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Document 3, Copy letter from Mr Wooler, 19 July 1775, p 1

A Copy of A Letter from Mr Wooler* dated at Hull the 19th July 1775
Having just now the favr of your letter of the 16th wherein you give me an account
of the ground under the intended first Pier of Hexham Bridge, being a Quick Sand
full of bubbley Springs and so lose a texture that by hand only-a Barr of Iron
enter’d into it 46 feet without meeting any resistance, and that your trial Pile
of whole Timber enter’d 26 feet at 2 ½ inchs P. stroke of the ram without stopping,
and that the gentlemen concerned were Eye wittnesses to the facts.
This is realy a most unhappy circumstance for them as after all their trouble
and expences hitherto, the attempting to set a Bridge upon such an enormous
depth of Quicksand, over a river so subject to great Floods as the Tyne, may be
deemed so hazardous as to be next to imprudance itself: Upon the report of their
Surveyor last year of a Bed of firm Clay being found from side to side 4 feet
below the Bed of the river, which it was juged easy to reach for a Foundation, the
Plan was form’d which you have to proceed by: but this wretched Quicksand renders
the attempting a Bridge on such Principles little better than folly: For let it be sup-
posed for instance that all the Piers of the Bridge were executed according to that
Plan, and that the Piles under them were all whole Timber, Coffer Piles & all and
were driven driven down 30 feet into this Quicksand, which from its resistance to the
Iron Barr cannot be demed much better than a heap of Chaff – Let it again be
suppos’d, that a Flood like that which overturned the late Bridge should happen,
It cannot be doubted, that when the loose Gravel under the Bed of the river (only
4 feet thick) shall be swept away between any of the Piers; but that the Quicksand
under it will presently follow like water itself, and an Excavation may be made
in a few hours, as deep or deeper as any of the Piles which guard the Piers, when
a downfall must be the immediate consequence. On these Principles therefore
the Bridge ought not to be attempted in this Spot, and if no better ground can be
found in any other situation, there is but one Method of dealing with such ground
which has succeeded where expence was not regarded, and that is: by carrying a
solid Wall quit [sic] through the river, from side to side, about 6 feet high, & in this case
it must be 42 feet broad. This Wall must stand on sleepers of whole Timber laid
thick, that is, from 12 to 18 inches asunder, on the Quicksand 5 feet below the Bed of
the River; its surface must be of large Stones all properly jointed, and will be
about a foot above the present bed of the River; it must be guarded in front and

Note: This is quoted at length in Smeaton's Memorial, document 35

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Transcribed by CTW and TB