wreck through running into the bridge;
and the steering in the other boats was nearly as bad, only they had the good fortune always to run into the bank on one side or the other.
1885: The Royal River -
It is best to see Nuneham Reach from the railway bridge. From any other point it is necessary to see the bridge itself.
1890: And here is the view taken by Frith -
View upstream from Black Railway Bridge, 1890
1897: Second Nuneham Railway Bridge, James Dredge -
Second Nuneham Railway Bridge, James Dredge, 1897
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; D230160a
1929: Third and Current Nuneham Railway Bridge built in steel.
1943: Start of the second unofficial Wartime Boat Race -
The Cambridge crew was a cosmopolitan one by the standards of those times with a Dane
at bow and a Turk at 4. Oxford on the other hand was nationally more traditional,
but had no less than 4 medical students in the crew. As on the previous occasion (1940)
training was restricted to three afternoons per week for both crews.
The banks of the rather narrow 1¼ mile course (from Black Bridge to the island by Radley Boathouse) were thronged with spectators all of whom had had to reach it by either bicycle or on foot. The newspaper reports at the time speak about a crowd of between 7,000 and 10,000.
Oxford won the toss and chose the Oxfordshire bank. They set off at 40 compared to the Cambridge 37 and were in the lead almost immediately, reported as a length up in less than half a minute. Despite being left at the start, Cambridge clearly did not give up and gave a spirited response for the judges verdict at the finish was a win for Oxford by two-thirds of a length.
Nuneham Railway Bridge in 2002.
[ Aren't I nicely tucked up in the reeds! I was blown there! (And then decided I should take a photo to justify myself.) I was going to Abingdon on a windy day and somebody had taken Abingdon and made off with it. Whole sections of river had been randomly inserted. That two miles from Lock Wood Island to Abingdon stretched quite endlessly ]
1891: The Stream of Pleasure, Joseph & Elizabeth Robins Pennell -
All the afternoon we drifted with the stream, or lay for hours among the reeds
by the banks, watching the boats. In the stillness we could hear the splashing of oars,
the grinding of rowlocks long before they came in sight, far voices,
and even the sharpening of a scythe on shore.
And then a shrill whistle and a train rushing across the meadow-land would remind us that this great quiet of the Thames is within easy reach of London.
2005: Picture, Doug Myers