IT'S THE WEEKEND: Great Outdoors - The stories behind Gwent's bridges

IT'S THE WEEKEND: Great Outdoors - The stories behind Gwent's bridges

STRUCTURE: Newport's Transporter Bridge

STRUCTURE: Newport's Transporter Bridge

HISTORY: The Chartist Bridge in Blackwood.

LIT UP: The Wye Bridge.

I

BRIDGE: The Newport City Footbridge.

LINK: The old Severn Bridge

First published in News by

Gwent is home to some of the best bridges in Wales as reporter SOPHIE BROWNSON finds out.

FROM Newport's Transporter Bridge to the Severn Bridge, there are some impressive bridge structures in Gwent.

We take a look at the story behind a few of them.

The Newport Transporter Bridge

The impressive bridge rises 242 feet above road level with the transporter platform travelling 645 feet between the two towers.

The electrically powered bridge sees the gondola being pulled across by a cable wound round a drum in the motor house on the East bank at a maximum speed of ten feet per second.

Costing £98,000, the bridge was built in the late 19th century when rapid development was taking place on the East side of the River Usk.

The local authority identified a need for a river crossing to transport workers to the then new Lysaghts steelworks in particular.

The site for the bridge was a difficult one because of the very high tidal range and the need to maintain access for high-masted ships, and various suggestions were made instead of the Transporter Bridge including a conventional bridge, a lifting bridge and a tunnel.

But to achieve the necessary height the approaches to a conventional or even lifting bridge would have had to be extremely long and a tunnel was considered too expensive.

But the borough engineer at the time, Mr R H Haynes had heard of the work of Ferdinand Arnodin who had designed an 'Aerial Ferry' which consisted of two high towers supporting a 'railway track' from which is suspended a platform or 'gondola' on which passengers or vehicles ride. He decided that such a design would overcome the difficulties outlined above.

After councillors inspected such a bridge at Rouen in France, they decided to build one in Newport obtaining parliamentary approval in 1900.

Construction started in 1902 and was completed by September 12 1906 when Viscount Tredegar opened the new bridge.

David Hando, chairman of the Friends of the Newport Transporter Bridge, said the bridge was a significant landmark in the city.

“We are lucky in Newport as we have some splendid bridges, but I think the most majestic is the Transporter Bridge,” he said.

“It is of great historical and engineering significance.

“It is not the oldest one in the world but it is probably in its most original state since it was built in 1906.

“There are only six of the bridges in operation in the world and out of the three in Britain only two are operational.”

Chartist Bridge

The historical bridge linking the east and west sides of the Sirhowy Valley was designed by Cardiff-based firm Arup.

The bridge is a part of the Sirhowy Enterprise Way regeneration project and opened four months ahead of schedule on December 3, 2005. Before the bridge was built, the journey across the Valley was made over a one in four road through the bottom of the valley known locally as the Rhiw.

The bridge is a cable stayed bridge 230m long supported 30m above the valley floor by a 90m A frame pylon.

On the East side of the bridge there is a Chartist Statue to honour the Chartist struggle and their march to Newport, while a name plate is situated on the West.

The statue itself is an impressive and imposing figure of a Chartist striding forward, pike in hand. It is made up of thousands of brass rings and represents strength in unity.

Severn Bridge and Severn Crossing

The iconic bridge linking England and Wales has carried more than 300,000,000 vehicles since it was opened in 1966.

The Severn Bridge was opened to replace the ferry service crossing from Aust to Beachley, and to provide a direct link for the M4 motorway into Wales.

But as traffic flow increased by 63 percent between 1980 and 1990, severe congestion was caused.

The problems encountered on the Severn Bridge were made worse by the occasional high winds, accidents and breakdowns, so a second bridge called the Second Severn Crossing was constructed.

In April 1989, four groups, which included engineers, contractors and banks were invited to tender for the provision of a Second Severn Crossing and the new crossing was opened on June 5, 1996 by The Prince of Wales.

Newport City Footbridge

Built in 2006 as part of the city’s major regeneration plans, the bridge links the East and West banks of the River Usk.

The £5 million Newport City Footbridge - which takes the number of bridges in central Newport to five - was officially opened on September 12, 2006 and features four crane-like masts, standing in pairs, which support the bridge from the west bank.

The foot and cycle bridge stands 70m (229ft) high and spans 145 metres (476 ft) across the River Usk – the length of 17 double decker buses. Work on the bridge began on May 1 2006 when contractors Alfred McAlpine started to lift the 850 tonne bridge into position with the assistance of the tallest crane in the UK (over 100 m/328 ft).

Just four metres shorter than the Transporter Bridge, the bridge deck is the length of 17 double decker buses. The bridge is nearly 17m (56ft) taller than Nelson’s Column, and balustrade made up of nearly three kilometres of stainless steel wire.

Old Wye Bridge

The Old Wye Bridge is known for its cast iron structure.

The bridge is now a protected monument and restricted to light traffic only, but was originally used as the main bridge into the town from Gloucestershire until January 1988.

The bridge is the latest of six bridges at this point on the Wye and was built in 1816 by John Rastrick of Bridgenorth. It has been strengthened several times prior to the building of the new bridge.

The rise and fall of the river at this point is a spectacular 12 metres, with the centre of the Wye Bridge marking the border between the counties of Gwent and Gloucestershire.

Aaron Brute

The Blaenavon bridge which received the Special Award for Heritage at the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) Wales Cymru Awards 2014, was originally used as a means of transporting valuable minerals to the nearby ironworks.

It was scheduled by Cadw as an ancient monument in 1994, but closed in 2003 due to potential risk from collapse. As a result it was listed as an endangered structure by UNESCO, which aims to protect sites of outstanding universal value.

The bridge was successfully removed, restored and reinstated between June 2012 and May 2013, with the newly restored bridge being officially opened by Carl Sargeant AM, the Minister for Housing and Regeneration on June 12, 2013.

The restoration overcame a number of key engineering challenges including the removal and conservation of the cast iron bridge without damaging the original structure, and rebuilding the stone abutment walls and weir on the site of a difficult to access, fast rising river.

Located along a new waymarked trail which links historic features of interest between the Blaenavon World Heritage Centre and Big Pit National Coal Museum, the bridges restoration improves the accessibly of these sites by foot and the bridge is an important visitor attraction in its own right.

The project was delivered for Torfaen County Borough Council by Capita Property & Infrastructure Ltd who were the principal designers and engineers. The contractor was Alun Griffiths (Contractors) Ltd.

Monnow Bridge

The stone bridge is the sole remaining mediaeval fortified river bridge in Britain where the gate tower stands actually on the bridge.

Built in the 1200s, the gatehouse atop Monnow Bridge, Monnow Gate, was not an original feature of the bridge- it formed part of new town defences begun at the beginning of the 14th century.

The bridge was built following a grant by the Monmouthshire authorities to build the mediaeval town walls and gates.

The original bridge was considerably narrower, and pedestrians and vehicles passed through the single arched passage of a tower.

Other than their defensive uses, Monnow Gate and the other town gates were used regularly over more than 500 years as the sites of toll collections.

During 1988 to 1990 the Monmouth Flood Alleviation Scheme was effected in order to protect Monmouth from occasional flooding by the Monnow River.

Comments (1)

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6:31pm Sat 23 Aug 14

anigel says...

After reading the Torfean gov.uk page on Aaron brute bridge, I wonder how much of the rest of this story has been a copy and paste of paragraph after paragraph from other sites.
After reading the Torfean gov.uk page on Aaron brute bridge, I wonder how much of the rest of this story has been a copy and paste of paragraph after paragraph from other sites. anigel
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