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Tyne Bridge

Tyne Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: May 13, 2018

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
A167 (High Street) Over River Tyne
Newcastle upon Tyne and Gateshead: North East, England: United Kingdom
Structure Type
Metal Two-Hinged Braced Ribbed Through Arch, Fixed and Approach Spans: Metal Deck Girder, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1928 By Builder/Contractor: Dorman Long of Middlesbrough, England and Engineer/Design: Mott, Hay and Anderson of London, England and Ralph Freeman
Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
531.0 Feet (161.8 Meters)
Structure Length
1,276.0 Feet (388.9 Meters)
Roadway Width
37 Feet (11.28 Meters)
1 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This iconic bridge is an extremely rare example of a crescent arch bridge. The design of a crescent arch is that of an arch which begins as a solid rib at each end, and which splits apart and becomes a braced rib in the middle of the span. The bridge is one of three historic bridges which sit side by side in Newcastle.

Above: Historical photo showing bridge construction. In this photo, the temporary cable support system to hold the arches in place until they were connected is visible to the left of the arch in the photo. Source: Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (https://www.flickr.com/photos/twm_news/)

Above: Historical photo showing bridge construction. Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (https://www.flickr.com/photos/twm_news/)

Official Heritage Listing Information and Findings

Listed At: Grade II*


List Entry Number: 1248569

Single-span steel arch road bridge, 1925-28 to designs by engineers Mott, Hay and Anderson; abutment towers to designs by R Burns Dick. Constructed by Dorman, Long & Co Ltd of Middlesbrough with Ralph Freeman as consulting engineer.

Reasons for Designation
The New Tyne Bridge of 1928, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* a striking steel arch design, notable as the largest single-span steel arch bridge in Britain at its construction;

* a scaled-down version of the similar design prepared for Sydney Harbour, Australia with a main arch designed by the eminent civil engineer (Sir) Ralph Freeman;

* the prototype of a method of construction involving progressive cantilevering from both sides of the river using cables, cradles and cranes, developed for Sydney Harbour but tested first at Newcastle;

* elegant pylons incorporating towers that are well-detailed with both neoclassical and Art Deco influences;

* recognised world-wide for its dramatic design which has become the potent symbol of the character and industrial pride of Tyneside.

Historic interest:

* associated with some of the most distinguished early-C20 civil engineers including Sir Ralph Freeman, designer of some of the world's most impressive bridges, and founder of Freeman Fox & Partners, internationally renowned bridge designers.

Group value:

* the High Level Bridge (Grade I), the Swing Bridge (II*) and the New Tyne Bridge, augmented by the addition in 2001 of the Millennium Bridge (unlisted), taken together provide one of the most evocative and dramatic river-crossings in England.

The idea of a high level road bridge to align with the Great North Road and carry traffic across the River Tyne without having to descend to river level had been discussed as early as 1860. A proposal in 1921 by local civil engineer T M Webster, was agreed by the town corporations of Newcastle and Gateshead in 1924. The project was encouraged by the prospect of a large Government subsidy on the basis that it would help alleviate chronic unemployment on Tyneside, especially in the shipbuilding industry. London consulting engineers Mott, Hay and Anderson was asked to provide an appropriate design, and Royal Assent was granted for the necessary Act of Parliament on 7 August 1924. Five companies tendered for the construction contract, which was awarded in December 1924 to Dorman, Long & Co Ltd, of Middlesbrough, with Ralph Freeman as their consulting engineer. Robert Burns Dick designed the bridge pylons, which were originally intended to be significantly taller. The Tyne Improvement Commissioners required that the new bridge should have no river piers and should allow full navigational clearance across the entire width of the River Tyne during and after its construction, and that no material should be allowed to be lifted from the river on floating barges. This requirement ensured that a dramatic single-span bridge with a level deck would be designed by an equally dramatic method of construction.

A similar but larger-scale project had already started by the same contractors working with the same consultant at Sydney Harbour, Australia. That scheme had been awarded to Dorman Long in March 1924, with a design by Freeman based on the Hell Gate Bridge in New York. The Sydney Harbour Bridge was to be a single-span, two-hinged, steel-arch bridge, flanked by granite-faced pylons, with a span of 1,650 feet, carrying a suspended deck at a height of 172 feet above the water. Mott, Hay and Anderson’s Tyne Bridge design was to be similar to that for Sydney Harbour, with a span of 531 feet (162m) and a road deck 85 feet (26m) above high water mark. Construction of the New Tyne Bridge began in August 1925, and the requirements of the Tyne Improvement Commissioners also led to the adoption of the novel constructional method Freeman had developed for Sydney Harbour, where the deep waters there did not allow the use of any temporary construction supports. The erection of the Newcastle arch by cantilevering was undertaken progressively from each side of the river using cables, cradles and cranes, and provided Dorman Long with a test bed for these and other items envisaged for eventual use on Sydney. It is thought that this was the first use of such a construction method in this country. The bridge was built like a ship using shipbuilding techniques with rivets and panels welded together. The bridge builders scaled the heights without the benefit of safety equipment, and one man, Nathaniel Collins a scaffolder from South Shields, fell from the bridge and lost his life during its construction.

The New Tyne Bridge was completed on 25 February 1928, almost four years before completion of Sydney Harbour Bridge. It joined other Newcastle-Gateshed Tyne river crossings including the High Level Bridge (1849; National Heritage List for England or NHLE: 1248568, Grade I); the Swing Bridge (1868-1876; NHLE: 1390930, Grade II*) and King Edward Railway Bridge (1902-6; NHLE: 1242100, Grade II). This important group of bridges has since been joined by others including the Millennium Bridge (2001). At the time of opening the New Tyne Bridge was the largest single-span bridge in Britain, and had been constructed at a total cost of £1,200,000. The bridge, having been painted green with paint supplied by J Dampney Co of Gateshead, was opened on 10 October 1928 by King George V, accompanied by Queen Mary. The King and Queen were the first people to use the roadway, riding across in their Ascot landau, and the King's opening speech was recorded by Movietone News. Some 2,000 local school children were given a day off school to attend the opening ceremony, and presented with a commemorative brochure. The new bridge received much positive attention in local and national press and in specialist journals.

Dorman Long & Co Ltd was formed in 1875 in the north-east of England as steel makers, constructional engineers and bridge builders, and went on to construct many of the most famous bridges built in the first half of the C20 including the Sydney Harbour Bridge (1932), the New Tyne Bridge (1928), the Tees Newport Bridge (1934) and the Omdurman Bridge (1926, Sudan). Sir Ralph Freeman is a nationally renowned civil engineer whose most important work is considered to be his design work in connection with Sydney Harbour Bridge. A paper given on the subject of its design and foundations by Freeman to the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) in 1934 led to the award of a Telford gold medal for the paper and the first Baker gold medal in recognition of the development in engineering practice as described by the paper. Mott, Hay & Anderson was established in 1902, and when they were awarded the Tyne Bridge contract they were distinguished and experienced in the planning of large engineering projects. After a merger in 1989 to become Mott MacDonald, their portfolio expanded to include prominent schemes such as the Tyne & Wear Metro and the Tyne Tunnel. Robert Burns Dick (1868-1954) was a notable regional architect, who in 1899 entered into partnership with James Cackett. He was admitted FRIBA on 8 January 1906. Burns Dick has a varied portfolio in terms of building type, style and function, very many of which are listed on the National Heritage List for England including the Grade II Spanish City (1908-10, NHLE: 1025339) and the Neo-Jacobean Newcastle University Students Union building (1924, NHLE: 1355263).

While New Tyne Bridge is its proper name, whether this was to distinguish it from the Old Tyne Bridge (a medieval bridge that was mostly destroyed by floods in 1771, NHLE: 11003513 and 1323141) or simply because at the time of construction it was the new bridge over the Tyne, is not clear. The bridge is now known as the Tyne Bridge.

Single-span steel arch road bridge, 1925-28 to designs by engineers Mott, Hay and Anderson of Westminster; abutment towers to designs of Robert Burns Dick. Constructed by Dorman, Long & Co Ltd of Middlesbrough under supervision of Charles Mitchell, with Ralph Freeman as consulting engineer.

MATERIALS: steel arch; steel columns and stone walls supporting the road approach; the pylons have solid concrete abutments with steel and concrete towers, clad in granite; the bridge parapet is cast iron.

PLAN: single-span, two-hinged steel-arch with a pylon at either end, carrying a suspended deck; land approaches to either end.

EXTERIOR: the steel arch is of two-hinged form constructed from two main mild steel parabolic trusses, each consisting of two arched ribs 14m apart between centres, connected by a single system of web members with Warren-type bracing in the form of simple diagonals. The arch spans 162m and rises to a height of 55m. It carries a 17m wide suspended deck some 26m above high water level, incorporating cantilevered footways to either side. The deck within the arch consists of cross-girders suspended from the trusses by a series of hangers formed of steel members, and on the approaches the deck rests on spandrel columns rising from the top of the trusses. Beneath the deck are enclosed ducts containing water and gas mains and electrical services. The arch is secured by 12 inch (30cm) diameter pins to a land abutment on either side of the River Tyne, which bear the thrust of the arch, and are carried down to bedrock with solid concrete bases.

Above each abutment is a steel and concrete rectangular-plan tower, faced in granite, comprising a five-storey central part with taller projections to the east and west sides. The towers have neoclassical detailing to the tops and very tall arched recesses to the outer faces containing a continuous sequence of alternating windows and aprons, with bracketed balconies. They are also considered to be Art Deco influenced seen in the overall massing and the plinth level door cases featuring over-sized keystones. Original doors are mostly retained, but original metal-framed windows have largely been replaced with timber versions, with the exception of three ground floor windows to the south tower in which original metal frames remain.

The approach spans are carried partly on earth filling between retaining-walls and partly on continuous plate girders supported by two pairs of octagonal steel columns on the Newcastle side, skewed to accommodate the street plan below, and a single pair in line on the Gateshead side. The panelled cast-iron parapet on the arch and the approach spans, with lamp standards mounted at intervals, is by Macfarlane & Co of Glasgow.

INTERIOR: the central part of each tower was intended to serve as warehouse space (unused), with passenger lifts in the west projection and pedestrian stairs and goods lifts in the east projection. Lifts and stairs provided access from ground level to bridge deck level with vestibules at both levels.

NORTH TOWER: the warehouse section has a skeletal steel framework of joists, main beams and supporting columns for the intended floors which were never installed. The public stair hall has a concrete dado and staircase, the latter with stick balusters, an octagonal newel post with an ornate finial, and a ramped hand rail, all of cast-iron. The stair rises to deck level where an arched entrance opens into a rectangular lobby with concrete coving, a cast-iron lantern and an original exit/entrance; the latter is fitted with original double doors and a decorative fanlight of semi-circular tracery. The public lift hall has ground floor and deck level lobbies, each with cast-iron lanterns above each of the two sets of double, panelled lift doors, the latter with monolithic granite surrounds; one set of lift doors to each lobby retains original 36-pane leaded upper lights. The upper lobby also has an opening with identical doors and fanlight to that of the deck-level stair hall, and there is an Art Deco-style sunburst design; one of the lifts has an original lift mechanism housed within a small cupboard. The lower lobby retains part of what is considered to be an original Art Deco mural featuring steamers. The two original passenger lifts remain within the lift shaft, both with timber panelled interiors with decorative lozenge and oval detailing, and metal lattice doors. A small room to the rear of the upper lift lobby retains the original lift motors, which are marked 'The Express Lift Company, London'.

SOUTH TOWER: this retains a similar skeletal framework as that to the north tower, and has shafts for lifts that were never installed. The public stair hall, staircase and vestibule are similarly detailed to that of the north tower.


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Structure Details

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