Eglinton Tournament Bridge

The Eglinton Tournament Bridge is a bridge located within Eglinton Country Park near Kilwinning, North Ayrshire, Scotland. The bridge crosses the Lugton Water a short distance northwest of Eglinton Castle (grid reference NS 3206 4224) and was named after the Eglinton Tournament of 1839. The castle and surrounding grounds were once home to the Montgomerie family, Earls of Eglinton and chiefs of the Clan Montgomery.

Eglinton Tournament Bridge

Tournament Bridge and castle in 1876[1]

55.6446°N 4.6699°W / 55.6446; -4.6699

Carries Pedestrians
Crosses Lugton Water
Locale Eglinton Country Park
Official name Tournament Bridge
Maintained by North Ayrshire Council
Historic Scotland
Design Gothic
Opened c. 1845 & 2009

. . . Eglinton Tournament Bridge . . .

See also: Eglinton Castle

The surviving ‘Tournament Bridge’ was built to provide an appropriate crossing point to gain access to the far side of the Lugton Water and the Eglinton Kennels, circa 1845. Archibald Montgomerie, the 13th Earl of Eglinton had the bridge built in a Gothic style, using cast iron for the arches, pinnacles, etc. and stone for the two pairs of miniature ornamental towers at either end. These towers have subtle design differences (See photographs) which are significant in the context of the extended history of the bridge. This ‘Tournament’ bridge is said to have been designed by the architect David Hamilton; agreement to build the original three arched bridge was reached on 16 October 1799 by the 12th Earl of Eglinton and Hamilton’s first recorded work dates from 1807. An Adam Russell is recorded as being partner to the agreement.[2] The first bridge is described by Aiton in 1811 as A bridge of three arches, the piers of stone, and the arches of cast-iron, of the most elegant device, imitating the gothic style of the castle, with the family arms in the centre, now building about 100 yards below the castle, where the river is 102 feet broad …[3]

The bridge’s cast-iron parapet is a repetition of the pointed Gothic arch design of the castle, surmounted by a battlement, and relieved in the centre with foliated pinnacles.[4] The Tournament Bridge is B listed by Historic Scotland.[5]

The original Tournament Bridge and the procession in 1839. Note the three cast-iron arches, crossed finials, pinnacles, and the taller, broader towers, etc. characteristic of that bridge.[6]
A map showing the layout of the various features associated with the Eglinton Tournament. Note the lakes either side of the bridge,[7] formed around 1800.[8]

The 1839 Eglinton Tournament was held on a meadow or holm at a loop in the Lugton Water. Most of the holm no longer exists, the excavations in this area having provided gravel and sand for the construction of the Kilwinning bypass and leaving behind an excavation pit which is now known as Eglinton Loch. The Knights on horseback and their retinue reached the tilt yard (‘C’ on the map) via an enclosed ride (‘G’ on the map), whilst the guests and visitors made their way to the stands via the route marked ‘F’ on the map illustrated. Both groups crossed over the previous three arched Gothic bridge. A map of 1837 of Eglinton Castle, Grounds and Tilt yard of 1837 shows that the tilt yard was already in existence at this early date, but it is not recorded what its fate was after the tournament was over.[9]

The castle and Tournament Bridge in 1884.

The ‘new’ Tournament Bridge served as a well used route across the Lugton Water, running through the Deer Park to Eglinton kennels (previously known as Laigh Moncur), especially on days when the Eglinton Hunt met at the castle itself. It was built by Messrs Connell of Dalgarven, using parts of the original bridge and possibly to a design by David Hamilton.[10] Messrs. Connell also built the new Kilwinning Tower to a design by David Hamilton.[10]

The ‘old’ Tournament Bridge converted artificially to two arches, etc. for comparison.

The original bridge, also with four pairs of miniature towers, but with three arches and four pinnacles, stood roughly 100 yards further up the river towards the castle; estate records show that it was built between 1802 and 1806[11] The original bridge is shown in several contemporary prints and maps as illustrated in the appropriate gallery of this article; the earliest is in William Aiton’s book as published in 1811.[12][13] It was this bridge that was used at the Eglinton Tournament as can be seen from the illustrations of the event, however the name was passed on to the ‘new’ bridge constructed downstream of it. No clear sign of this three arched bridge remains, a weir having been built at its old position; the ‘old’ bridge was constructed in 1811 according to Close.,[14][15] therefore around the time of the ‘new’ castle being built in 1801/2 and also when the grounds were being laid out by Tweedie.

Surviving architects drawings show the designs for a three arched bridge and as stated, contemporary prints of the Eglinton Tournament also show a three arched Tournament bridge, with cast-iron arches, pinnacles and parapets which may have been re-used in the later ‘new’ bridge which survives today. David Hamilton is recorded on the 1811 engraving as being the architect. A splendid archway was planned to be built for the tournament at the bridge, however this not recorded in the engravings.[16]

The point at which the ‘old’ bridge crossed the Lugton was 102 feet broad and 100 yards downriver from the castle.[17] It had the Montgomerie coat of arms in the centre. Aiton describes it as being under construction in 1811.[17] The miniature castle towers on the demolished bridge are shown as each being surmounted by a double cross, but these do not figure on the ‘new’ Tournament Bridge; the ‘old’ bridge therefore may have been specially embellished for the tournament with temporary additions.

A view of the Tournament Bridge at its ‘new’ site. The level of the weir was lower at this time and was raised at a later date using randomly chosen stones to raise the water level.[18]
The Lord of the Tournament (Earl of Eglinton) and his esquires and retainers crossing the bridge.[19]

A local minister, the Rev. Lee Ker, confirms which bridge was used at the tournament by relating in his book on Kilwinning that the tournament procession passed over the Water of Lugton by what is now called the Tournament Bridge, but which was then situated about 100 yards nearer the Castle and had three arches instead of two.[20] This distance coincides with a weir today and an old path from the castle leads directly to it. Dane Love states that the bridge used by the tournament had been built by the 12th Earl in 1811.[21] In contemporary reports of the tournament no special mention of the bridge is made, suggesting that it was already a well established feature of the estate by that time and not an extravagant new feature specially built for the event.

Lauchlan[22] confuses the issue by stating that an older bridge with three arches existed 100 yards up from the present one, however he states that the present bridge was built for the tournament. The old three arched bridge in fact still existed in 1840[23] and at least as late as 1843.[24][25]

The Eglinton Bridge had what was probably light with oil lamps as can be seen in the 1811 engraving and the twin towers at either end were both joined by masonry work and not by cast-iron work as in the present day two arched bridge. The Gothic embellishments on the engravings of the 1839 Tournament show that the oil lamps were removed for the event.

. . . Eglinton Tournament Bridge . . .

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. . . Eglinton Tournament Bridge . . .

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