Opening of The Victoria Bridge – 1887

The Event:

 

The Victoria Jubilee Bridge – to give it its full name – which links the banks of the river at Stockton on Tees was opened on 20 June 1887.

 

How many people crossing the Victoria Bridge today are aware that they are crossing a Grade II listed structure?

 

And how many are aware of the significance of those holes in the balustrade on the eastern side of the bridge?

 

Spanning the River Tees between Stockton and Thornaby the bridge is a wonderful example of an elegant 3-arched road bridge with stone piers and wrought iron arches. The bridge is 341 feet long from bank to bank and 60 feet wide. There are three spans to the bridge, the centre one being 110 feet wide. Designed by Messrs Harrison Hayter and Charles Neale, the bridge was built by Whitaker Brothers, Leeds between 1882 and 1887. It cost £69,051 and was funded by local councils with contributions from the Tramway Company, North Eastern Railway and the Water Board.

 

The bridge was named to commemorate the 50th year in the reign of Queen Victoria and opened on 20 June 1887.

 

Until 1931 the bridge carried trams and it is still a major route for pedestrian and road traffic today.

 

The balustrades are cast iron with an open design of interlocking circles, and on the parapets are ornamental cast iron lampposts carrying modern lights while the spandrels are open cast iron work with a design of diminishing interlocking circles.

 

Towards the Thornaby end of the bridge, on the eastern balustrade, one can clearly see a number of holes. These are the result of shrapnel from a bomb dropped on the bridge during a German raid on Teesside in August 1940. One person, a worker on his way to the railway yards at Thornaby, died as a result of injuries sustained from the bomb blast.

 

 

The Significance:

 

Until the twentieth century – and the building of the Transporter Bridge in 1911 – the Victoria Bridge was the lowest point at which the Tees could be crossed by bridge. Below that to cross the river people relied on ferries.

 

This meant that Stockton developed as a major trading port and a place where ship-building thrived.

 

The Victoria Bridge replaced an earlier five arch Stockton Bridge, designed by Joseph Robson of Sunderland and built of stone. That bridge was completed in 1771, and when opened had the effect of cutting off access to Yarm for many cargo vessels, thus resulting in a decline in the importance of Yarm as a trading port.

 

However, by the time the Victoria Bridge was opened trade was in decline because of the extension of the railway to Port Darlington (Middlesbrough) and the development of berthing facilities lower down the river, which meant that ships no longer had to negotiate the winding River Tees and were no longer as much at the mercy of the tides as they had been.

 

The architectural and historical significance of Victoria Bridge was recognised on 19 February 2010 when it was granted Grade II listed status.

 

Suggested Places to Visit:

 

The Victoria Bridge, Stockton on Tees