Tuesday 7 April 2020


by Dave Roberts

I suppose if you're not familiar with this local landmark you might think that the 'turnover bridge' is some kind of mechanical structure, like a swing bridge or a transporter bridge, designed to move traffic or canal boats from one place to another in a Victorian Engineering Marvel sort of way.
But no, the 'turnover' bridge' gets its name very simply from the fact that the road from Middlewich to Sandbach switches from the right hand side of the Trent & Mersey  Canal to the left at this point.
It's real, official, name is 'Tetton Bridge' and it lies in the middle of what was once an industrialised area.
From the 1770s until the 1960s it was just another of those 'hump-backed' canal bridges seen all over the area (although, being on a main road, it didn't have much of a 'hump'), until it was replaced by a more modern structure during a road improvement scheme.
Or was it?
Certainly it looks like a modern structure, particularly from the 'Middlewich' end. In fact, when you stand underneath it and look towards Middlewich, it bears an uncanny resemblance to the Town Bridge:
Looking at  the 'Sandbach' side of the bridge , however, it's plain that part of the structure, at least, has its origins in a traditional canal bridge:

This side of Tetton Bridge has the gracefully curved arch seen on many bridges in the area, albeit clad in ugly concrete. In front of the arch is one of the brine pipelines which criss-cross the area like a spider's web.
So is Tetton Bridge ancient or modern?
There's a clue in this notice, to be found on the 'Middlewich' side:

The 'sudden change in bridge profile' is a reference to the point where the new part of the bridge meets the old:
..and the sweeping arch of the old bridge is very evident. Also evident on the left is  damage to the brickwork where something has dealt the old bridge a severe blow.

So the 'turnover bridge' is actually an interesting amalgam of old and new.
The old bridge was never actually demolished, merely cocooned by the new bridge and hidden away from all except canal users.
From the road above, there is no hint of the interesting bodge-up which lies beneath:

Notice the sign on the right pointing the way down Tetton Lane to Warmingham where the brine for making Middlewich salt comes from.
Beyond the hedge in the background lies the site of Murgatroyd's Chemical Works (most recently operated by Brenntag, who  still have a presence at the Middlewich end of the site, including a Combined Heat and Power Station).
The area will change out of all recognition one glorious day when the Middlewich by-pass is completed and joins the Sandbach road at a point somewhere near the top of this photograph.

All the photographs in this entry, by the way, were taken on Wednesday 20th June 2012, one of the few warm and sunny days in  the wettest June in a hundred years.

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Paul Greenwood Fascinating entry, Dave. I've been going back and to over that bridge most days for the last thirty-four years, and never knew its secrets.

Geraldine Williams I can remember the old Turnover Bridge, but wonder what happened to the Middlewich-Sandbach traffic during the modifications? Must have been jolly if it was all diverted through Warmingham!

Dave Roberts I was wondering that, too, Geraldine. Possibly they  built the new part of  the bridge and diverted traffic over it while they were constructing the new roadway over the top of the old bridge?

Does anyone remember? -Ed

UPDATE (1st April 2018):

Ian Murfitt has pointed out that, though this may be THE Turnover Bridge, it's not actually A turnover bridge.

A 'turnover bridge', or 'roving bridge',  'changeline bridge' or even 'snake bridge' in usual canal parlance means a bridge where the towpath moves from one side of the canal to the other and the bridge is constructed in such a way that the boat horse can follow the towpath across the bridge without the hauling line having to be detached.

If you hold the copyright on this photo please let us know

This photo illustrates how the principle works: you can see how the horse could walk up the ramp on the right, cross the bridge and then walk down the ramp on the left without the tow-line ever having to be removed.

There are several 'turnover bridges' not far away on the Macclesfield Canal.

In other areas the problem was solved by splitting the bridge into two, leaving a narrow gap which the tow-rope could be passed through.

None of which has anything to do with Tetton Bridge. Although the road switches from one side to the other, the towpath doesn't.

So in this case the name 'Turnover Bridge' appears to be simply a local one denoting the place where the road crosses over to the other side of the canal.

Many thanks to Ian Murfitt.

UPDATE (7th April 2020)

Canal & River Trust volunteer Bob Shoosmith writes:
A very awkward bridge to negotiate in a boat due to the change of direction. I have taken many a C&RT "Tug" (a misnomer, as it pushes, not pulls) through there, and as they are fairly tall, it takes some careful negotiation at very low speed to avoid scraping the walls. You can see that some have also had difficulty when looking at the picture from the Sandbach side, and the very neat right angled chunk out of the brickwork on the right side of the arch.

Photo: Bob Shoosmith

For those who are not aware what they look like, this is a Tug & Hopper we brought down the T&M a couple of years ago. The tug is 30' and the hopper 40', so a total of 70' which is pretty much as long as you can fit into a lock, and definitely something to be carefully negotiated under Tetton Bridge.

Many thanks to Bob for this 'insider' knowledge - Ed.

First published 22nd June 2012.
Updated and re-published 1st April 2018
Updated and re-published 7th April 2020

7th APRIL 2020


  1. I remember in the 1940's travelling to school in Sandbach on a Crosville double decker bus and crossing the'Turnover' bridge. On the Sandbach side there was a 90 degree turn off the bridge and if you were on the top deck it seemed as if the bus was about to roll over. The entry on the Middlewich side was not quite as sharp.

  2. Very interesting. I worked at the adjacent Bridge Farm Tetton Lane in about 2000 and often wondered what the large chimney had previously been used for. Dave's article mentions this was an Industrialised area, so perhaps the Farm was part of this. Any comments would be welcomed.


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