Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Warburton Bridge

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From 'The Engineer', 1893

Between Warburton (Cheshire) and Rixton

The distinctive cantilever bridge carries the B5159 over the Manchester Ship Canal. Many of the motorists frustrated by severe delays while waiting to pay a small toll will be unaware that the toll was introduced for a bridge that is no longer visible! They may have noticed masonry abutments, and missed the ivy-covered iron railings near the toll booth, but the elegant 1860s iron arched bridge has long been buried within an earthen embankment. The bridge crossed the River Mersey, whose dried-up bed can still be discerned, but the water course was diverted to become part of the Manchester Ship Canal.

Cast Iron Bridge

1864 'A New Bridge Across the Mersey.—
A very interesting ceremony was witnessed on Tuesday afternoon, at the pretty little village of Warburton, on the Cheshire side of the Mersey, the occasion being the laying of the foundation stone of a new bridge which is be erected over the Mersey at that part, connecting the village of Rixton in Lancashire with Warburton in Cheshire, and so facilitating intercourse with the adjoining places in both counties. The village of Warburton is situated about eleven miles in a south-westerly direction from Manchester and seven from Warrington, and the bridge of which the foundation stone was now laid adjoins the rectory grounds and is within a few paces of the Warburton parish church, a venerable looking old structure whose ivy-covered tower and post and plaster walls give to it an appearance of great antiquity. A little distance off is the Hollins ferry, at present the only means of communication between the two sides of the river. Mr. Councillor Pilling, of this town, is the contractor for the new bridge, which is to be erected from the designs of Mr. Coxon, engineer, of Warrington, at an estimated cost of about £7000. It is to be a cast-iron girder bridge of 130 feet span, and the height of the roadway from the water will be 30ft. 6in., so that the navigation of the river will not be at all impeded. The ironwork is being executed at the Union Foundry in this town, and it is expected that the bridge will be completed ready for traffic within a few months. A considerable number of the neighbouring gentry were invited to the ceremony of Tuesday ……Following the Sunday School children came the rector of the parish, the Rev. Mr. Beaufort, with the engineer of the bridge, Mr. Coxon. and the contractor, Mr. Pilling; ….. Mr. Pilling concluded by reading the inscription on the trowel, as follows:—“Presented to Captain Thomas Ellames Withington, on the occasion of his laying the foundation stone of Rixton and Warburton Bridge, August 16, 1864. Abraham Pilling, Bolton, contractor ; Benjamin Payne Coxon, Warrington, engineer.” The mortar having been spread, the stone was then lowered, and a bottle containing current coins of the realm, and a list of the shareholders and officers of the Bridge Company, was deposited in a cavity of the stone by Mrs. Withington. Capt. Withington then laid the stone with the accustomed ceremony, and afterwards delivered brief address.....’[1]

This Bridge which is in substitution for the ancient ferry over the river at Hollin's Green, is NOW OPEN to the public. It is the only bridge over the river between Warrington and Barton Bridges, and opens up the country for many miles round, which has hitherto been all but inaccessible to parties living on opposite sides of the river. The coalfields Lancashire are now brought into communication with the Cheshire district, which has hitherto been excluded from them ; and fresh markets, by means of this bridge, are made accessible to farmers, traders, and others on both sides. With a view at once to encourage traffic and afford the public the full benefit of the advantages of this bridge the tolls have fixed as low as possible.
Law Clerks to the Company.'[2]

Cantilever Bridge

See 1893 illustration. This is a high level bridge built in the early 1890s by Andrew Handyside and Co to cross the Manchester Ship Canal. The towers stand on masonry piers, and the cantilevered arms were built out northwards and southwards from each tower so as to maintain equilibrium. After connecting the structure to the abutments, the 92 ft long centre section was raised from pontoons on the canal.[3]

1890 construction photo here.

Some strengthening work was carried out on this and its sister bridge near Warrington. The work included encasing part of the curved compression members in concrete. Warburton bridge is seeing increasing amounts of traffic, but is in need of maintenance to address the effects of corrosion (2017). In living memory, local residents could enjoy a walk over the bridge, but with today's busy traffic and litter, it is a place to avoid.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Bolton Chronicle - Saturday 20 August 1864
  2. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Thursday 23 August 1866
  3. [1]'The Engineer' 2 June 1893