Today’s post is inspired by Haiku Heights prompt ‘Bridge’. Bridges have always held a fascination for me. My father worked all his life in the steel industry and I loved listening to him explain the engineering behind the iconic structures that fascinated him. There was no shortage of inspiration in Newcastle on the River Tyne where I grew up as a child. Having 7 bridges in less than a mile close to my home on that great river, each one totally different yet perfectly suited to their task, there was always something to look at and learn about.
It is recorded that Hadrian built the first bridge on the Tyne in AD 122 before he built his wall. He named the bridge Pons Aelius in honour of the his family name. The family crest was a Goat’s head which is where the name ‘Gateshead’ is thought to derive from. From then on records show there was a crossing at this point over the centuries until 1248 when it was destroyed by fire. But in 1250 a medieval bridge was built with turreted guard towers, a chapel, shops and houses on it. In 1771 that bridge was virtually destroyed by a great flood but in 1778 a Georgian bridge replaced it. This bridge made navigation difficult at times and dredging impossible upriver so an opening bridge was proposed in 1851
The seven bridges at the heart of the city are
Gateshead Millennium Bridge, known as the ‘Blinking Eye’ because of the way it opens, was opened in 2001
The Tyne bridge, was opened by King George V in October 1928. My mother was 3 years old then and remembered sitting on her uncle’s shoulders on the bridge actually watching the ceremony!
The Swing Bridge was opened in 1876 to enable ships to pass along the Tyne. At its peak the bridge swung open 30 times a day. In 1924, 6000 vessels were said to have passed through. The opening mechanism is still in full working order and the bridge still opens on special occasions.
The High Level Bridge was needed when the railways came to town! Originally trains had to stop in Gateshead and passengers were then ferried across the Tyne to Newcastle where they were faced with a very steep climb up steps to the city. This bridge was designed by Robert, son of George Stephenson. It is double decked with rail lines above and a road beneath. It was the first bridge of its kind (double deck rail/road) in the world and was made of 5000 tons of local wrought iron and cast iron. It was opened by Queen Victoria in September 1849.
The Metro Bridge is officially called Queen Elizabeth II Metro Bridge as our Queen opened it with Prince Philip in 1981. This was designed and built to cater for the new integrated transport system from Newcastle to the coast at South Shields. Believe it or not when I was a child in the 40s and 50s in gateshead/Newcastle we still travelled on trams or trolley buses! The Metro was after my time, but I have been on it in recent years and it is a superb system, being fast, clean and efficient.
The King Edward Bridge was opened in 1906 by the then King Edward VII. It was desperately needed as railway travel was now so popular that the High level Bridge could not cope with the traffic.
Lastly on this short and busy stretch of my favourite river is the Redheugh Bridge. To be honest this is the third Redheugh Bridge as the original two were unfit for purpose. But the final one was a triumph of pre-stressed concrete with 4 lanes for traffic and one path for pedestrians. This bridge was opened by the Diana, Princess of Wales in 1984.
Any Geordie will tell you that the view from the train as it crosses the Tyne is enough to set the heart racing. Just the word, ‘Bridge’ set my muse going so I am posting some of my haiku here for you.
Captured on canvas
The city of my childhood
A lifetime abridged
Train carries me back
Beyond landmarks unchanging
Loved city unfolds
From the bridge I see
My family’s history
Slip away from me
Poor men paid a toll
A penny from a pittance
To cross the ‘Coaly Tyne’
Painted bridge belies
Oily blackness deep below
Under the arches
The homeless shelter each night
In cardboard boxes
Standing on the edge
She saw no life before her
Flowers lie there still