Somerset Bridge is a small bridge located in the western parish of Sandys, in Bermuda, connecting Somerset Island with the mainland. The stone bridge is walled solid, save for a narrow arch near one of its banks that allows small boats to pass underneath. There is enough headroom for a motorboat to pass through comfortably but not a sailboat. To allow a sailboat with a tall mast to squeeze through, a section of the motorway over the arch was replaced with wooden planks that could be raised creating a mini drawbridge. This section is just 32 inches wide, and is widely believed to be the smallest working drawbridge in the world.
The original bridge dates back to 1620, and although the bridge was largely rebuilt in the mid 20th century, much of the original stonework remains. The bridge was originally raised using a hand crank, but now consist of two cantilevered half-spans made of thick timber panels. The panels can be grabbed by the sides and lifted to create a narrow gap just wide enough for the mast of a sailboat to pass through. Judging by the size of the gap, I believe it takes a fair amount of skill to navigate the gap without mishap. Often a sailor has to be assisted in opening the drawbridge and making the passage safely, so it’s not uncommon to find sailboat captains calling upon pedestrians for help.
Although not quite an attraction, the bridge’s unique reputation has earned it a place on the reverse of Bermuda’s $20 bills issued in 2009.
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