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24 September 2014

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You are in: Cumbria > History > History features > The Jubilee Bridge - the road to Walney

Jubilee Bridge to Walney Island

The Jublilee Bridge

The Jubilee Bridge - the road to Walney

Before 1908 making the trip across to Walney Island - England's largest marine island - was not an easy business.

Jubilee Bridge

Jubilee Bridge

But then before the growth of Barrow's shipyard, island hopping was not a particularly pressing matter. Walney's 5.01 square miles were sparsely occupied by a small farming and fishing community.

This all changed at the turn of the century, a time when Barrow was the Chicago of the North, sucking-in impoverished farmhands from Britain and beyond, tempted in their thousands by the promise of work at the ironworks, shipyard or railway.

"It's an incredible piece of Edwardian engineering, it's big boys Meccano really when you look at it."

John Robinson, Cumbria County Council's highways manager

To solve the problem of what to do with its legions of labourers, Vickers Shipyard decide to populate Walney and built Vickerstown.

For a time, these workers used a chain ferry to get to work, but as numbers grew this became increasingly impractical. And so the Walney Bridge was built in 1908 - much to the disgust of the Furness Railway Co. which had operated the ferry.

"There was a toll to pay to pay for the bridge," explains John Murphy, a local historian who was born and bred on the Island. "There's lots of lovely stories about people creeping under the toll bar so as not to give their pennies, and women running across with babies in their prams."

Jubilee Bridge with beached small boats

But by 1935 - the £175,000 construction bill covered - the toll was lifted - The Queen Mother came to officially waive the fee and Walney Bridge was renamed Jubilee Bridge. A plaque to commemorate the event can be seen on the Barrow side of the bridge.

The bridge is also considered rather special for the rack and pinion system used to swing it open for passing ships.

"In its day, it was one of only about four in the British Isles that actually lifted on this principle," says John Robinson, Cumbria County Council's highways manager. "It's quite clever and not only do the two spans pivot and lift, they actually roll back as well so it opens the space-up even more for the boats to get through. It's an incredible piece of Edwardian engineering, it's big boys Meccano really when you look at it."

The county council has recently spent around £1 million on the bridge.

Jubilee Bridge after the recent renovation work

Jubilee Bridge after the renovation work

The work included replacing rusting steel and repainting it from electric blue back to the original black and gold.

It should all be complete  in time for the party celebrations planned to mark the bridge's centenary on July 30, 2008. 

last updated: 01/05/2008 at 15:53
created: 05/09/2006

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