Saturday, 8 September 2007

This is the view from the top of Newcastle Keep, looking south down to the river Tyne. In the foreground you can see some of the medieval walls that surrounded Newcastle, and Armstrong's famous Swing Bridge is in the middle of the picture. In its day, (1876) it was the largest hydraulically operated bridge in the world. The whole deck rotated 180 degrees to free up both channels and allow shipping up and down to the Elswick works. Armstrong went on to supply the machinery to raise London's Tower Bridge. (1894)

To the left is the Tyne Bridge. The earliest bridge across the Tyne, Pons Aelius, was built by the Romans in about the same spot. A stone bridge replaced it in 1270 and was destroyed by the great flood of 1771 . In 1781 , a new stone bridge across the Tyne was completed. Increased shipping activity led to the stone bridge being removed in 1866 to make way for construction of the present Swing Bridge.

Discussion about the bridge began in 1864 but it wasn't until the early 1920s that proposals began in earnest. Work started in August 1925 with Dorman Long acting as the building contractors. Despite the dangers of the building work, only one worker died in the building of this structure, which cost £1.2m when complete.

The Tyne Bridge was completed on 25 February 1928 and opened on 10 October by King George V and Queen Mary, who drove across in their Ascot landau. The Tyne Bridge's towers were built of Cornish granite and were designed as warehouses with five storeys but were never used. Lifts for passengers and goods were built in the towers to provide access to the Quayside, but these are no longer in use. The bridge was originally painted green and the same colours were used to paint the bridge for the year 2000. The bridge spans 531 feet and the road deck is 84 feet above the river level.

There are so many bridges in Newcastle now that it is hard to keep track of them all. The most recent, and possibly the most famous, is the Millenium blinking-eye bridge. I'll have to see if I took a photograph of that, but I think one of the Keep's towers got in the way!

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