The Commissioners reported in 1813 that the South Bridge was `very unsafe' and a new Act passed in July 1814 authorised them to `take down, widen and rebuild the bridge over the River Nine or Nene'. The Act summarised the disadvantages of the old bridge:
`And whereas the Bridge over the River Nine or Nen ... called the South Bridge, is very ancient, narrow, inconvenient, and dangerous for the passing of Persons, Carriages and Cattle over the same; and the Piers of the said bridge are so constructed as to impede the current of the River in time of Flood, to the great Injury of the Inhabitants of the said Town and of the Public at large; and the approaches to the said Bridge are narrow and incommodious.'
The cost was to be met by borrowing and the loans repaid out of tolls' to be taken at a ,gate and tollhouse on or near the South Bridge' according to the following table:
|For every Coach, Chaise etc drawn by more than one horse||9d|
|For every Coach, Chaise etc drawn by one horse||4 1/2d|
|For every wagon carrying for hire||1 s 0d|
|For every cart or wain carrying for hire||8d|
|For every wagon not carrying for hire||9d|
|For every cart or wain not carrying for hire||6d|
|For every horse, mare, mule or ass, not drawing||1d|
|For every drove of oxen or neat cattle per score||3d|
|For every drove of sheep per score||1d|
|For every drove of hogs per score||2d|
The new bridge was to be between twentyfive and forty feet wide and could be of `Iron, Stone, Brick or other material'. The Act set a maximum fine of £5 for the offences of damaging or obstructing the bridge and, more drastically, a possible sentence of transportation for several years if anyone should `wilfully blow up, pull down or destroy the present bridge, or the said intended bridge'.
A public meeting was called on December 2nd 1813 to consider `the propriety of entering into a subscription for raising a sufficient sum of money to defray the expenses of taking down and rebuilding the South Bridge . . .(Northampton Mercury, 27 Nov and 4 Dec, 1813) . It was resolved that £12,000 should be raised in shares of not less than £100. However, Bevan and Kirshaw had already estimated that the bridge could be built for £8,000 and by February 1814 a total of £9,300 had been promised, the largest single loan corning from the Proprietors of the Town and County Bank.
The final decision to build a three arch stone badge was not taken until the relative advantages and costs of brick and iron had been considered and there was considerable support for a single span iron bridge (Bevan was to write to engineers such as Rennie and Telford asking for their views), An estimate from the London engineer, William Anderson, detailed the cost of an iron bridge at £5,272-7-0 for stone abutments and the temporary bridge and £4,732-12-0 for a cast iron arch. Agreement was finally reached, however, for a three arch stone bridge to be built by Hugh McIntosh of London with William Anderson as Superintendent, at an estimated cost of £9,600. The facing stones were to be Derbyshire Gritstone and at one stage it was arranged for internal work to use stone from a quarry at Courteenhall but this latter agreement was rescinded.
The temporary bridge was in use in November 1815 and on April 5th 1816 the Marquess of Northampton laid the foundation stone. In a speech of thanks to the Marquess Mr P J Luard, Chairman of the Commissioners, said that the foundation stone of the old bridge was supposed to have been laid by `Saint Liz' the 1 St Earl of Northampton in the reign of William the Conqueror. Traditional practice was then followed by depositing coins - a half guinea, two shillings, a sixpence, a silver penny and a half penny, all of the present reign, and, a crown piece of Charles II with the present date engraved on it, in a niche in the centre of the foundation stone which was covered with a lead plate inscribed April 5th 1816. `A massy stone nearly two tons weight' was then moved into place to cover the deposits (Northampton Improvement Commissioners Minute Books).
The bridge was opened 1818 and, although it had only been given a total width of 31 feet between parapets it served the town in that form for nearly a hundred years. A companion bridge a short distance away suffered a different fate for a note in the 1870 Bridge Report compiled by E F Law reads:
`A good stone bridge of two arches, with a stone parapet and coping, at the South end of the town a few yards north of the level crossing. The bridge now forms part of the main sewer of Hardingstone Local Board and is enclosed at each end, it is now invisible and has been thus for some few years', E F Law 1883 (County Bridge Report, 1870 ).
`J T' writing in the Herald for August 25th 1894 remarked:
'. . . the arches of old St Leonard's Bridge, the parapet of which is now standing, were culverted over, thus hiding two of the earliest and best proportioned arches in the county'.