Never mind chocolates and roses this Valentine’s Day – in the 21st century the most fashionable token of enduring love is a padlock.
You engrave your names on the lock, attach it to a bridge and hurl the key into the watery depths.
These symbols of eternal devotion have been found on some of the world’s most romantic bridges: the Pont des Arts in Paris…the Ponte Milvio in Rome…and the Hohenzollernbrucke on the Rhine, the river that inspired Schumann and Wagner.
And now Wilford Suspension Bridge, the footbridge crossing the Trent between West Bridgford and the City of Love.
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Two years ago the number of lovelocks on the elegant Edwardian bridge could be counted in their dozens.
But after an explosion of emotion in 2016, the parapets are loaded with them. Chubb, Masterkey, Squire, Ingersoll, Securit … this week there are more than 900, including the heart-shaped locks now made especially for the purpose.
Romantic spot … Wilford Suspension Bridge. Picture: Peter Stone
At the last count there was a total of 704 on the County Hall side and 201 on the less fashionable Wilford side.
Tony and Emma Walker tied the knot 11 years ago. “We didn’t add our lock to the suspension bridge until last September after we ran in the Robin Hood Half-Marathon,” he said.
“I’d been up to Wilkos and paid about £2.99 for the padlock and we scratched our names on it,” added laboratory manager Tony, 38, who lived in Eastwood but has moved with his wife to Leicestershire. “We sometimes go back and have a look at it.”
Tony and Emma after the Robin Hood Half-marathon and (below) the lovelock they left on the suspension bridge
The bridge is an A to Z of love. Walk across it from Victoria Embankment and you start with Abdul (and Saiqa, Together Forever). At the West Bridgford end, you finish with Zena (and Gareth, August 2016).
Somewhere among the 700-plus locks is one of the two engraved by Arnold couple Kirsty Beckworth, 43, and her welder husband Mark, 41.
“We put one on the suspension bridge the day after our wedding at The Riverbank last July, then threw the key into the Trent,” said Kirsty. “The other lovelock went on the bridge inside the Paris Hotel, Las Vegas, while on honeymoon. We threw the keys into the fountains.”
The locks symbolise not only the early bloom of love but also the best possible outcome: an enduring partnership. So belated congratulations to Ian & Becky Westran, whose lock records a happy silver wedding anniversary.
Alas, there are also signs of sadness: love that endures when life does not. A tartan ribbon adorns the padlock declaring: “Alan McCulloch, 1931 – 2015 … We Miss You”.
Engravers have noticed a rise in demand for padlock messages. A spokeswoman at Joblot Trophies and Gifts in Woodborough Road, Mapperley, said: “We did quite a few last year, including one that was being taken to Paris.”
At Arena Awards in Long Easton, a spokeswoman said: “It has become fashionable and we have done a few, usually just names and a date. I’m not sure where they end up but I’ve seen a lot at the bridge in Bakewell.”
The history of lovelocks reputedly began in the Balkans in the early 20th century. Young women in the Serbian spa town of Vrnjacka Banja wrote their names, and those of their boyfriends, on padlocks and fixed them to the railings of a local bridge.
However it was not until the 21st century that lovelocks became an international craze. The most publicised venue is the Pont des Arts, the bridge carrying Parisian pedestrians across the Seine to the Louvre. In 2014 the weight of the locks was blamed for the partial collapse of the parapet.
In Italy, civic officials are protective of their architectural heritage. In Florence, padlocks have been stripped from the Ponte Vecchio. In Venice the same has happened at the world-famous Rialto Bridge, where attempts to attach padlocks could cost lovers a 3,000 euro fine.
Shannon and Alex declared their love on Wilford Suspension Bridge in 2015
So what will happen to the lovelocks of Wilford Suspension Bridge?
It’s good news for local sweethearts, at least for the moment, because the bridge’s owner, water company Severn Trent, says there are “no plans” to deploy the bolt cutters.
However a spokeswoman said: “While it may be a lovely idea to declare your love on a lovelock on the bridge, we’d encourage people to re-think where they put their declarations of love for Valentine’s Day.
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“Even though we have no plans to take the locks off anytime soon, there may come a time in the future that the bridge may require some maintenance, where we can’t guarantee the locks will stay.”
Happily the supplier of water to the Midlands of England is still happy to play Cupid this year.
Derbyshire engagement … the bubbly is on ice at beauty spot Carsington Water
The Severn Trent spokeswoman added: “Just a short drive away from Nottingham, we have the perfect location for those lovebirds on Valentine’s Day.
“Our Carsington Water reservoir visitor site, located in the Peak District, will be ready and waiting with champagne, balloons and a huge picture frame – so you and your loved one can create some everlasting memories together.”
The offer applies to those who notify Severn Trent in advance that they will be bringing a genuine marriage proposal to the Derbyshire beauty spot. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Rebecca on 07834 420105.
Visitor experience lead Kate Donovan said: “If you’re thinking of proposing on 14 February then we’d love to hear from you!”
Post from Nottingham Post