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Albert Dock Swing Bridge
Liverpool, Merseyside, UK
associated engineer
Jesse Hartley
date  1842 - 1843
era  Victorian  |  category  Bridge  |  reference  SJ339898
ICE reference number  HEW 1386
Liverpool's Albert Dock is now a Conservation Area and has the largest concentration of listed buildings in Britain. The swing bridge is a rare survivor of its type and carries a roadway over the channel between Albert Dock and Canning Half-tide Dock. It was rebuilt as part of the docks regeneration in the 1980s and is still in use.
The Liverpool Dock Trustees chose Jesse Hartley as their engineer, a post he filled from 1824 until his death in 1860 — by which time he was earning the huge sum of £3,500 per year. During his tenure he increased the docks area seven fold, almost quadrupling the water space. Though sometimes criticised for over-engineering his structures, he reasoned that reliability led to longevity — perhaps why so much of his work on the docks remains today.
The swing bridge spans a gap of 13.6m with two 30.5 tonne cast iron leaves, each 14.2m long. There are four cast iron ribs to each leaf, bolted to a turntable. The bottom plate is bolted to the sandstone of the bridge pit.
The original deck was 4.8m wide and comprised two one metre wide footways either side of a 2.4m wide carriageway. The decking was pitch pine with 100mm thick elm horseblock paving and there were wrought iron railings on both sides.
The swing bridge functions as a pair of cantilevers when swung open, or unladen, and as a three-pin arch under loading. Beneath the bridge a lock gate controls the water level in Albert and Canning Half-tide Docks.
The bridge was rebuilt in 1984. Some of the details, such as the bolting arrangements and the deck materials, were replaced with modern counterparts. The two leaves are now fixed together.
All the structures in Albert Dock are made from only three materials — cast iron, brick and stone — making it the world’s first such complex to be fire resistant. HRH Prince Albert opened it on 30th July 1846. It was designated a Conservation Area on 17th November 1976 and refurbishment work began in 1983. The dock system, including the swing bridge, was re-opened by HRH Prince Charles on 24th May 1988. Albert Dock is now owned and managed by British Waterways.
Cast iron: Haigh Foundry, Wigan
Research: ECPK
"Obituary: John Bernard Hartley" [includes a memoir of Jesse Hartley]
ICE Proceedings, Vol.33, pp.216-223, London, January 1872
reference sources   CEH NorthBDCE2

Albert Dock Swing Bridge