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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29 Iohn Iames Webster (1845-1914), theWarrington-born engineer responsible for the construction of two famous bridges across the Mersey, the Widnes Transporter Bridge and Warrington Bridge at Bridge Foot. The eminent Westminster-based engineer had a worldwide reputation for bridge and pier building, befare he embarked on the design of Britairi's first transporter bridge early in 1900. He went on to build the Shepherds Bush Stadium for the 1908 Olympic games before Warrington Corporation commissioned him in 1 9 1 2 to oversee the new crossing at Bridge Foot,

Warrington. Webster's scheme for Bridge Foot was to result in one of the earliest examples of a reinforced concrete bridge and at 80 ft in width, the second widest bridge in the country after Westminster Bridge in London.

30 Since the 13 th century seven bridges are known to have been built across the river at 'Bridge Foot' in Warrington, making it the most frequently bridged

location on the Mersey. For centuries these structures formed the only regular bridging of the river for traveIlers in south-west Lancashire and north

Cheshire. In this postcard view looking towards Bishops Wharf we see the fifth bridge, opened in

183 7, durin g the first years of Queen Victoria's reign.

The bridge survived until the first half of its replacement bridge was partially opened in 1913.

31 The sixth bridge, pictured here in 1 928, is that built by Iohn Webster. It spanned 134 ft across the river and is 80 ft between parapets and contains 2,400 cubic yards of concrete and 242 tons afsteel. The new Warrington Bridge was opened in two halves, the earlier opening in 1913 having been performed by King George V, and the second half in 1915. It is still in use today, although now providing a one-way interchange of five lanes.

32 A second major raad crossing of the Mersey at Warrington was provided when the 'Kingsway Bridge' was opened by Alderman David Tinnion in

1934. It originally helped divert traffic away from the town centre and provided a more direct means of access for those frustrated from havinc to iournev to

Bridge Foot. The A5 0 crosses the bridge and it still provides one of the main thoroughfares across Warrington. The ferro-concrete structure has rwo

arches of 86 ft and an overall span of 180 ft with 60

ft between the parapets.

33 The official opening of Webster's transporter bridge at Widnes taak place on 29th May 1905. During the ceremony Alderman Quinn, the Mayor of Widnes, received three hundred guests at the Town Hall in Victoria Square before a proces sion moved to the approaches of the bridge where Iohn Webster greeted them. In this picture we see the procession as it nears the transporter from Mersey Raad, Widnes.

34 Sir Iohn Brunner, Bart M.p, performed the opening ceremony. Afterwards he crossed to Runcorn in his own motor car, accompanied by other prominent figures in the Widnes & Runcorn Bridge Company.

35 One ofthe last ferryboats which, for 690 years, was the sole means of crossing the Mersey at this point. The baatman in this picture is Mr. Harrison, the last ferryman. The ancient ferry service, made famous in Stanley Holloway's ballad 'Tuppence per Person per Trip' ? first began from Runcorn in 1178. It was discontinued with the opening of the transporter bridge in 1905.

36 No mains electricity was available in the vicinity of the transporter bridge and a generating station to supply power for the motors was built within the base of the Widnes east tower. The interior of the three-storey building can be seen in this rare view of the power house. It contained a pair of 75-brake horsepower Crossley gas engines, installed by Messrs Mather & Platt, the renowned electrical engineers who had previously supplied electrical plant for powering the tramways at Blackpool, Fleetwood and the Isle of Man. The gas supply for the power house came from the Widnes

mains supply. The Engineering magazine records, 'As the price of gas is no more than I s. per I 000 cu ft, it will be seen that the running casts are every low, and it is estimated that

the power for each trip of the transporter is supplied for i.r.

37 In this scene we see the transporter car and its passengers on their joumey across the river. When working in parallel, with a laad of about lOtons and favourable weather conditions, the car was capable of crossing in one-and-a-half minute but normally journey time varied between three and four minutes. The ornate car could carry three hundred passengers and four 2-horse wagons. Shelter accommodation was provided for passengers to help proteet them from the elements. The driver controlled the car from his cabin, seen pictured here over the top of the platform.

38 Despite optimistic forecasts the transporter bridge made a substantial loss in its early years. Sir [ohn Brunner thought the bridge to be ofno commercial concern, and offered to transfer his share holdings to both local authorities. Runcorn Urban District Council declined to purchase, but the Borough of Widnes accepted, resulting in the complete transfer of ownership to the Corporation in 1911. Widnes Corporation undertook substantial refurbishment of the transporter, which included the replacement of the electric drive propulsion with a new haulage system of cable

winches. In this postcard from 1913 we see the reopening ceremony performed again by Sir Iohn Brunner at the invitation of Widnes Corporation.

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