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Points West Archive Films
The Royal entourage crosses The Severn
Severn Bridge: 1966
Since 1926 a ferry carrying cars and passengers helped shortened the distance by road between England and Wales. Forty years later and the world's newest suspension bridge - over the River Severn - takes over the job.
Her Majesty the Queen has opened and launched some hefty things in her time and amongst the objects to receive her blessing is one of the largest - The Severn Bridge.
Officially opened on 8th September 1966, the bridge ended Enoch Williams's lucrative business as ferryman – a post he had occupied since setting up a passenger and motorcar ferry service on the first day of the General Strike in 1926.
No doubt on the day he was the only man with a heavy heart.
For everyone else the opening of the new Severn crossing spoke about the future - a future of greater prosperity and understanding between Wales and England – and vice versa, of course!
Brand new: The Severn Bridge in 1966
With commentators Tom Flemming, Alan Williams and Tom Salmon in place, and the BBC's Outside Broadcast cameras ready to capture the spectacle, the official opening ceremony began – on the English side at Aust.
Her Majesty was introduced to those responsible for stretching steel and concrete across the Severn, including 25-year-old John Roberts from Chepstow who began working on the bridge's construction in 1963 and later skippered one of the vessels used to float into position the huge sections of roadway that would eventually carry three hundred million vehicles from 1965 to 1996 when the second Severn Crossing was opened.
Another worker introduced to The Queen was the bridge's foreman who had the tricky task of planning the shifts of his workers around the demands of the force nine tide that swept in and out regardless of the efficiency demands of the contractors.
Once they had crossed the bridge – The Queen and her entourage arrived at Newhouse Junction for the second part of the ceremony, where the then Welsh Secretary of State, Cledwyn Hughes, invited Her Majesty to unveil a plaque.
The final words, spoken by one of the commentary team, struck a note of optimism as coverage of the official opening of the Severn Bridge drew to a close:
View from one of Severn Bridge's towers
"The newest bridge in the world… the bridge that links England and Wales, and will change the lives of people… to what extent is anybody's guess.
"The dream has come true – and 'Severn Bridge', one of man's better innovations, more graceful than many of his ideas, more useful than most, has become an accomplished fact."
After thirty years' hard work, relief came for the Severn Bridge with the opening by Prince Charles of the Second Severn Crossing, whereupon thousands of road users caught their first proper sight of the original bridge, running parallel alongside the new crossing a few miles upstream.
last updated: 21/01/2009 at 13:27
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