The First Stockton Bridge – 1771

 

The Event:

 

The Victoria Bridge was not the first bridge to cross the River Tees at Stockton.

 

In 1771 a stone bridge was opened to cope with the growth of road traffic that occurred in the middle of the eighteenth century, traffic which the Bishop’s ferry was unable to cope with, meaning that traffic had to divert to Yarm to be able to cross the river.

 

In March 1762 an Act of Parliament was passed granting the building of a bridge to replace the ferry. The Act stipulated that one of the bridge arches should be 72 feet wide and 23 feet high from the low water mark (to allow boats to pass under the bridge) and that the roadway should be 21 feet wide (including 3 feet for foot traffic).

 

The bridge was designed by either a Mr Mylne or a Mr Robson, and the foundations of the bridge were laid on 23 August 1764.

 

The bridle ways on the approach to the bridge were to be improved to serve as carriage roads – one of these wsould connect the bridge with Ladgate Lane.

 

The five-arch stone bridge was opened on 1771, having cost £8,000 to build.

 

The costs of construction were to be recovered through the imposition of tool charges on traffic using the bridge, and by August 1816 the debt incurred to build the bridge had been cleared – but tolls continued to be imposed until 1820.

 

The cost of construction was

 

The Significance:

 

Prior to the building of the bridge, Yarm had been the main trading port on the Tees.  The building of the bridge presented a barrier to the larger ships that would normally have loaded and unloaded at Yarm which meant that the port of Stockton became the busier port on the river at that time and Yarm’s position declined.  This coincided with the growth of the shipyards that sprang up on both sides of the river to the east of the bridge.

 

By 1876 Stockton Bridge was deemed inadequate to cope with the growing traffic and work begun on a new bridge in 1881. The new bridge, which still stands today, was opened in 1887 and was named the Victoria Bridge as a tribute to Queen Victoria.

 

Before the bridge was completed it was used for an special cargo to cross the River Tees. James Hustler, who owned large areas of Acklam and Middlesbrough, died and his body was brought from London by sea to Stockton Quay, and then taken across the Stockton Bridge on its way to Acklam for burial.

 

Suggested Places to Visit:

 

The Victoria Bridge, Stockton on Tees