Tag Archives: Swing Bridge

Tyneside's historic bridges

Tyneside relics for the WordPress Photo Challenge

The landscape of North East England is rich in relics from past eras. The images I have chosen to share for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge range from relics of the Romans and the Normans to reminders of the English Civil War and the wonders of Victorian engineering.

The bridges you can see in the image above are both ‘relics’ that were designed by giants of Victorian industry on Tyneside. I talked a little about these men in my previous post. Despite being relics of a bygone age, these two bridges remain in daily use. The Swing Bridge doesn’t swing open as often as it once did for ships to pass through but the roadway across it is still a popular route across the Tyne. After being closed for three years (2005-2008) for restoration work, the High Level is less used than it once was. The roadway on the lower deck of the High Level Bridge now only carries public transport but the two-track railway on the upper deck remains in regular use.

The site of the Swing Bridge also very closely marks the line of older Tyne crossings including the Roman bridge. Pons Aelius was named after the Emperor Hadrian whose wall marking the northern frontier of the vast Roman Empire originally started at this bridge before it was decided to extend the Wall along the north bank of the River Tyne to Wallsend.

Newcastle - Castle Keep, Black Gate
The Norman Castle Keep built on the site of the original wooden structure that gave ‘New Castle’ its name

The Castle Keep, founded by Henry II in 1168, is regarded as one of the finest remaining examples of a Norman Keep in Britain. Standing on a useful defensive position above the river, the Castle Keep also stands on the site of previous Roman fortifications. The first Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall was located here. Underneath the stone-built railway arches immediately below the Castle Keep, you can still find some of the Roman foundations marked out.

Newcastle West Walls - Heber Tower
Newcastle’s medieval West Walls – Heber Tower

To the west of the city centre you can visit the remains of the Newcastle’s town walls. These historical relics are known as The West Walls. The town walls are first mentioned in a charter given by King John in 1216, though it is believed that Newcastle was walled from the same time that Robert Curthose built his motte and bailey on the site of the Castle Keep (around the end of the 11th century). Newcastle’s wall’s were renowned for their strength. The nineteeth century historian, Eneas Mackenzie, tells us, “These famed walls were twelve feet high, eight feet thick, and strengthened by a wide fosse.” As Newcastle was on the ‘frontier’ between England and Scotland, strong walls were needed in those days of frequent border warfare!

Newcastle West Walls - arrow slit close-up
The bottom part of this arrow slit was rounded out to accommodate a musket in The Siege of Newcastle, 1644

This extended arrow slit detail from the Heber Tower shown in the image above is another relic of Newcastle’s battle-scarred past. During the English Civil Wars, Newcastle was beseiged for a good part of the year 1644. The Royalists of Newcastle, fighting from the town walls, had evidently adapted the original arrow slit to allow their musket barrels to fit through.

Roman bathhouse at Chesters - Hadrian's Wall on the hill
Bath house at Chesters Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland

Moving from town to country, but staying on the banks of the Tyne – this Roman relic is the bathhouse at Chesters Roman Fort and is regarded as one of the best preserved Roman bathhouses in Britain. Chesters is one of the Hadrian’s Wall forts and lies about five miles north of the town of Hexham on the picturesque North Tyne river. Hadrian’s Wall runs along the ridge. Hadrian’s Wall is a World Heritage Site and the adjacent Hadrian’s Wall Path is a National Trail that runs the 73 miles from Wallsend in the east to Bowness on Solway on England’s west coast.

J Peggy Taylor

Tyneside icons for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

With Circles and Curves as this week’s theme for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, I decided to share some of my images of Tyneside’s famous curved landmarks – from ancient to modern.

Newcastle Castle Keep - external view of original entrance
This elaborately carved arched doorway is the original entrance to Newcastle’s Castle Keep

This Norman castle keep was built in 1178 on the site of the original wooden ‘New Castle’ built by William the Conqueror’s son, Robert Curthose, in 1080.

Bridges over the River Tyne
The iconic Tyne Bridge in the foreground, then the Swing Bridge, the High Level Bridge and the Queen Elizabeth II Tyneside Metro bridge.

Along just a short stretch of the River Tyne between Newcastle and Gateshead there are no less than seven bridges crossing the river! You can see four of them in this picture.

With its curved steel arches, the iconic Tyne Bridge is often used as the symbol of Tyneside. This bridge opened in 1928 and was much needed at the time for the increased road traffic between Newcastle and Gateshead.

The Swing Bridge, can turn 90 degrees on a central pivot to open for larger ships to pass upriver. It was designed by the Victorian engineer and inventor, William Armstrong, to allow ships to reach his engineering works. This bridge is built on the site of the original river crossing point. The Roman bridge, Pons Aelius, was the original starting point of Hadrian’s Wall – Pons Aelius translates as ‘Hadrian’s Bridge’.

Opened in 1849, the High Level Bridge and is another piece of Victorian engineering, designed by the famous railway engineer, Robert Stephenson. This double-decker bridge carries the railway on its upper deck and the road on the lower deck.

The Queen Elizabeth II Tyneside Metro Bridge opened in 1981 and carries the region’s light railway over the River Tyne on its journeys through Gateshead to South Shields and Sunderland.

Gateshead's Millenium Bridge across the Tyne
The Gateshead Millenium Bridge with the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art at the right-hand side of the bridge

The award-winning Gateshead Millenium Bridge is the newest bridge across the Tyne. This bridge can be opened by a tilting mechanism to allow river traffic through.

The Sage, Gateshead across the Tyne
The Sage centre for music is one of Gateshead’s newer iconic landmarks

The Sage, Gateshead (as it is known) was designed by Lord Foster. The curved steel and glass structure enhances acoustics for this world class music venue.

… and in case you are wondering, yes, they do clean all of those windows! … by abseiling down the outside!

J Peggy Taylor