Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,165 pages of information and 245,632 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Jubilee Bridge (Queensferry)

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2022. South abutment viewed from Queensferry Bridge
2022. North abutment viewed from Queensferry Bridge

A retracting bridge spanning the River Dee at Queensferry, Wales, named in commemoration of Queen Victoria's jubilee. Also called Victoria Bridge, Queensferry.

1895 Work on this unusual 'telescopic' bridge commenced in April 1895. T. W. Barber was chief engineer.

One of our representatives visited Queen's Ferry this week for the purpose of seeing what progress is being made with the new vehicular bridge over the Dee. It was in June last that the work was commenced, and though many difficulties have had to be contended with, it is now rapidly approaching completion. At the outset it may be well to give an idea of the design of the structure. In the centre is an opening of 120 feet, spanned in two halves, each by a rolling girder, projected from the fixed portion of the bridge. The moving apparatus is simple, and will be rapid in action. By an ingenious automatic arrangement, the decking, ironwork, hand-rails of the movable span are made to collapse, and each part is drawn back on the telescopic principle by means of powerful rams, leaving a clear waterway for vessels to pass through. The movement is effected by hydraulic power, and the engineers do not anticipate any trouble through the strong gales which occasionally sweep the lower part of the Dee.
The design of the structure is quite unique. Mr. R. Routledge, the courteous representative of the contractors, the Tees Side Iron and Engine Co., Limited, has had considerable experience in the erection of bridges and piers, and, in course of conversation, he assured our representative that there is not another bridge like it in England. It involves a tremendous amount of mechanical work, but it is admirably designed to meet the general requirements. The fixed portions of the bridge are already in position. The heavy ironwork has all been brought from Middlesborough to Queen's Ferry Station. When it is stated that the portion of the structure erected on the Sealand side alone weighs 120 tons, it will be seen that the work of carting the metal to the river, and carrying it across in barges, has been by no means light. Everything, however, has been safely accomplished. Each fixed span from the abutment to the end measures 130 feet, so that, with a movable span of 120 feet, this gives the total length of the bridge as 380 ft. Questioned as to the completion of the work, Mr. Routledge said : "We have just received the rolling girders for the centre ; they weigh 65 tons, and, given fine weather, we shall have them fixed in about a fortnight. I expect vehicles will be passing over the bridge at the end of May, though in the remaining two months we have a lot of hard work to get through. The vehicular road will be 20ft. wide, and 9ft. in the centre, so that across the movable span only one vehicle can pass at a time. The footpath is 3ft. 6in. wide on either side of the road." In the minds of some people who have no engineering knowledge, doubts seem to be entertained as to the stability and carrying power of the bridge. These doubts, which one always hears in connection with an undertaking of this sort, may easily be set at rest. In the first place, ten screw piles, 3ft. 6ins. in diameter, have been sunk over 20ft. in the sand or rubble, and each has been tested with 30 tons of dead weight, without deflecting the 30th part of an inch. This is more than double the strain the piles will have to bear. The bridge is only designed to carry a traction engine, that is, 20 to 25 tons, and " this," says Mr. Routledge, "it will do during the roughest weather we are likely to experience. The movable span has been tried and tested at our works at Middlesborough, and found to work very satisfactorily. Supposing anything went wrong with the hydraulic machinery, we have the hand power gearing to fall back upon. The whole thing will be controlled by a man in the watch tower on the Queen's Ferry abutment, from which he will be able to command a view in all directions. There will be some code of signalling (probably an electric bell) from the other side, and the man in charge, in order to put the machinery in motion, has simply to open a valve. The bridge will be opened, I expect, every four hours. The fixed portions of the structure are protected from damage by passing vessels by timber fendering driven down 22ft. into the bed of the river." The approaches to the bridge are now practically finished, the contractors for the masonry work being Schofield and Sons, of Leeds. The bridge will be a wonderful improvement on the existing mediaeval ferry, and its opening for traffic at the end of May next is eagerly awaited by farmers and tradesmen on both sides of the river. No doubt there will be a formal opening ceremony, and probably the button that controls the mechanism of the structure will, as in the case of the adjoining Hawarden railway bridge, be pressed for the first time by the " Old Parliamentary Hand." '[1]

April 1897 bridge was completed and the public allowed free passage across.

The bridge was officially opened on 2nd June 1897 by William Gladstone.

"The whole of the steel and iron work of the bridge has been carried out by the Teesside Bridge and Engineering Company of Middlesbrough and the stonework approaches, &c., by J. Schofield and Sons, of Leeds. The total cost was 14,000l., which sum has been contributed partly by the Flint County Council, who undertake the management and working of the bridge, and partly by subscriptions from the Cheshire County Council and the Hawarden estate trustees."[2]

1926 The bridge was later replaced by a double leaf rolling bascule bridge which was also called the Jubilee Bridge (also known as the Blue Bridge) - see Queensferry Bridge.

By the 1960s shipping had ceased on the River Dee. The bridge's lifting mechanism was removed and the roadway fixed permanently in place.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Cheshire Observer - Saturday 21 March 1896
  2. The Engineer 1897/06/11