07 March 2014

Tyneside Bridges: 2. Byker Bridge

The second bridge to be built linking the crests of the Ouseburn Valley was the Byker Bridge, built in 1878 to a design by Robert Hodgson. Hodgson had been Robert Stephenson's Resident Engineer for the construction of the Newcastle High Level Bridge, and the original Byker Bridge very much resembled a railway structure, with its tall brick arches.

When first built, users of the bridge had to pay a half-penny toll, although this was withdrawn in 1895.

According to the ICE's Civil Engineering Heritage book, the bridge was widened in 1902, to cantilever the footpaths beyond the edge of the brickwork; and then the widening was "improved" in 1985, adding prestressed concrete beams on cantilevers to support both footways and new crash barriers.

Clearly, "improved" is used only in a technical sense, as the widening has utterly spoiled the appearance of the bridge. The original bridge appears not to have been a great beauty - its tall piers taper slightly, which seems attractive, but the semi-elliptical arches look awkward.

Now, the stubby little concrete cantilevers look quite horrible, and the effect of the deck widening is to hide the crowns of the arches, "squashing" them unpleasantly.

Further information:


bridge said...

"No comments" doesn't indicate no interest. Keep YOUR comments coming.

Imre Laufer said...

Well, the text says that the edge girders are prestressed concrete beams, but to me they appear rather as steel girders.

Nevertheless, it's both interesting and disappointing to see how insensitively bridge engineers approached bridge upgrades in the second half of the 20th century (and continue to do so even today). Of course, there are a number of good examples, but I think they are the few exceptions from the general scheme.

What I find interesting about this subject is that it seems characterisic to both Hungary and Great Britain - countries which went down quite different paths in the second half of the last century, with respect to political and economical systems.