Bygones: Standing the test of time
IN ORDER to link Grimsby Corporation's new West Marsh housing development to the East Marsh and the docks, the relevant Act of Parliament was granted in 1869, writes Jeff Beedham.
This resulted in the first Corporation Bridge being built across the Old Haven Dock at Freeport Wharf.
It was a narrow swing bridge, only 15ft wide, and was built by civil engineers Head Wrightson & Co of Stockton on Tees.
It opened in 1873, just as the last of the Freeman's land in the East Marsh was being leased out for housing.
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There was talk of a road bridge over the network of railway lines to the East Marsh, but because too many houses would have to be demolished, a footbridge was built instead from the New Market to Newmarket Street, directly linking the West Marsh to the East Marsh.
In his "The Rise of Grimsby 1865-1913" Bob Lincoln proclaims 1873 as: "Certainly the most important year in the annals of Grimsby up to this period".
When it was built, the original Corporation Bridge was more than adequate for the vehicular traffic of the time, such as horses, carts and pedestrians, but during the early part of the 20th century motor cars and lorries became a common sight on Grimsby streets.
The bridge was also suffering severe mechanical problems, relying on a steam tug to open and close it at set times each day.
A new larger, more modern bridge was required but the First World War intervened and it wouldn't be until 1923 when the London & North Eastern Railway took control of Grimsby docks that a new bridge, of the rolling lift bascule type, was designed by their chief docks engineer, Mr AC Gardner.
The present bridge was built by Sir William Arrol & Co Ltd of Glasgow who had built the Forth railway bridge.
The Corporation Bridge was officially opened by Edward HRH Prince of Wales in July 1928, and was completed without interfering with the passage of shipping in the dock.
It has a 33ft wide roadway with a footpath each side and is so finely balanced that in the event of a power failure two men can manually open and close it as required.
It also has electrically-operated gates, mechanically locked into the bridge mechanism, so they all have to be fully closed to road traffic before the bridge can operate.
When new, it took only one minute to raise the bridge to the vertical position and it was initially painted with a special anti-corrosive paint which was devised and manufactured just round the corner in Victoria Street by the Graphite Oils Co Ltd.
I remember during the 1950s the bridge still opened at set times each day to allow deal boats to unload at the timber merchants south of the bridge and also to allow barges of sand and gravel to discharge at the massive Hennibique ready mixed concrete plant near the Riverhead.
During the summer the bridge was a popular spot for local children swimming from the wooden piers on each side and for fishing with blob lines below the bridge.
Visiting Royal Naval vessels would always moor next to the bridge, where a gate would be opened to allow the public to visit them on a weekend.
During the 1966 Merchant Seamen's Strike, two of Metcalfe's Hull-registered coasters were tied up next to the bridge for the duration of the strike.
Today, although the busy shipping in the dock has long since ceased, under the terms of the 1869 Act of Parliament the bridge has to be kept in full working order to let any shipping pass through, and it is regularly maintained by North East Lincolnshire Council.
In September 2007 it was closed for a fortnight to enable major maintenance work to be carried out and hopefully it will still be in full working order when it celebrates its centenary in 2028.