09 March 2010
Manchester Bridges: 6. Staffordshire Basin Footbridges
Time for a couple of mysteries. Walking from Merchants' Bridge under the railway viaducts (more about them later) brings you to Staffordshire Basin and the Castlefield Arena.
The arena, with its attractive fabric canopy, was designed by DEGW with Arup and while much touted as a redevelopment success story, apparently sits empty most of the time. Perhaps there's more life here in the summer.
This was also the former site of the Staffordshire Warehouse, which apparently stood eight storeys high, with two large arched entrances covering canal arms which ran into the building. A similar structure can be seen in my last post, viewed behind Merchants' Bridge (the second photo), and I'll show it again in the next post. The Warehouse is no longer there, but the two canal arms are still present, taking the form of a tuning fork in plan.
The entrances to each canal arm are spanned by identical swing footbridges. Well, I say "spanned", but when I was there, both bridges were padlocked in the open position and I suspect they generally stay that way.
I've been unable to find any information at all for these bridges online, not even their name, let alone dates or who designed or built them. Hence the "mystery" alluded to at the start of this post.
Both bridges have clearly been designed to be ultra-lightweight, and swung by hand using prominent bobbled lever arms. The parapets are nearly insubstantial, with horizontal cable railings and even a cable handrail on top. They could almost be omitted entirely or reduced to a top rail: the risk of falling in the water is surely greater from the canal banks or off a canal boat.
I like the detailing on these bridges, the way the parapet wires are brought to ground at the tip of the bridge; the curved and ballasted plate that sits above the pivot; and the curved recess in the paving for the ballast plate to swing into.