Demand for river crossings sparked bridge build in York

The vehicles that pass over the River Ouse in York centre are easily identifiable in darkness by the red and white light they emit against the backdrop of the walled city.

Their route from one side to the other is taken over one of three road crossings, including the 156-year-old Lendal Bridge, pictured here. It replaced an earlier ferry service running between Lendal Tower on one bank and Barker Tower on the other, as demand for river crossings grew.

As the History of York website, a partnership led by York Museums Trust, explains: “The advent of the railways in York in the first half of the nineteenth century made the ferry service busier than ever with passengers wanting to cross the river going to and from York’s original railway station in Tanner Row.”

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Though the bridge was first proposed in the early-to-mid 1800s, progress was slow and it wasn’t until 1860 when the first foundation stone for the planned lattice-girder structure was laid. But a year later, during its build, the bridge collapsed.

Light trails from cars as they pass over Lendal Bridge in York. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

According to the Grace’s Guide project, a charity which publishes historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain, an iron girder fell over as it was being lowered into place, disturbing others already in position. Several workers were killed.

After the tragedy, a new bridge designed by Thomas Page, whose other work includes London’s Westminster Bridge, was opened in 1863. It is reported to have cost around £35,000 and tolls were imposed to cross it until 1894 to help cover the outlay.

It is this bridge, Grade II-Listed along with its tollhouses, and one of the filming locations for BBC television series Gunpowder, that remains in place today.

More than 150 years on, it continues to serve its intended purpose, providing a link for motorists and pedestrians between the part of the city centre that is South West of the river, including York railway station, and the area to the North East of the Ouse, including of course, the infamous and intricate York Minster.

Technical details: Nikon D4, 24-70mm lens, with an exposure of 20seconds @ f8, ISO 50