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Manchester Victoria Station Bridges

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1. The western bridges in context
2. The context in context. Looking north, Manchester Cathedral is in the left foreground. The large aluminium-clad building is the M.E.N. Arena, with Victoria Station buildings in front, on the right
3. The northern pair of bridges (disused) over Great Ducie/Victoria Street
4. Southern bridge across the River Irwell

This entry refers to a collection of bridges in close proximity to Manchester Victoria Railway Station. The most interesting group is immediately west of Victoria station, spanning Victoria Street/Great Ducie Street (see 'A' in photo 1). Immediately west of this group, another group of bridges cross the River Irwell, relatively unobtrusively. North of the bridges the road is called Great Ducie Street, while south of the bridge the same road is called Victoria Street (previously called Hunts Bank).

Note: Bridge 'D' in photo 1 is Palatine Bridge, or Salford Bridge, opened in 1864. The original ironwork, produced by W. and J. Galloway and Sons, succumbed to corrosion and was rebuilt in the early 1900s.

Bridge 'E' in photo 1 is Waterloo Bridge (Salford), not connected with the railway system.

The Historic England website refers to part of the group as 'VICTORIA STREET STEPHENSON BRIDGE (Formerly listed as: VICTORIA STREET, STEPHENSON BRIDGE, then listed as STEPHENSON BRIDGE (THAT PART IN MANCHESTER DISTRICT) and STEPHENSON BRIDGE (THAT PART IN SALFORD DISTRICT)).' [1]. This source provides clarity to some aspects of the history of these bridges, particulary the 1844 cast iron arch bridge, which Historic England credits to George Stephenson. Only the north face of the 1844 bridge is visible for scrutiny, displaying cast iron spandrel panels with lozenge-shaped decoration (photo here), while the south face is obscured by a later (1884) bridge. Approaching the 1844 arch from the south gives the immediate impression that it has riveted arch girders, but in fact only the most southerly of the arch girders is riveted, and this is not part of the 1844 bridge, whose arch is assembled from a series of iron castings. Photograph of the underside, showing 12 cast iron arches, here.

It was reported on 30 December 1843 that the wooden staging had been removed from the newly-finished cast iron road bridge, built for the 'Liverpool extension'. The span was given as about 83 ft, and the height of the crown above the road as 23 ft.[2]. The corresponding river crossing had an arch spanning 120 ft, but it was narrower in width.

It was reported in 1843 that the new railway connecting Salford and Victoria stations had, between New Bailey Street and Ducie Street ( a distance of just half a mile) no less than 57 arches (comprising all the viaduct arches and the various railway bridges over streets).[3]

The 1844 bridges over the road and over the River Irwell would have made an attractive sight in their heyday, as shown by a popular contemporary lithograph, here[4].

The later bridges are of riveted girder construction, but are faced with decorative cast iron parapets. In some cases the cast iron panels have the same 'flower garland' theme as one of the Salford Station Bridges a short distance to the west, but without the attractive paintwork of the Salford bridge. The two most northerly bridges (see photo), and their longer counterparts across the River Irwell, are now disused. The first, nearest to the 1844 bridge, was constructed for the L&YR and L&NWR railway by the Fairbairn Engineering Co in 1863-4.[5].

The Historic England entry states that the northern bridge was constructed in 1893. The shape of its girders is unusual, having 'knees' at the ends (see Photo 3). The depth of the girders at the knees allows for the accommodation of cross-bracing.

Flanking the 1844 road and river bridges on the south side are the last of the group, built in 1884 (Ref. English Heritage). The road bridge is of riveted girder construction with a cast iron parapet featuring large rosettes on the sides and small lion heads on the top. Photograph here. The west abutment was constructed to resemble that of the 1844 bridge. The corresponding river span is of plate girder construction with support from a single cross-braced girder beneath ('B' in Photo 1). Immediately east of Victoria Station was Exchange Station, the two being connected by long platforms which extended over the road and river bridges. For a long time time the parapets of the southern (1884) bridge were augmented by a huge glazed cast iron screen, seen to good effect in the 1903 photograph here.[6]. The screen was still present in 1944, but it had been boarded up, presumably to protect the public from flying glass during air raids. See 1944 photo here.

Cheetham Hill Road Bridge

Immediately east of Victoria Station, Cheetham Hill Road crosses the numerous rail tracks on a long and wide iron girder bridge. The riveted plate girders are surmounted by tall parapets in the form of cast iron panels, stabilised by diagonal props on the outside (i.e. railway side) of the bridge. The bridge is supported by a combination of masonry abutments and cast iron columns.

The present bridge presumably dates from 1901-2, as the L&YR were advertising for tenders in connection with the extension of Victoria Station, which included removal of the old Cheetham Hill Road bridge.[7]

The 1849 O.S. map shows that the road was then narrower and called Ducie Street, and only had to span two tracks at the eastern portal (expanding by means of points as the tracks passed under the bridges to the station). South of the railway, the road crossed the River Irk on the old Ducie Bridge. Later, the River Irk would be culverted to pass under the station, only to emerge very briefly as it joined the River Irwell adjacent to the Great Ducie Street/Victoria Street bridges described above.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. [1] Historic England website, Stephenson Bridge
  2. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 30 December 1843
  3. Manchester Guardian, quoting The Times, 29 March 1843
  4. [2] Manchester Local Image Collection, Railway Stations, Victoria Station, bridge over the Irwell, Manchester, 1845
  5. [3] Tom Wray’s Chronology of the L&YR by Tom Wray, edited by Michael Hughes N.B. 1000 page pdf
  6. [4] Manchester Local Image Collection, Railway Bridges, Great Ducie Street Bridge, L and N W Railway, Manchester, 24/11/1903
  7. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 9 July 1901