The Whitby swing bridge is one of the town’s defining features. It’s the main way visitors and locals cross the River Esk and move between the east and west sides of the town.
You will have crossed it many times during your visits here. But, how much do you actually know about Whitby’s swing bridge?
History of the Whitby swing bridge
A crossing has been there since at least the 1300s. We know that in 1351, the town was granted permission to implement a bridge toll. Funds were used to pay for its maintenance. It began life as a reasonably simple wooden structure, but as the town’s needs developed, changes were made.
A survey conducted in the early 1600s signaled some improvements were necessary. Later in the century, records show that it was a drawbridge that men could raise and lower to allow vessels pass out to sea or into the harbour.
Stone replaced wood in 1766. It cost £3,000, which would have been a vast sum of money for the time. As timed passed and technology developed, the bridge was once again altered in the 1800s. It’s at this time the swing bridge design appears in our harbour. A four arched bridge designed by Francis Pickernell took the place of the stone structure, with one cast iron arch that could swivel to allow vessels to pass through.
The current electric swing bridge that we know and love today was introduced at the beginning of the 1900s. Each section on the 75ft bridge operated individually. The wider bridge access allowed larger vessels to easily pass through. Mabel Theresa Duncombe, wife to local MP and daughter of the Viscount of Helmsley, opened it for use.
Whitby’s swing bridge once carried all the traffic from the A171. In 1980, the high level bridge opened to ease congestion in the town’s centre. This new bridge offers a great view as you cross over the town and Esk Valley.
Swing bridge opening times
The swing bridge opens on request throughout the day and is operational two hours either side of high water. It will open on the hour or half hour as required. Tourists love to see the bridge in action and always stop to watch as vessels pass through.
The bridge isn’t wide enough for two vehicles to pass safely, so there’s a traffic light system in place to allow access. We prohibit vehicles weighing more than 7.5 tons from crossing.
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