Bridging the Mersey - a pictorial history

Bridging the Mersey - a pictorial history

:   Dave Thompson
:   Cheshire
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-2640-3
:   80
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Fragmenten uit het boek 'Bridging the Mersey - a pictorial history'

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9 In this photograph from 1866 we see a top sail schooner being built, and another under repair at the Castle Rock ship building yard at Runcorn. These ships were typical of those sailing to Runcorn in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the background the Runcorn Railway Bridge is still seen to be under construction. The bridge was built to provide headroom of 75ft for schooners and other river craft,

10 The completed bridge was officially opened on 21st May 1868 when the Iocomotive engine 'Cheshire', drawing twenty wagons containing five hundred spectators, made the first journey across the bridge. The impressive bridge is known Iocally as the Ethelfleda Bridge. and further afield as the Britannia Railway Bridge. It still stands today and is the first of the three great bridges to have been built across Runcorn Gap.

11 The excavations for the foundations of the railway bridge piers were ariginally dug inside coffer-dams, and were each 70 by 40 ft, and 35 ft deep in the sandstone beneath the river bed - an undertaking of same magnitude, even with modern engineering techniques. This view looks down on the sandstone pier on the Runcarn bank now standing in the Manchester Ship Canal. It was at this site during the original excavations for the bridge that remains were discovered which are thought to have been associated with the Saxon fort or 'burgh', first founded by Queen Ethelfleda in 915

A.D to revoke Norse and Danish raiders.

12 An impressive viaduct of arches approached the railway bridge. The approach on the steeply rising Runcorn bank were comparatively short with just 33 arches. However, on the Widnes side, pictured right, it required 65 brick arches and two embankments to raise the line along a wide curve from almast river level at Ditton to meet the 75ft high span over the Mersey.

1 3 The great age of steam is celebrated in this view of a steam locomotive crossing the bridge in the

195ü's.TheWest Coast Main Line route was eventually electrifled in 1961.

14 In addition to the double rail track the railway bridge also carried a cantilevered footway across the Mersey and Manchester Ship Canal and for the price of one penny pedestrians could walk across.

L. & N. W. R.



27th December, 1920,

Toe Tüllß für Per~ünß & Bioyole~, eta.,



WILL BI=: AS 1.i~l)J::R;-

Single Journey Toll td.

Books of 12 tieketa for Single Joumey Toll 9d.

Single Journey Toll for Bloyele or Handeort 2d.

Weekly Ticket for Bieyele or Handcart ineluding

Pao.enger'. Toll t/9

.. Thë act. of passing through the r~gjsterino turnëtile, er tlh: acceprauce of riekets. is ro be taken 3S evidence of an agreement 10 rbe effect. that t hë Compauy wi] l net Le Iinble to tbe passenger or his ör her rèpreseutative in coasequence of any accident, bodily OT ctherwisè. iujury. OT delay te Ijle persou. ar löss or damage io Iris or her property howevër caused. which nright ar-i .. e whilst the passenger is using the bridge er Iootpath, OT approaches therèto."

Eoston Station. Loudon, December. 1 ~~o.

I. T. WILLIAMS, General Manager.

15 The footway was a troublesome route over the river as it had to be mounted by a flight of steps on the Runcorn side. Other than the cumbersome ferryboat, which necessitated passengers to climb over the wall of the Manchester Ship Canal, it was the only pedestrian route for some time until the opening of the nearby transporter bridge. The heyday of the footway came in 1 952 when the transporter was closed for five months. During that time 250,000 people passed through the turnstiles at Runcorn. The foatway is seen in this picture shartly bef are the completion of the raad bridge in 1961.

16 Towards the end of the 19th century the demand for a vehicular bridge crossing at Runcorn was growing irresistibly. A more effective and reliable means of crossing the Mersey between Runcorn and Widnes than that offered by the ferry, was urgently required. Many previous proposals had been made for a crossing at this point but had faltered on cast, largely brought about by the technical difficulties of bridging both the Mersey and Manchester Ship Canal. In 1899 several prominent local businessmen formed the Runcorn & Widnes Bridge Company. It consulted with the lead-

ing bridge engineer Iohn Webster of Westminster, who immediately recognized the potential of the so-called 'transbordeur' bridge. This design of bridge carried a suspended

ferry above the water, at road level, on the underside of a bridge beam which was set clear of the tallest ships. This idea is pictured here in the Transbordeur Bridge recently

built at that time in Reuen, France. The Bridge Company in their prospectus referred to the success of this bridge.

ROLE. - L, F nt Trans deur. - LL.

17 Two similar bridges of this type were also built for industrial use at the soap works of Ioseph Crosfield & Son Ltd in Warrington. The first small transporter bridge was built here in 1905 at the cast ofjust f4,000 and predorninantly conveyed lirne sludge for reprocessing on a rnarshy bend in the river, known locally as the 'tongue land'. The second bridge, pictured here, was opened in 1916 and carried railway wagons frorn sidings adjacent to the London-Scotland railway line. The 187ft-span is now derelict but awaits restoration by English Heritage. It has the distinction of being one of

only seven transporter bridges that now survive anywhere in the world.


18 In this portrait we see Sir Iohn Brunner, Bart M.p, the member of parliament and influential chemical manufacturer, who had first pioneered the idea of building a transporter bridge across the Mersey between Widnes and Runcorn, Sir John was the Chairman of the Widnes & Runcorn Bridge Company and subscribed much of his own money into the share capitalof the venture.

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