The Flat Bridge is a beam bridge over the Rio Cobre on the A1 road joining the Jamaican capital Kingston, with the north coast tourist areas of Dunn’s River, Ocho Rios and even Montego Bay. When traveling to Kingston from most parts of the island you will have to cross this historic bridge. It is one of the oldest bridges on the island.
It cannot be positively established when this bridge was built, it was surely constructed after 1724. Edward Long reports about the Flat Bridge in his book History of Jamaica which was printed in 1774:
“This bridge is flat and composed of planks on frame of timber-work which rests upon two piers and two buttresses projecting from the banks, constructed with piles and braces interlaced with masonry.”
The building of the bridge reminds us of a dark page in the history of Jamaica. During the construction of the bridge, the sixteen plantations in the Bog Walk region were required to send one slave in every fifty to work on the River Road, sometimes called Sixteen Mile Walk. Gravel, marl, lime, sand and stone had to be spaded. A lot of slaves lost their lives performing hazardous jobs in the Gorge. Agreements for timber-men and for masons to work on the bridge were permitted at vestry meetings.
Between 1881 and 1915, the ground of the overpass was washed away and later re-floored with iron joists and clip plates taken from the authentic flooring of the May Pen bridge. Currently, the bridge of three spans is carried by two piers and two jutting pieces. In the 1930s it had metal handrails and later wooden ones, but these were destroyed by the river during multiple floodings. Divisions of stone are now the only safeguard on the bridge itself.
Flat Bridge is an element of the crowded A1 road and only has a single lane so fluid traffic is provided by traffic lights.
The overpass is often flooded after massive rainfall. In such times, travellers are advised to take different routes via Barry and Sligoville.
Have you ever crossed the Flat Bridge during a visit to Jamaica? Leave a comment below.