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It does seem strange that back then it was deemed a hazard and nowadays with all the health and safety it is ok to have the arches open. I suppose back then there was more clearance so rowing boats could attempt to go through
The supports on the smaller arches were put in before the bypass and new bridge were built,taking the increaing load off the old bridge, which was the main road and which now has a weight restriction. This was to stop the foundations spreading. After all the lower part of the bridge dates back to 1380! Interesting to see the Hotel before it burnt down.