High Level Bridge
Listed Building Grade I
Newcastle upon Tyne, NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE
- Combined railway and road bridge with two decks. The railway runs above the road, supported by six ribbed bowstring arches and met at both ends by sandstone piers supporting the approach roads. These piers themselves are supported by timber piles.
'In 1845 the decision was taken to build a combined road and rail bridge giving 82 feet [25m] clear headway at high water and 97 feet [29.5m] at low water; the rail deck is of course higher, some 112 feet [34.14m] above high water. In its overall length of some 1,400 feet (425.6m), it approached the scale of Stephenson's Britannia Tubular Bridge, but here, over the Tyne, long spans were not essential and hence the choice of six main spans each of 125 feet (38m), with smaller land arches. There are five masonry piers, founded on massive timber piles (the first use of Nasmyth's steam hammer for piling), and these support the six main spans, each of which consists of four cast-iron ribs tied with flat, wrought-iron tension chains. The rail deck above is supported by cast-iron columns rising from the main ribs while the road deck is slung below it.'
[Stafford Linsley's annotation]
RAILWAY BRIDGE, ROAD BRIDGE, TOLL BRIDGE
- Historical Background
- 'Built 1845-49 by Robert Stephenson with T. E. Harrison, [the High Level Bridge is] a superb example of Stephenson's use of materials appropriate to their function. Its design followed at least nineteen different proposals by such as Samuel Brown, Robert Stevenson, John Green, John Dobson and I. K. Brunel, for both high and low level bridges between Gateshead and Newcastle, to augment the low level bridge built to the design of Robert Mylne in 1781. The final impetus was the need to link the railway from Darlington to Gateshead with the Newcastle & Berwick railway, necessarily at high level given the railway lines already built or planned.
The main ironwork contractors were Hawks Crawshay of Gateshead, but the main ribs may have been supplied by Abbots of Gateshead, and the castings in the approaches may be by Losh, Wilson & Bell; the piers and the north approach viaduct were built by Rush & Lawton. The total cost was £491,000, including the purchase of land and compensation payments; the structure as such cost £230,600. It was built without a single death being incurred. Initially a toll bridge, it was freed from toll in 1937.
There have only been a few changes to the bridge since it opened, notably additional 1¾ inch diameter road-deck suspension rods from the inner arch ribs to strengthen the structure to take double-track electric tramcar-ways in 1922 - previously horse-trams had used the bridge. A carefully executed re-alignment was also needed at the south end of the bridge to accommodate the electric trams.'
[Stafford Linsley's annotation]
- Additional information about the structure type RAILWAY BRIDGE is available.
- Additional information about the structure type ROAD BRIDGE is available.
- Additional information about the structure type TOLL BRIDGE is available.
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