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The Humber Bridge Remembered
Andrew Liddle, Features Writer
Photo by Mark Thompson. The Humber Bridge, from the coastal path near North Ferriby
The last time I toured the Humber Bridge, in 2006, it was celebrating its Silver Jubilee. Spanning the River Humber and effectively uniting Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, it was officially opened by the Queen on 17th July, 1981. After eight years of construction, it was rightly hailed at the time as a wonderful feat of enterprise and engineering.

And for its first seventeen years, its main span of 1410 metres held the record for being the world’s longest single span, until being overtaken in 1998 by Denmark’s Great Belt Bridge and Japan’s Akashi Kaikyo Bridge.

All these years later, it is still a hugely impressive construction and I, personally, can never take it for granted or drive over it without getting the wow factor.

As I crossed it recently on the way to interview the Jazz saxophonist Snake Davis for the Yorkshire Times, I couldn’t help wondering how few people will now remember how it lopped off almost 40 miles from the journey from Grimsby to Brid. From Hull to Scunthorpe, for example, there was a saving of 25 miles.

I still marvel at its graceful tapering beauty from a distance, no less than the views up and down river it affords when crossing. Certainly, on summer weekends visitors come in their droves to take a breezy jaunt from one county to the other, or, perhaps, to picnic in the country park, or simply to take in the sweeping vista from the viewing-point in Hessle.

When I visited it in 2006, I did so as a Bridge fan, having been amazed how much it had seemed to grow from one week to another during its construction. Principally, however, I was there to write an article for The Dalesman in celebration of the jubilee. I didn’t realise I was going to have to climb one of those towers, the Barton Tower, situated about 500m from the south bank, and that I was going to ruin a suit in the process, coming into contact with a good deal of oil and grease.

From the road below, you would never guess that each of the two tapered legs, braced together with concrete horizontal beams, is hollow. Fortunately, I was able to take the two-person lift for most of the ascent.

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The view from the top was simply stunning, even though it was a particularly murky day and it is an experience I have never forgotten and never will. Below the cars going in either direction were Dinky toys. A tiny red and blue barge emerging from under the span barely seemed to be moving. To the south, Hull was a pencil-textured assemblage of cranes and gantries and chimneys. The Humber at its mouth was a mighty river indeed. Just to add to the atmosphere, there appeared to be a gale blowing and the tower was shaking and groaning. I felt instantly nauseous and about as frightened as I’d ever felt. There wasn’t that much to hang on to and yet the view was wondrous and I had no desire to hasten away.

‘This is nothing,’ said the chap showing me round, merrily, noticing the colour draining from me, ‘you should try abseiling down the hanger ropes, that’s when it really gets fun!’ He was referring to the galvanised drawn-steel wires that descend from the main cables and which routinely need checking.

An Act of Parliament of 1959 created the Humber Bridge Board, to construct, operate, maintain and administer the Bridge. It was not, however, until 1971 that the project got under way. The total length between anchorages is 2,220m. The hundred millionth vehicle crossed on 7th February, 2002. It never closes. It is still not paid for. These are some of the facts you will learn and much more if you visit the Humber Bridge Tourist Information Centre on the north band or the Water’s Edge Visitors’ Centre on the south.

Personally, I think I’d like to go back and climb one of those towers again, this time choosing a clear, less windy day – and remembering to wear some old clothes. Unfortunately, they are not open to the public - so I might have to wait until the Golden Jubilee in 2031.

Er, maybe not.

The Humber Bridge Remembered, 9th November 2018, 14:49 PM