THE SUNDERLAND SITE - PAGE 004
THE 'OTHER' BRIDGES
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On this page ... Queen Alexandra Bridge, Hendon Dock Junction Bridge, Gladstone Bridge, The Swing Bridge that linked Hudson Dock to the North Sea.
Sections on the 'other' bridges are essentially now created. But with data that surely is incomplete. I refer to Queen Alexandra Bridge (next), three miles or so upstream from the mouth of the river, to the Gladstone Bridge at the entrance to Hendon Dock, & the bascule bridge which spanned the junction of Hendon & Hudson Docks - the first such aluminium bridge in the world. And another swing bridge, of name unknown to the webmaster, that used to connect Hudson Dock to the North Sea via the South Outlet.
This bridge was designed as a double-decked road & rail bridge. Construction was commenced in 1904, and it was built from both sides of the river at the very same time - the two sides meeting in midstream on October 15, 1908. That method of construction, i.e. from both sides to the middle, was described in some words that I read as being 'unique'. Was it in fact unique? I would have thought that such method of construction might rather have been the norm rather than the exception. It had 85 feet of clearance for shipping above high water level.
Thanks to Martin Allison we can show you the foundation stone of the bridge, set into the middle of the North tower one course below the quay side. The stone can only be read from the river, Martin advises.
It was opened, I had thought, by Queen Alexandra of Denmark on June 10, 1909. But clearly not. At that time, a fine bronze medal was issued by the 'Corporation of Sunderland' & the 'North Eastern Railway' to commemorate the grand occasion. And that medal states that the bridge was in fact opened by the Rt. Hon. The Earl of Durham, K.C., Lord Lieut. of the County. As you can see below. I now read however that the Earl of Durham opened the bridge 'on behalf of Queen Alexandra' who, alas, did not even get a mention on the medal! To the webmaster that is quite a 'puzzle'. Queen Alexandra was Queen Consort (i.e. the wife of) King Edward VII. And probably was highest in status in England other than the King himself. But she was not even mentioned! The medal is 63 mm in diameter, 5 mm deep, & weighs 90.3 grams. I think you can easily read every word in the image below. The medal was for sold in late July 2007 - by 'diggerlee', whom we thank. A beautiful medal indeed! I trust that the use of the images re an expired eBay item is acceptable on this non-profit & informational site. Because it so relates to the subject matter of this page. Does anybody know how many such medals were minted back in 1909?
The bridge was constructed, I have read, to service the needs of the collieries. To permit the coalfields of Annfield Plain & Washington easy access to Sunderland's South Docks. And was therefore a road and rail bridge with rail being on the upper deck. The first freight train crossed the bridge on Sep. 20, 1909. The upper rail deck did not remain open long - about 12 years only, & then lay idle. The last train to cross it was a goods train in 1921, I read, further there never was a passenger train that travelled over the bridge. Its need as a rail bridge vanished as the collieries declined. And it wasn't popular as a road bridge either, from Jun. 10, 1909, due to the toll fees that were charged during its first 20 years. The upper deck did see service in WW2 as a base for searchlights & anti-aircraft guns.
Thanks go to Clive Ketley for the brilliant data & images both at left & following. The three pages are from the 'Sunderland Year Book 1909', edited by David Bell & published by The Pinnacle Publishing Co. of 3 Tavistock Place, Sunderland. And cover the completion of the bridge when the two parts of the central span were bolted together on Oct. 15, 1908.
I read, as you can also, that the bridge was designed by Charles A. Harrison, Chief Engineer of the North-Eastern Railway Company. The masonry work for the bridge was performed by Mitchell Brothers, Limited, of Glasgow while the central span was erected by Sir William Arrol & Company Limited, also of Glasgow, which company had worked on the famous Forth Bridge.
The central span of the Sunderland bridge was, however, three times the weight of the central span of the Forth Bridge (how amazing!)
The two sides of the central span were brought together on Oct. 15, 1908, when the temperature & the resulting expansion of the metal brought the two halves into perfect alignment - and the whole could be bolted together.
Clive, we thank you!
Work was done in 1985 re the bridge. For a long time, I did not know what work was done & its purpose, but Richard Skelton has now been in touch (thanks Richard!) to advise as follows:- 'The works on the bridge around 1985 were with regard to road changes in the area. On the north end the bridge was reached by a spur from the railway line to the former Hylton Colliery. The last use of this branch, apart from the stub that served Wearmouth Colliery, was to supply steel to Austin and Pickersgill’s Shipyard. The spur used a series of brick arches in a curve over shipyard property before a metal bridge span reached the twin deck structure. That metal span was removed together with I think some of the arches and possibly other metal spans in the curve. The works did however prevent a foot passage along the upper deck from the north side from this time. On the south side the railway track had been carried on metal spans supported by metal girders in a straight line across the Pallion New Road to join the North Eastern Railway Company Penshaw branch. At this time a roundabout was put in at the end of the bridge and a new road layout created which resulted in the stub from the Penshaw branch ending in a brick wall alongside the Corning Glass Works.'
Anyway, someway along the way the upper deck & the rail facilities were totally removed. And the bridge became & is today a road bridge only. Can you add anything additional?
Richard further advises that the bridge was closed for rail traffic in 1921. The section of the Hylton, Southwick and Monkwearmouth Branch from Southwick Junction on the Stanhope and Tyne branch and Hylton Colliery was closed in 1926. So that would have been the end of rail use of the bridge. Much later on, in the 1980s, when the Tyne and Wear Metro was in the process of being built, the Tyne and Wear PTE had plans for other lines to be built. One of which would have linked Gateshead via Washington to Southwick (Monkwearmouth) probably using the existing track bed and perhaps a future extension into Sunderland could have used the upper deck of the bridge. However, the building of the Nissan Plant and the Wessington Way relief road used the former track bed and prevented its use by the Metro. When the Metro did reach Sunderland it was on the former NER/LNER/BR Newcastle to Sunderland line.
Queen Alexandra bridge was extensively renovated/repainted during the period of Mar. 2005 through Oct. 2006, at the cost of £6,300,000. It is interesting to note, perhaps, that the whole bridge cost only £450,000 (the above article states £350,000 only) to actually build in the early years of the 20th century! Such are the ravages of inflation.
I particularly like the 'atmospheric' 1950s night image at left of Queen Alexandra Bridge. Thanks to Phil Bowden who posted the item on 'Sunderland in Pictures' on Facebook.
We will add in more quality images of the bridge as & when they come to hand. In that regard, there is a fine copyrighted 1985 photograph of the bridge here, which image, I thought, can be viewed, also, in a larger size. And there is a modest image of the bridge under construction in 1909 - before the two parts met in the middle (how interesting!), low on this page.
It would be good to show that last 'under construction' image in a large size on this page. And hopefully, some day, that will be possible. In the meantime however, we do have other images of the bridge under construction. The first is most of the image that was reproduced on page 15 of the 'Sunderland Year Book 1909', as provided above. The second is the image that appeared on page 17 of that same publication, but in rather better quality. And the third is the image that was reproduced on page 18 of the 'Sunderland Year Book 1909'. All appear on this page thanks to Clive Ketley.
I add in now an image of an eBay item, a cropped & enlarged portion of a postcard entitled 'New Bridge, Southwick.' which was for sale by 'scott-base' in Mar. 2007 & sold for GBP 13.05 or approximately U.S. $26.07. The postcard does come up for sale with some frequency. The date of the postcard was not indicated - but postage within England at the time was just 1/2 penny! So it was a while ago! It also contains the G. Clark Ltd. Engine Works crane at right, as does the image at the top of the page. The image must accordingly be taken from the east as was the image above. The W. Doxford & Sons Ltd. shipbuilding yard would be beyond the bridge at left & the W. Pickersgill & Sons Ltd. shipyard would be beyond the bridge at right.
And some more images of the bridge.
Two most interesting postcards featuring Queen Alexandra Bridge were sold via eBay in Nov. 2011. I would be delighted to add the left image below (click the image to see it more complete) to the page in a larger size should anybody who owns a copy care to scan it. I suspect that the card, indeed both of the cards, are quite rare. They were sold at healthy prices - GBP 22.00 & GBP 27.45, respectively.
A large scan of the postcard image at right below has been posted on the Facebook 'Sunderland Tugs and Shipbuilding in Pictures' pages. But I cannot tell you who posted it. Of especial interest is the reference in that image to Rap which ship carried the stone that was used in the construction of the bridge. There would seem to have been two vessels of the name at the same point in time. One of them was built by Osborne, Graham & Co. in 1882 as Lucero & became Rap in 1902 when sold to N. O. Rustad of Kragerø, Norway. The other was built in 1900 as Rap by 'Nylands Verkstedin' at Oslo, Norway & was lost in 1911. The latter was lost carrying granite. It seems likely that it may have been the vessel that carried the stone.
We thank Barry Jones for the material that follows, material which originated in the 'Newcastle Chronicle' of Jun. 9, 1909. The material is extensive however. It covers in detail the bridge itself & the political situation at the time when its construction was under consideration - Southwick's opinions at the time were in stark contrast to the views of the folks at Sunderland. The article refers to 'the antagonism' between Sunderland & Southwick, such antagonism being related to Sunderland's wish to incorporate the Township of Southwick into the Borough of Sunderland, something that was strongly opposed by Southwick. - ancient history today! The three very large individual pages can be read here - 1, 2 & 3.
And last, but very much not least, a fine recent (about 2011, in summer) image of the bridge. Thanks to John Evans, who posted what would appear to be his very own image on 'Sunderland in Pictures' on Facebook.
While I name the bridge as being the 'Hendon Dock Junction Bridge' above, I use the name as it was termed at the official opening of the bridge. I suspect it was locally known by a somewhat shorter name. Information about the bridge is, to say the least, quite scarce. For a very long time indeed, I advised here as follows:- Such data as i) when it was built, ii) which company built it, & iii) when it was dismantled, is still to be learned. That it was later dismantled & sold for scrap I had read, in an article dating from Feb. 2005 in the 'Sunderland Echo' archives (but now no longer available on line).
But now, most of those questions are answered thanks to a copy of the opening day programme, kindly provided to the webmaster by Mr. Clive Ketley. The programme is a most interesting document, with grey covers, 16 interior sides including a fine illustration of the bridge, a map, all neatly laced with navy blue thread. It tells us that the bridge was opened during a 12 noon ceremony on Nov. 26, 1948, by the Rt. Hon. Alfred Barnes, M.P., the U.K. Minister of Transport at the time. He opened it by operating the controlling machinery, & raising and then lowering the two arms of the bridge. And then he cut the ribbon to officially open the bridge to vehicular & foot traffic - not a normal ribbon, rather a ribbon of aluminium no less - a fine touch! And then the opening party walked across the bridge from east to west & adjourned to luncheon. While it is not mentioned, they en route, I trust, enjoyed the refreshment tent which I am quite sure awaited them! A band played, the band of 'Head Wrightson', the main bridge contractors. A most jolly scene, I am sure. No word yet as to the weather that day!
The bridge has (or rather had) a claim to fame indeed. It was the very first aluminium alloy bascule bridge in the world. A 'bascule' bridge? The word derives from a French term meaning 'seesaw' & 'balance', & knowing that you will quickly understand that a bascule bridge is a drawbridge with a counterweight & that the bridge span, balanced by the counterweight, swings upward to permit shipping to freely pass by. Perhaps the most famous such bridge is Tower Bridge (1894) in London. A most useful bridge design since bascule bridges open & close quickly & require, I have read, relatively little energy to operate.
Anyway the bridge was built by 'Messrs Head, Wrightson & Co. Ltd.' at their 'Thornaby-on-Tees' facility, in sections which were then transported by boat to the construction site. Bridge foundations & related quay work were by 'Messrs W. G. Turriff, Ltd.'. The engineer was 'W. H. S. Tripp, Esq., M.C., M.I.C.E., M. I. Mech. E.'. The aluminium alloy plate & extruded sections were supplied by The British Aluminium Co. Ltd. & by Northern Aluminium Co. Ltd. I read that in preparation for the construction, the channel it spanned was both widened & deepened, so larger vessels could enter Hendon Dock.
The bridge spanned the junction of Hendon & Hudson docks. It was, a double leaf trunnion bridge, which means that it had two separate spans, each span rising on its side of the channel. Which spans met in the middle. Each 'leaf' was 50 feet long & the bridge could be raised by its four 25 hp electric motors in just over one minute. When in the 'down' position, two robust steel bolts locked the sections together, so they would then deflect together & evenly under load.
All said and done, the bridge had a rather short life. In words attributed to journalist Bob Horn in 1977, the bridge had been deteriorating & had been closed to rail traffic for some time - while remaining open for vehicles & pedestrians. The manufacturers had gone out of business & due to cost factors also, the bridge was closed down, dismantled, & sold for scrap. That date must have been, it would seem, prior to 2005 (the date of the 'Sunderland Echo' article) & maybe was many years earlier. The 'end' date still eludes me.
Images of the bridge are most scarce also. And beauty may be in the eye of the beholder! Witness the Sep. 1972 photograph of the bridge available here. However, it is hoped that soon, in these pages, you will be able to read the content of all of the 16 'opening programme' pages. In a way similar to the booklets of 'Austin & Pickersgill', 'Doxford', & others, already available elsewhere in these pages. It may take a while, however, to accomplish all of that. Below, I show you an illustration from that opening programme, of a watercolour by Leslie Carr, that depicts a railway locomotive crossing the new aluminium bridge.
But now, thanks to Nick Thompson, we can show an image of canteen workers crossing the bridge heading to work at the shipyard of Bartram & Sons Ltd.
And here is the illustration of the bascule bridge as referred to above - a watercolour work by Leslie Carr.
'Sunderland Echo' did show the bridge in an undated aerial photograph they presented in 2005. Below I provide most of that image plus a map section which shows exactly where the bridge was located. If the use of that aerial image is not acceptable on a non-profit & informational site such as this, I will remove it, of course. And hopefully locate a replacement image - of what was truly a notable Sunderland achievement - the very first such bridge in the world. The map section may seem not to tie in with the aerial image since Hendon Dock's access to the sea via Hendon Channel, as shown clearly on the 1897 map, seems to no longer have existed when the aerial photo was taken.
And here is a composite image which shows the important content of that 'Sunderland Echo' photograph, plus the applicable map section as it was in 1897. Hendon Dock, opened in 1868, is at the bottom of the map (south of the bridge) & Hudson Dock South is to the north.
And a most interesting postcard image indeed of Hudson & Hendon docks, mailed in 1931. Ex an expired eBay item, an 'Aerofilms' series postcard (Ed. Aerofilms Series, No. 10300). Card entitled 'HUDSON AND HENDON DOCKS, SUNDERLAND, FROM THE AIR'.
The 'bascule bridge' is, of course, behind the white vessel in the centre of the image, & it would appear that the Hendon Channel & the related lock was still there at that date.
The bascule bridge open to shipping traffic. At about 1956.
The bascule bridge was, I read featured as a 'cutaway' in the centre of the EAGLE comic of Nov. 9, 1951. The accompanying text gave details of the bridge & a key to numbers of the cutaway with a part-by-part analysis of how the bridge worked. Such centre page 'cutaways' were, I learn, a hugely popular feature of EAGLE comics for many years - they focused upon the latest developments in aircraft, ships, rail & road transport & weaponry.
I do not know much about Gladstone Bridge, which bridge permitted access to Hudson Dock North from the north. By that I mean that marine access would be via the River Wear, through Half Tide Basin, & then via Gladstone Bridge into Hudson Docks North then South. It does show on the 1895 Ordnance Survey map & soon, I hope, it will be possible to show you the applicable section of that map.
It was, I am advised opened by & named after William Ewart Gladstone, famous statesmen & four times U.K. Prime Minister.
It would seem that Gladstone Bridge was opened at or around 1875. Which is a puzzle to the webmaster. 'Gladstone' was Prime Minister for the first time through 1874 & while he kept his seat his Liberal Party was then defeated. They won again in 1880 & he became Prime Minister for the 2nd time. So in 1875 he was not Prime Minister. But a greater puzzle maybe. If South Dock was opened in 1850, as would seem to be so, what existed at that spot from 1850 to 1875 to control access to Hudson Dock - & what was it named? Can anybody tell us? Gladstone Bridge as per the postcard image, at left above (of the opening of Sunderland Docks in 1850) does not seem to 'match' the bridge in the next image. My facts may be wrong!
An image, below, of Gladstone Bridge, kindly provided by Brian Hubbard of the 'Friends of Sunderland Old Parish Church' (a history group) & of 'Southwick History & Preservation Society'. Brian, we thank you!
I believe the image below was taken from the 'other side' of the bridge from that depicted above i.e. taken from the south east of the bridge. A 'swing' bridge it would seem - with a lock on the northern side. Known as 'No. 3 Gates'.
Next an outstanding image ex 'Sunderland Tugs and Shipbuilding in pictures' whom we thank. Do view the image best via 'Photo Viewer'. Its caption? I absolutely love this picture of works buses leaving the South Docks in the 1950's, notice the men on the top floor peering through the steamed up windows. Oh and the broken headlight! The buses are crossing, of course, Gladstone Bridge. I am glad to note David Warren's advice that one of the two buses shown in the image has survived into preservation by the Tyne and Wear Bus Preservation group. Be aware that I show the image below in a form modified by the webmaster from its original sepia. You can click on the image below to see it in a larger size.
At left below is most of an eBay item, a postcard that sold in Dec. 2006. The entire title read 'SOUTH ENTRANCE. SO. DOCK.' I seemed to lose image detail when I reduced its size for this page. So I show the significant part only. And under that image is the exact same location as per the 1895 Ordnance Survey map. Hudson Docks, both North & South, i.e. where they join, are at left. The sea lock, which opened in 1880, took you into South Dock Channel, and via the South Outlet into the North Sea. Not any longer, however.
At right below? A 'Tuck' postcard of a painting by Parsons Norman of 'South Entrance, Sunderland'. Ex eBay but now gone. I have seen the card looking a bit darker, depending on the scan. Parsons Norman' seems to be, in full, George Parsons Norman (1840-1914). Which name may be hyphenated, i.e. 'Parsons-Norman', but I am not sure about that.
For a very long time, I had understood that the sea lock had opened in 1856. In error, I now believe. If I understand correctly the article which is available here, there was a channel, opened in 1856, that connected the south end of Hudson Dock with the North Sea, via a 0.6 hectare half tide basin - but it had hydraulic gates rather than a lock. Do correct me if I am wrong, but it would seem likely that it could only be used at times of day when the tides cooperated. In 1877, work began on the building of a proper lock, which lock was opened by the Earl of Durham on Oct. 21, 1880. The lock was, I read, 146.3 metres long and 27.4 metres wide, with a single lock gate on the landward end & two such gates at the sea end.
Such new 'knowledge' results from an eBay item in Jan. 2011, a partial page from an 1880 illustrated publication, likely 'Illustrated London News' or 'The Graphic'. I have not bothered the vendor re using his listing image here, but hopefully can assist 'castlecustodian', the vendor, by indicating that the e-Bay item is available here as this page is updated. And invite you to visit the vendor's eBay store, which is here. Should the item not sell this time around, & should you be interested in acquiring it, you might contact the vendor directly, re his item entitled 'SUNDERLAND DOCKS OPENING NEW LOCK WATER CHANNEL c1880'. It clearly shows the swing bridge.
A puzzle perhaps is that I cannot see the second gate at the seaward end in the image that follows. But it would seem that those two gates are shown in the map above. I am glad that the ship in the lock is named - Lady Beatrix, since there is a very good chance that that vessel was built in Sunderland & may one day get listed in these pages. It was in fact Sunderland built, built by James Laing in 1863 for Lambton Collieries.
Michael Johnson of the University of Sunderland has kindly advised that the bridge was designed by Henry H. Wake for use in conjunction with the 1880 lock & water channel. An asymmetrical hog-back bridge constructed from steel girders. The history is apparently recorded on a plaque at the site, which plaque records Wake, the River Wear Commissioners & the contractors - Andrew Handyside & Co. of Derby & London. And, surviving near the bridge, is a machinery pit for the lock gates, which I presume is the pit which is depicted a little lower on this page. Michael also advises that the bridge can be seen on 'Google Earth', & indeed it can. I had been under the impression that the bridge had been demolished in about 1990, but it surely is still there today, though static of course. A most desolate & uninviting place to visit now, by all appearances.
It would seem that Henry Wake was the engineer who also designed the sea lock itself, witness the following print published in the April 8, 1881 edition of 'Engineering'. There may have been some related text on page 359. This too is from an e-Bay item, which you can see here. Do drop by at that link or visit the giant eBay store of 'barrelorgan', the vendor.
And the scene quite recently. Firstly the bridge, taken in about 1990. Looking forlorn & abandoned. With the once bustling 'Bartram & Sons' shipyard long gone, & replaced by piles of sand or soil. And next the lock machinery, before the lock was filled in.
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