In 1849 floods swept through the Great Glen in the Highlands of Scotland, breaching the Caledonian Canal and destroying the stone bridge over the River Oich.
James Dredge a brewer turned engineer from Bath in Somerset, England, designed this new iron bridge using his patented 'taper principle'. The river crossing needed a single wide span to avoid the dangers of more floods so a stone bridge was out of the question. Dredge's sophisticated design differs from a normal suspension bridge in two ways; it is lighter since the chains get gradually thinner towards the centre and it is more stable in that if you break the bridge in the middle it will stay up, in theory at least.
Roads came late to the Highlands where goods were traditionally transported by pack animals over poor tracks. By the 1830s the building of roads and the Caladonian Canal by Thomas Telford had transformed communications in the area. There was now a stage coach service along this road three times a week. The bridge would have been used by local traffic, by wool and horse traders, as well as the first tourists and the huge cattle droves heading south every autumn. Larger cargoes, and ships avoiding the journey round the north of Scotland, would have used the Canal. In 1932 the bridge fell into disuse as the increase in traffic required larger bridges.