A NEWPORT icon is celebrating its 113th birthday today.

Newport Transporter Bridge was officially opened by 1st Viscount Tredegar Godfrey Morgan 113 years ago.

It is one of fewer than 10 transporter bridges that remain in use worldwide - only a few dozen were ever built.

South Wales Argus:

(Newport Transporter Bridge Picture: Andrew Perkins)

It is one of only two operational transporter bridges in Britain, the other being the Tees Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough.

The design was chosen because the river banks are very low at the desired crossing point where an ordinary bridge would need a very long approach ramp to attain sufficient height to allow ships to pass under.

The bridge dominates the city skyline and the Argus has delved back into the archives to search out some stories about the landmark.

The structure had a lucky escape during the Second World War when a German bomber flew underneath the main span and opened fire on the docks below.

South Wales Argus:

(Arthur Gould)

Arthur Gould, who lived in Newport, originally served in the merchant navy, until he took up a position in Newport Docks in 1940.

Sister Gladys Singleton, of Fosse Road, Newport, said that her late brother was working on a ship - some time between June 1940 and 1941 - when he came under fire from a rain of bullets.


"My brother was working on a ship when a German plane was spotted flying underneath the bridge," she explained.

"All of a sudden the plane started to fire at him and the workers."

Fortunately Mr Gould and the other workers dashed for cover quick enough to survive.

His sister has recalled her late brother saying he was "shocked" at the aircraft flighting underneath the Grade I listed building.

"I remember him saying it was unbelievable for the plane to go underneath the bridge," she said. "It was unexpected."

More recently the bridge has provided a source of comfort rather than panic.

Ann Lawson-Jones, who used to live in Risca, was in labour in the middle of the night at the Royal Gwent Hospital in 2003, when she noticed the “captivating” Grade I listed bridge lit up.

South Wales Argus:

(Ann Lawson-Jones)

“I couldn’t help but look at it,” said the 45-year-old, who now lives in Cardiff.

“I spotted the bridge when I saw its lights get turned on.

“It was captivating and during my labour I found it to be a good distraction.

“When I was admiring the bridge it took my mind off being in labour."

Aware of its historical importance, the mother is now urging people to learn more about the Transporter Bridge.

“The bridge is of importance and has played a big part in history,” she said.

The bridge has also played small part in cinematic history, with two teenage film-makers using the site for the climatic finale of their homemade Bond film.

The Second Shot Kills - a original script by the pair - was filmed on a budget of £200 using standard 8mm film and wind-up cameras.

In 1972 Keith Stephens-Borg and David Harnett made the film with permission from Hollywood producer Albert Romolo Broccoli, nicknamed Cubby, who co-owned the rights to the character with Harry Saltzman.

South Wales Argus:

(Keith Stephens-Borg and David Harnett)

After having witnessed all of that history, the bridge's anniversary will be marked with an extended opening tomorrow.

The event takes place on from 5pm to 8.30pm and people can take gondola rides until 6.30pm or walk along the top until 8pm.

Community choir Cascapella will be performing at 7pm and pizza company Barrio and Lewigi will be among those having a stall for the occasion.

South Wales Argus:

Led by Sarah Harman, Cascapella will perform her Steel Threads, a suite of songs she composed to celebrate the bridge’s 100th anniversary. It will be the first performance of the complete suite.

Prices are the same as normal - £4 for adults and £3 for children – and there is no need to book.

South Wales Argus:

Councillor Debbie Harvey, Newport City Council’s cabinet member for culture and leisure, said: “This promises to be another magical evening at the much-loved bridge which has played such an important role in the life of the city for more than a century – firstly, as an important transport link and more recently as a popular attraction.”

South Wales Argus:

In 2018, the council was awarded £1 million for the first part of a National Heritage Lottery Fund bid for a project to protect and develop the bridge. If the second stage is successful, it will secure £10 million from HLF to create a new visitor centre as well as maintaining and repairing the bridge.

Despite its place at the heart of the history of the city, upkeep on a structure of this scale is always ongoing and costly.

South Wales Argus:

Friends of Newport Transporter Bridge have been working to raise money to repair and restore the Transporter Bridge, and to build a new visitor centre.

An application has been filed with the Heritage Lottery Fund but grants are only awarded if the local community shows support for the plans.

Donations can be made to the JustGiving Transporter Bridge Fund at justgiving.com/crowdfunding/newporttransporterbridge1