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Swing Bridge

Swing Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: May 13, 2018

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Bridge Street Over River Tyne
Newcastle upon Tyne and Gateshead: North East, England: United Kingdom
Structure Type
Metal Rivet-Connected Bowstring Through Truss, Movable: Swing (Center Pier) and Approach Spans: Metal Through Girder, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1876 By Builder/Contractor: W. G. Armstrong and Company of Newcastle upon Tyne, England and Engineer/Design: John F. Ure and Philip J. Messent
Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
281.0 Feet (85.6 Meters)
Structure Length
561.0 Feet (171 Meters)
Roadway Width
24 Feet (7.32 Meters)
1 Main Span(s) and 4 Approach Span(s)
Inventory Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This is a large, very old, and intact example of a swing bridge, located in a unique setting between two high level bridges which are also historic.

According to Wikipedia's citation of an article by the Port of Tyne, "The hydraulic power still used to move the bridge is today derived from electrically driven pumps. These feed a hydraulic accumulator sunk into a 60 ft (18 m) shaft below the bridge; the water is then released under pressure which runs the machinery to turn the bridge. The mechanism used for this is still the same machinery originally installed by Armstrong."

HistoricBridges.org's photo-documentation is extensive for this bridge, yet lacks views from inside the swing pier. A few guest photos provided below offer views inside the swing pier and allow views of the machinery of the bridge.

Above: A view of the rollers inside the swing pier.

Above: A view of the rack and pinion system which drives the bridge.

Above: View into the west side engine room and the top of the accumulator.

Above: This view inside the swing pier shows the original three-cylinder oscillating hydraulic motors.

Above: William George Armstrong, 1st Baron Armstrong. Founder of W. G. Armstrong and Company.

Official Heritage Listing Information and Findings

Listed At: Grade II*


List Entry Number: 1390930

Swing road and pedestrian bridge, spanning the River Tyne. 1868-76, built on site of the Roman and Medieval bridges. W.G. Armstrong & Co of Newcastle upon Tyne for, and under supervision of, the Tyne Improvement Commission. Steam pumps replaced by electric in 1959. Granite abutments and piers on foundations of cast iron cylinders filled with concrete; timber control cabin and central pontoon. Wrought iron girder superstructure. Six spans, two over the land approach, two fixed spans over the water and the two spans of the rotatable central portion. North and south land abutments each of two piers arched together to provide an opening for the passage of land traffic. Surmounted by four pillars extending above the roadway topped with freestone and granite copings and groins. Coats of Arms of Gateshead, Newcastle and Port of Tyne Authority carved in relief on outsides of pillars. North and south piers with cutwaters and a recess of arctuate shape at their top forming a ledge on which the end of the bridge centre portion rests. Central pier with cutwaters supports swinging section of bridge surrounded by a timber jetty extending to the east and west to incorporate central pier of High Level Bridge. Two five sided stone projections either end of central pier house machinery for opening the bridge including original boilers, electric motors and pumps, accumulators and hydraulic engines and gearing all in duplicate. Bridge deck carries a roadway 7.3m wide with footways 2.4m wide either side. Ornate lamp standards and closeable gates either end of fixed sections. Maintenance platform suspended below deck on rollers. Swinging section of bridge approximately 86m long revolves on a roller bearing central pivot. Two large girders form two segmental arches filled with latticework. Central arched linking bridge; octagonal timber cupola with ogee roof and circular domed lantern on top. Swing span carries two iron staircases to cupola. The bridge is operated by machinery activated by high-pressure water from a hydraulic accumulator. Originally operated by hydraulic motors, now electrically powered; the mechanism, housed on the central pier is complete and operable. Swing bridge opened in 1876, a necessary development to allow for up river navigation by sea going vessels, particularly to Lord Armstrong's expanding Elswick Works. This development gave considerable benefit to the rapidly developing industry in that area. Hindmarsh R. F, 1930 Some of the Tyne Bridges, 6-9. Manders F and Potts R 2001, Crossing the Tyne 48-56.


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Maps and Links: Swing Bridge

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