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Chinese Bridge across north end of Broad Water

A Grade II Listed Building in Silsoe, Central Bedfordshire

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Latitude: 52.0039 / 52°0'13"N

Longitude: -0.4086 / 0°24'31"W

OS Eastings: 509336

OS Northings: 235131

OS Grid: TL093351

Mapcode National: GBR G3S.CJ4

Mapcode Global: VHFQV.VWVQ

Entry Name: Chinese Bridge across north end of Broad Water

Listing Date: 10 January 1985

Last Amended: 18 May 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1158909

English Heritage Legacy ID: 37759

Location: Silsoe, Central Bedfordshire, MK45

County: Central Bedfordshire

Civil Parish: Silsoe

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Silsoe

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans

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An ornamental bridge designed by the Countess Cowper in 1876, in a Chinese style.


MATERIALS: constructed of yellow brick, with limestone dressings.

PLAN: single elliptical arched span.

DESCRIPTION: the bridge is detailed with rusticated voussoirs at its lower edge. The parapet has a brick dentil course to its base, recessed panels, and corbelled brick pier to the centre. The central and end piers have ball finials. There are stones either side of the bridge which bear the 1876 construction date and monogram of Lady Anne Cowper surmounted by a coronet cipher.


Wrest Park belonged to the Grey family from the Middle Ages until the early C20. In 1833, Thomas Phillip Weddell, later Earl de Grey, inherited Wrest, having already spent much time there as a young man demonstrating his early abilities as an amateur architect in the design of the two lodges at Silsoe in 1826 (both Grade II). Although he had great respect for the gardens this did not extend to the house, which he demolished. The present house was constructed approximately 200m north of the old house in 1834-9 by the Earl with the assistance of James Clephan. The stable buildings to the east (Grade II) and the walled gardens (Grade II) to the west were also added between 1834 and 1839. The site of the former house was laid out to include the present parterres and south lawns. The Earl's appreciation of the existing garden’s qualities meant that little else was done to diminish its former appearance. In 1856 'le Petit Trianon' was built for his children and in 1857 an 'American Garden' was laid out north of the bowling green.

Earl de Grey died in 1859 succeeded by his daughter Anne Florence and her husband George, 6th Earl Cowper. They showed some interest in Wrest, adding statuary and the Chinese Bridge which replaced a previous timber bridge which had been erected in the 1760s. Prior to this there was an earlier bridge on the site which was built around the time of Lancelot Brown's alterations to the gardens (1750s), however it fell down and had to be replaced. The present stone and brick structure designed by Countess Cowper, and dating from 1876, was built by the workmen on the estate

Reasons for Listing

The Chinese Bridge, Wrest Park, erected in 1876, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural - The bridge is of a unique architectural design which reflects the taste and interests of The Countess Cowper;
* Artistic - It displays a good level of craftsmanship and detailing;
* Group Value - For its contribution to the structural and aesthetic composition of a Grade I Registered Park and Garden and its association with many other listed buildings.

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