Heritage Locations

Kelso Bridge

John Rennie's first major bridge, a precursor to Waterloo Bridge.

Thomas Bouch

Period of construction:
1800 - 1849

Transport Trust plaque:

Transport Mode:

Near Ednam House Hotel, Bridge Street, Kelso, TD5 7HT


Nearest Town:

Heritage Centre:

On 25 October 1797 a violent storm undermined the middle arches of the old Kelso Bridge over the River Tweed, and the weakened structure collapsed the following day. Dismayed by the loss of the bridge, shares were issued to raise funds for a new crossing over the river.

 John Rennie (the Elder), later responsible for Waterloo Bridge in London, began work in 1800. His design used five semi-elliptical arches, a revolutionary design based on French practice, and had a level carriageway. It was completed in 1803.

The five-span bridge has the Rennie 'signature' level carriageway, which is generally unusual for a bridge of this date. The cutwaters are rounded below Doric columns which are repeated on the abutments. There is also a dentilated stringcourse which is echoed in the nearby tollhouse. At the W end, cast-iron lamps salvaged from Rennie's London Bridge on its demolition in the 1930's.
 Kelso was his first major bridge, replacing that of 1754

The bridge was much admired by the people of Kelso, and in 1838, the minister J A McCulloch wrote approvingly of its modern design. It was built at a cost of £17,800, with £15,000 borrowed from the Government.

To repay the loan, it was deemed necessary to levy a toll on traffic crossing the bridge. By 1854 it was realised that the loan had been easily repaid with over fifty years of tolls. The refusal of the trust managing the bridge to publish any of their accounts led to riots and an assault on the wooden toll gates. Soldiers were summoned from Edinburgh and although order was finally restored none of the leaders of the riot were ever caught. Later in the year, the tolls were finally abandoned. A local tradition maintains that the 'reluctant pennies' of those crossing the bridge wore the groove along the parapet toward the toll-house.


Campbell, Alastair & Robeson, Robin, Rotary Club of Kelso, ISBN-10: 0954100905 (2001)

Hume, John, Industrial Archaeology of Scotland: The Lowland Counties, Batsford, ISBN-10: 0713432349 (1976) 

Minchinton, W., A guide to industrial archaeology sites in Britain, Granada, ASIN: B0020ZCPRY (1984)

Rennie, John, Autobiography of Sir John Rennie: Comprising the History of His Professional Life, ISBN-10: 0548154937 (2007)

Scott-Giles, Charles Wilfrid,  British Bridges: An Illustrated Technical and Historical Record, Organising Committee of the Public Works, Roads and Transport Congress, ASIN: B000H4E88O (1933)

Strang, C. A. Borders and Berwick: an illustrated architectural guide to the Scottish Borders and Tweed valley, Rutland Press, ISBN-10: 1873190107 (1994)

Wallace, Rayburn, Bridge Across the Atlantic the Story of John Rennie, Harrap, ASIN: B001EN306S (1973)

Opening Times:
Open at all times.

How To Find:
By road: On A699, Bridge Street, south of Kelso.


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