Address: Hessle to Barton-on-Humber

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Humber Bridge History

As with many bridges and tunnels, the idea was mooted for centuries and in this case it connected Hessle with Barton-on-Humber, this over the River Humber.

With the onset of the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century, the Humber estuary became a stretch of water that needed to be crossed on a much more regular basis than in years before and as it was a direct link between the counties of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, became an important trade route. The first major proposal was put forward in 1872 and revolved around a tunnel and a railway bridge. They were never built, but the seed had been sown and it was then just a matter of time before a crossing was built. In the meantime, crossings were made by ferries, a service that had been used for over two thousand years. Crossings were in operation in Roman times and ferries were mentioned in the Domesday Book, a thousand years later.

The problem was that whilst, at one point, there were only a few horses and carts to ferry across, with the introduction of motor vehicles and the sudden escalation in numbers, the ferries were struggling to cope.

In 1928 Hull City Council designed and planned to build a bridge between Hessle on the north bank and Barton-on-Humber on the south bank and the idea was passed by a government Bill. The problem was that between these points, the distance was enormous with the associated cost being equally as big. This financial aspect became the biggest stumbling block. It was estimated at the time that it would have cost £1.75m, but the Ministry of Transport were supportive and committed to fund 75% of it. But the financial depression of the late 1920s had kicked in and this then put an end to the scheme. The Bill was withdrawn and the ferries continued to run. By the 1940s and 50s, there was a huge influx of traffic and pressure was put not only on the ferries, but on the government themselves – it had now become a political issue.

In 1959 the government passed the Humber Bridge Act, giving approval for a suspension bridge. Other crossing means were considered, but the suspension idea became the obvious choice. A tunnel was rejected due to the cost of boring through the type of ground under the Humber estuary, and a bridge supported by a number of concrete piers in the water along its length was ruled out as the Humber is notorious for the regular shifting of its underwater sandbanks. A point that has deep water one week may have shallow water the next and if that happens to be between the piers, shipping lanes would be closed.

Work started on 26th July 1972 and took nine years to complete, with over a thousand workers employed at one point. Traffic first crossed the bridge on 24th June 1981 and the official opening was by the Queen on 17th July. The bridge is 2,220 metres (7,283ft) long, making it the fifth largest bridge of its type and the longest bridge in the world that you can cross on foot or by bicycle. It was in fact the longest single-span suspension bridge for 16 years and has a central span of 1,410 metres (4,626ft). The main contractor was Sir William Arrol & Co and the engineers were Freeman Fox and Partners.

The bridge’s road has two lanes in each direction, a 50 mph speed limit and is crossed by 120,000 vehicles a week. It is maintained by the Humber Bridge Board with toll charges in place for vehicles. It is the only major toll bridge in the UK that charges motorcyclists.

 

Humber Bridge Visit

The thing that strikes you when you view it, certainly from close range, is the sheer length of it. It takes about half an hour to walk across which gives you an idea of the sheer scale, with the vast majority of the crossing being the single span between the two main towers.

It’s a toll bridge, but the charge is fairly minimal and when driving onto the bridge on the north side, you’ll find side exits to the visitor centre about a hundred yards from the toll booths. During the day there is a visitor information office that has all manner of brochures and information about the bridge and also its surrounding area. The office is very well presented and the staff are helpful. There’s also a cafe, toilets, picnic area etc which makes it an ideal stopping point and there’s a large free car park in which you can park your car if you plan to walk across. A short walk away is the Forest Park which is a wonderful nature setting near the bridge and a great area to explore. There’s a children’s play area here with a climbing frame.

Again nearby, is the shoreline. This can provide a marvellous walk or cycle and within a few hundred yards on the north side you’ll find bars/restaurants. They’re a marvellous setting for enjoying the spectacle of the bridge from a few hundred yards away together with the estuary air. On the south side there’s a viewing area which has a car park, a small park and small fishing lake and it’s also the start of the Viking Way, a 140 mile path.

The facilities on the north side could be a base for refreshments before or after a walk or cycle across the bridge. There are paths and steps up to the bridge and from there it’s a simple journey across enjoyed by many. It’s a good idea to walk or cycle across one side of the bridge, go along the pedestrian underpass, and then come back on the other side of the bridge. Both sides are pretty much the same, but the views are different.

For a simple bridge, it’s a surprisingly good day out, certainly when you enjoy the other amenities on offer. And the beauty is that it may be on your holiday route as it’s part of the road between the Roman cities of Lincoln and York.