The magnificent 7 bridges over the River Tyne in Newcastle and Gateshead

That there are seven bridges over the River Tyne within two kilometres is the magnificence, not the individual magnificence of each bridge.

On Saturday in last weekend we spent the day in Newcastle upon Tyne. I’ve long wanted to visit each of the bridges over the River Tyne, either walking or driving over them. Two are railway bridges with no pedestrian access. Of the remaining five we walked over three and drove over two.

I’ll write a little about each bridge, plus a photo of ours, and present a short video of the opening and closing of the tilting Millenium Bridge. Before this here’s a map of the bridges, courtesy of travelsinorbit [click to expand].

1 – Gateshead Millenium Bridge

Opened in June 2001, the tilting foot and cycle bridge is much admired for its elegance and engineering solution to allow ships to pass under it. Each opening and closing takes 4 and half minutes. Bridge lighting is white on weekdays, and in colour at weekends. It is self cleaning in that on each opening litter is collected in traps at each end of the bridge. We walked across to visit the Baltic Centre from its viewing deck to this photo.

2 – Tyne Bridge

Grade II* listed Tyne Bridge is the dominant symbol of Newcastle. It’s striking steel arch design is the largest single-span steel arch bridge on the British Isles. The supporting Art Deco towers are as impressive as the arch. Designer Sir Ralph Freeman used a similar design for Sydney Harbour Bridge. While we drove over the bridge, it’s popular¬† with pedestrians.

3 – Swing Bridge

This Grade II* bridge is my favourite of the seven bridges. Opened in 1876, at the time of construction it was the largest swing bridge ever built. Built to improve navigation and expand trade to the upper reaches of the river for larger vessels, it was designed and constructed by the Sir W.G. Armstrong company to allow ships to access its works and shipyard.

The original hydraulic mechanisms are still used to move the bridge today, although the pumps are now electrically powered rather than the original steam power. Once in frequent use, the bridge now opens around four times a week. Available for road and pedestrian traffic we walked across its twice.

4 – High Level Bridge

The Grade 1 listed High Level Bridge was constructed between 1846 to 49. It is a double deck structure of arch and suspension design. The upper railway deck is carried on 6 ribbed arches supported by stone piers; the road suspended from the arches by wrought iron rods.

Following a restoration in 2008 the roadway on the lower deck is now open for southbound (Newcastle to Gateshead) buses and taxis only, reducing the loads on the bridge. Pedestrians and cyclists still use the original footpaths at each side of the roadway.  We walked over the bridge from one side to the other, and enjoyed the views over the river. The photo above of the Swing Bridge was taken from the High Level Bridge

5 – Metro Bridge

Opened in 1981 by Queen Elizabeth II the steel truss Metro Bridge carries the Tyne and Wear Metro over the River Tyne. Either side of the river the Metro emerges from a tunnel. My photo, below, doesn’t show the the strong blue colour of the paint [see it in all it’s glory in the photo of the King Edward VII bridge below]. While not as attractive as the other bridges, its pleasing functional design provides variety in bridge design.

6 – King Edward VII Railway Bridge

Yet another of the listed bridges over the Tyne. The King Edward VII railway bridge is Grade II listed. It is a handsome bridge, with the bridge deck consisting of steel lattice girders of the double Warren truss type. Opened in 1906 by the then King, it carries four railway tracks of the East Coast main railway line over the river. This is not one of my photos. It’s from Wikipedia Commons.

7 – Redheugh Bridge

This is the bridge, carrying the A189 that we used to arrive in Newcastle upon Tyne.¬† Opened in 1983 by the Princess of Wales it is of pre-stressed concrete design. Notably with no structure above the deck it is vulnerable to high winds, and also gives the illusion of being the highest of the seven bridges. To my mind it’s the least attractive of the seven bridges, and not in keeping with the wonders of the other bridges. I guess likely money was the main issue. Again this photo is not mine. It’s from Wikipedia Commons.

Conclusion. Were I to rank the bridges, I would have the Swing Bridge as number 1, then the Tyne Bridge at 2, followed by the High Level Bridge at 3, Millenium Bridge at 4, Metro Bridge at 5, King Edward VII Bridge at 6, and lastly Redheugh Bridge at 7.