About Sutton Bridge
Sutton Bridge is a town in South Lincolnshire but on the border of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. It has a population of approximately 4000 inhabitants and is a mainly rural town with the A17 trunk road bypassing the town. The A17 links the East coast of England with the Midlands.
The main industry of the area is farming and food processing. Many crops are grown in the area as well as bulbs and flowers.
The port sees many ships each year, loading and unloading their cargo and the swing bridge often swings on a high tide to allow large ships to pass through to the port of Wisbech further along on the River Nene.
Sutton Bridge was once marshland, reclaimed from the sea from the 16th century onwards. In fact even in the 19th century there was nothing more than a few cottages along the road from Lynn to Spalding. The River Nene was much wider with no bridge so it had to be crossed at low tide with great care and a guide.
It is said that in 1216, King Johns crown jewels were lost in The Wash during the crossing on a journey from Kings Lynn to Swineshead. As King John had himself travelled by the safer inland route of Wisbech, no one can actually be sure if the jewels are still in the marshes somewhere or whether they were stolen and never actually went in at all. A book called The Lost Treasure of King John: The Fenland's Greatest Mystery by Richard Waters aims to show as much geographical and historical information there is.
For many years the town, or village as it was then wanted to make the most of the river to boost local economy, so in 1875 the Sutton Bridge Dock Act was passed authorising the construction of the dock, quayside, jetty and link to the railway network. The dock was completed in May 1881 with the official opening planned for 29th June with public festivities. However, on 9th June the land began to slip and by the following week, the whole dock had collapsed. The work of 100 men, 50 horses and carts, 1 steam dredger and several barges had been in vain.
The dock area then lay untouched for over 100 years as the present Port Sutton Bridge was not opened until 1987.
Sir Peter Scott of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire and the World Wildlife Fund spent time living in Sutton Bridge. He lived in the lighthouse on the East Bank of the River Nene and whilst there, spent his time painting the geese that flew in from the adjoining marshland. He set up a small nature reserve for wildfowl and this was the predecessor to Slimbridge.
There is also a twin to the East Lighthouse, situated on the West Bank of the River Nene. Neither were ever functioning lighthouses but were built in 1881 as markers for the ships entering the Nene. Both are private dwellings.
As land was reclaimed from the sea, a bridge was built to span the Nene. The current swing bridge is the third one (built in 1897) and was originally built to cater for road traffic on one side and rail on the other. The railway reached Sutton Bridge in 1862 but with the Beeching cuts, it was closed in 1965 and the bridge converted to purely road use. Losing the railway effectively "killed off" many small villages which had once thrived (Sutton Bridge included). The Bridge Hotel for example had once been a top quality hotel which fell into disrepair over the years. It was totally renovated in recent years after many years of neglect but has sadly ended up in the hands of the receivers and is now closed and for sale.