Monday 14 November 2011

Whitby Swing Bridge, 1909


For those who haven't been, Whitby is a town on the north Yorkshire coast which still retains a large amount of Victorian character. The mid-Victorian railway station still retains it's Edwardian tiled railway map (to be featured in another post) and is still served by a steam railway, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (as well as a 'normal' service using diesel trains). Whitby is also well known for the fact that Bram Stoker wrote 'Dracula' whilst in Whitby, and there is a dedicated Dracula museum and a Whitby Goth Festival every year. There is also a wonderful RNLI Lifeboat museum housing a 1919 Lifeboat, a 1930's Lifeboat that gives trips in the summer season, and on my visit a 1909 Lifeboat which was one of the six Lifeboats that was involved in the launch to the SS Rohilla Hospital Ship that ran aground in 1914 was on display in the car park (again, a post will follow on this)


The bridge which connects the eastern and western sides of Whitby together is itself very historical - it was commissioned in 1906 by Whitby Urban District Council to replace the 1835 built swing bridge. The 1835 bridge gave a width clearance of just 45 feet when opened, which was creating problems for the upriver ship building industry on the River Esk which was building larger and larger ships. It was built with a width of 100 feet between the centre of the two piers, giving a width clearance of 70 feet, and was built by Heenan and Froude of Manchester, who also built the Blackpool Tower. Aside from the width specification, it was also a requirement that the bridge be able to 'carry a traction engine weighting 15 tons'.


The previous 1835 swing bridge was originally opened by manned winches and later water driven engines, however this new bridge was powered by electric motors controlled by men in the small building seen on the western side of the bridge. The bridge has changed little in the 102 years since it opened in August 1909, aside from the fact that it was originally paved with wooden blocks and is now tarmacked. The bridge is still in working order, and opened at regular times at high tide, although unfortunately I missed it being opened on my visit

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