Skew-arch canal bridge, near Pontypool

button-theme-canalSkew-arch canal bridge, near Pontypool

Govera Bridge, north of Pontypool, is one of the oldest skew bridges in Wales. It was built c.1811 when a new section of canal was cut, to join the Brecon & Abergavenny Canal to the Monmouthshire Canal at Pontymoile.

Other original bridges along what’s now known as the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal cross the water at right angles. Skew bridges required complicated arches where the stone courses were angled, as you can see at Govera Bridge. The steel reinforcing rails were later additions.

The engineer for this section of the canal was William Crosley. He had earlier worked for the renowned and innovative civil engineer William Jessop on the Rochdale Canal in Lancashire – where some of the first skew bridges were built.

Govera Bridge carries a minor lane over the canal, amid gently undulating terrain. It appears that a bridge at right angles was feasible here. Perhaps Crosley wanted to demonstrate his superior engineering skills!

At one end of the bridge is a sign prohibiting “locomotives” (such as traction engines) from crossing the bridge. It was placed there by the Great Western Railway, which once owned the canal.

The navigable section of the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal is looked after by the charity Glandwr Cymru the Canal & River Trust in Wales.

About the place-name:

Govera was recorded as Goferau by the Ordnance Survey in 1833. The properties Upper Goferau and Lower Goferau were noted, west of the canal, in 1882. A 1901 also has a Govera Cottage near the canal.

The name appears to be the plural of gofer, meaning “overflow of a well, spring or stream”. A field in nearby Pant-teg was recorded as the Govere in 1749. Also in this area of Wales, a field in Llanelli, near Gilwern, was recorded in 1440 as Tyr y Gover (“land or area of the overlow”).

With thanks to the MBA Canal Archive and Richard Morgan, of the Welsh Place-Name Society

Canal & River Trust website – Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

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