Does anyone else remember looking over the Mill Suspension Bridge at all the money that had been thrown on to the steps of the weir below?
A pre-decimal practice
This was in pre-decimal days and most of the coins were the old pennies and ha’pennies. However, there also used to be the occasional silver coin. I even remember on one occasion seeing a half crown on the weir steps! Although the equivalent to only 12½ pence in decimal currency, which would not buy you much today, in the early 1960s when a loaf of bread would have cost you around a shilling (5p) and a pint of milk 1/6 (7½p), a half crown would buy you pint of Guinness or a packet of 20 cigarettes!
The practice of throwing coins on to the weir steps died out when the new decimal coins came into use. But I do wonder how many old pre decimal coins are still hidden in the river bed below it.
Improving the flow of the river
The weir and suspension bridge had been built as part of the scheme to improve the flow of the river. Various schemes had been proposed to improve the flow of the River Leam since the early 1850s. However, it was not until the demolition of the old mill in 1899 that something was finally done.
It was the borough engineer William Louis de Normanville who was responsible for the scheme, which also included the creation of what we now know as the Mill Gardens. Despite strong opposition to his plans from some quarters, Mr de Normanville prevailed and gave us the elegant structure and pleasant green space we know today.
Trying to wash away a bridge
Even Mother Nature seemed to conspire against Mr de Nornamville. On Monday 31st December 1900, following heavy rain, the river rose dramatically. The bridge had been built but had not yet been fixed into place above the weir. By 3 o’clock in the afternoon the water was pouring over the bridge and it was feared it would be washed away. However, just as it has done on occasions since, the bridge stood firm, totally justifying Mr de Normanville’s faith in his design.