on the bridge, with the cannon-balls at intervals


Hello, there,
this is from The Years by Virginia Woolf chapter 1914. this part describes the scenery in north England when Kitty went there. The context doesn't seem to matter. I just have difficulty understanding why and how the bridge has cannon-balls at intervals (the bold part below). Are the cannon-balls hung on the bridge or placed on the bridge? are they just decorations or real cannon-balls? I'm unable to image how it looks like. Is this some hint to the war (World War I), or is there some other meaning for "cannon-balls"? your thoughts are appreciated!


She left the terrace and strolled down the long grass path. The garden was still empty; only a man in his shirt sleeves was doing something to a tree; but she need speak to nobody. The chow stalked after her; he too was silent. She walked on past the flower-beds to the river. There she always stopped, on the bridge, with the cannon-balls at intervals. The water always fascinated her. The quick northern river came down from the moors; it was never smooth and green, never deep and placid like southern rivers.

  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    The impression I get is that they're stone balls, part of the bridge, the size of real cannon-balls. Such stone or concrete balls are sometimes used as ornaments at the top of gateposts too. I find this easier to imagine than them being real cannon-balls.
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    Senior Member
    English (American)
    Personally, I see no reason to think that they were anything other than old cannonballs set onto the bridge as a decoration.

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    I don't know if this was an actual bridge (some Woolf expert may be able to say), but I have no problem in imagining a bridge with either individual iron cannon-balls incorporated into the balustrade, or even triangular piles of them every ten yards or so. A steel ball is a common motif in fences, railings and balustrades.


    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I was thinking of bridges like Honington Bridge, which is one of the images that comes up when I go to Google Images for bridge "stone balls", and another frequent image is a bridge over the Cam in Cambridge, whereas nothing so obvious comes up when I look for bridge cannonballs.
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