The oldest surviving Clyde Bridges were built in the 1850's. By then Britain had become the workshop of the world. In 1851 Britain smelted 2.5 million tons of iron which was five times as much as the USA and ten times as much as Germany.
In 1850 the great world powers were at peace, although soon to go to war in the Crimea, the California gold rush was in full flood, the Napoleon dynasty ruled France and Sir Robert Peel was British Prime Minister, Japan was still closed to the West (the first foreign squadron would not sail into Japanese waters until 1853) and the USA was within 10 years of its civil war.
In 1851 British steam engines could produce 1.2 million horsepower which was more than the rest of Europe put together. Britain owned half of the World's ocean-going ships and contained half of the world's railway mileage. This huge economic supremacy was celebrated in the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London's Crystal Palace.
Around 1900 Glasgow reached the height of its prosperity and influence, living up to its claim to be 'the second city of the Empire'. In 1900 there were 23 cities in the world with populations greater than half a million, six of them were in Britain and London, Paris and Berlin were the largest cities in Europe, the fourth largest was Glasgow.
The story of Glasgow's Clyde Bridges in many ways reflects the development of Glasgow. Glasgow may not have grown beyond a quiet monastery town had it not also been the lowest fordable point on the Clyde.
As the city flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries, the demands for better communications resulted in bridges being built which, in turn, encouraged further trade and prosperity. So bridges both nurtured and reflected the growth of the city.
The story of Glasgow's bridges also reflects the story of transportation, from the pedestrian and horse traffic of the middle ages, through railway mania in the 19th century to the 20th century age of the motor car. It also reflects the story of civil engineering.
Developments in engineering materials and knowledge can be traced in the techniques used to construct the Clyde bridges. Timber and stone, cast iron, wrought iron and steel, reinforced and pre-stressed concrete, were all used in Glasgow's Clyde bridges.
Virtually all bridge types are represented on the Clyde
Beam and Slab (with solid girders, lattice girders or box girders)
The Suspension Bridge
The Cable Stayed Bridge
A walk from Dalmarnock Bridge to the Millennium Bridge will take you past exhibits of over 150 years of bridge engineering history.
Dalmarnock Bridge -1891
Engineer: Crough & Hogg
This bridge is located close to the original Dalmarnock Ford, and is the furthest east of all the Glasgow Bridges.
In 1821 a timber 'pay' bridge was built for traffic between Dalmarnock on the north side and Rutherglen on the south, including traffic to the old Dalmarnock Pit. A replacement timber bridge was built in 1848.
The present bridge, built in 1891, was the first 'flat' bridge in Glasgow. The piers are founded on concrete filled wrought iron cylinders, terminating on the bedrock 65ft below the river bed.
The bridge deck was replaced in 1997 with weather resistant steel beams and a reinforced concrete deck slab. The refurbishment utilised the original cast iron gothic arcading parapets and ornamental outer beam fascia panels.
1st Dalmarnock Railway Bridge - 1861
Engineer: George Graham
Built between 1859 and 1861 to carry the twin tracks of the Dalmarnock Branch line over the Clyde. Only the piers of the bridge remain.
The bridge was a seven span structure supported on concrete filled cast iron cylinders.
The three river spans were of bowstring construction, whilst the four land spans were of plate web construction. Only the piers of the bridge remain.
2nd Dalmarnock Railway Bridge - 1897
Engineer: George Graham
In 1893 powers were granted to widen the Dalmarnock Branch line, but instead of widening the existing bridge, a new one was built upstream.
Completed in 1897, the new twin track bridge was subsequently widened to three tracks in 1923, giving a total of five tracks over the Clyde at this location. Evidence of the widening can be seen in the girder spacing and the construction joints in the piers.
Rutherglen Bridge - 1896
Engineer: Crough & Hogg
This bridge was designed at a time when masonry arches were becoming outmoded - the age of steel had begun.
Foundation techniques were however up to date, and the piers were founded on steel caissons sunk to rock level by a combination of dead weight and men hand digging inside a chamber of compressed air.
The men worked 3 shifts of 8 hours each, in chambers lit by candles, until the caissons reached a solid foundation 60ft below river level.
A previous Rutherglen Bridge of five span masonry arch design, was built in 1774-1775. Its engineer is reputed to have been James Watt, developer of the steam engine, during his early years as a civil engineer.
Polmadie Bridge - 1955
Engineer: Robert Bruce
Constructed in 1954-1955, Polmadie Bridge is a prestressed concrete footbridge.
It occupies the site of a timber bridge which was built in 1901, using timber salvaged from a service bridge used during the construction of Glasgow Bridge.
This bridge was burnt down and replaced at least once before being replaced by the present concrete construction.
King's Bridge - 1933
Engineer: TPM Somers
At a width of 70ft between parapets the bridge has been described as being 'so flat and wide that one can easily cross without noticing its existence'.
Completed in 1933, the bridge has four equal spans comprising a series of rivetted steel plate girders supporting a reinforced concrete bridge deck. Each of the piers divide at low level into arches which spring from deep foundations.
St Andrew's Suspension Bridge - 1856
Engineer: Neil Robson
The chains and deck are wrought iron, the pylons cast iron, each with four fluted Corinthian columns almost 20ft high.
Its construction was promoted by Bailie Harvey for the safer passage of factory workers who had previously used a ferry at the same location "in time of spate a scene of great excitement".
In 1997 the parapets and timber decking were replaced, and the ornamental cast iron features of the Corinthian columns refurbished. Repainting and landscaping works emphasised the St Andrew's theme.
Pipe Bridge and Weir - 1901 (rebuilt 1949)
Engineer: FGM Stoney
The debate on weirs on the Clyde has raged since the first was constructed to protect the foundations of the Broomielaw Bridge in 1773. In the 19th century eminent engineers argued forcefully for and against a weir. From 1851 to 1880 a weir with a lock stood on this site.
The first tidal weir was completed in 1901, and remained until scour undermined an abutment foundation in 1941 leading to the collapse of the structure.
The present steel structure, which also carries large diameter pipes across the Clyde, was completed in 1949 as part of the scheme to replace the earlier weir.
Albert Bridge - 1871
Engineer: Bell & Miller
This is the fifth bridge on the site, the previous longest surviving being a masonry arch bridge designed by Robert Stevenson, grandfather of Robert Louis Stevenson.
The piers and abutments are founded on concrete filled cast iron caissons, sunk some 86ft below water level.
Traditional masonry was rejected in favour of rivetted wrought iron elliptical arches, the largest of which spans 114ft.
The arch ribs are masked by cast iron spandrels adorned with the Royal coat of arms, the coat of arms of Prince Albert and those of various corporate bodies.
City Union Railway Bridge - 1899
Engineer: William Melville
The City Union Railway Bridge was opened in 1899 and was the first of the permanent Clyde Bridges to have a steel superstructure.
In 1900 the railway system was still expanding in Scotland with keen competition between the big companies.
The two railway bridges across the Clyde were struggling to cope with traffic demands and the City Union Railway Bridge opened in 1899 in response to the demand to carry four tracks into St Enoch Station.
It was built beneath the previous bridge so that the rail traffic could continue to use the lines during construction. It is therefore rather squat in appearance. The bridge served the main routes from the south to the now demolished St Enoch Station.
This was the first of the permanent Clyde Bridges to have a steel superstructure.
Victoria Bridge - 1854
Engineer: James Walker
Glasgow's oldest surviving complete Clyde Bridge is Victoria Bridge, lying at the foot of Stockwell Street.
Bishop's Bridge, its 500 year old predecessor on the same site, had become too restrictive for the growing demands of traffic, by 1851 Glasgow's population had risen to 329,000 having doubled in the previous 25 years.
A new 50ft wide 5 span masonry arch bridge was designed, with foundations 19ft below those of the old bridge, and timber piles which were steam-driven a further 14ft below that.
When the bridge opened in 1854, Glasgow had the two widest bridges in Britain - London's widest at that time was only 54ft.
Victoria Bridge is built on the site of the first recorded bridge over the Clyde; a timber bridge believed to exist in 1285 and described as "Glaskow bryg, that byggt was of tre" in Henry the Minstrel's epic poem on Sir William Wallace.
South Portland Street Suspension Bridge - 1853
Engineer: George Martin
This bridge was begun in 1851 and suffered a set-back during its construction.
After the masonry towers had been completed and the main suspension chains erected, the south tower split from top to bottom. The Greek triumphal arch towers now seen in the bridge were the result of a substantial re-build.
In 1870 the bridge closed for extensive repairs. The chains and deck were completely removed, the wrought iron bars forming the chains were re-headed and additional bars provided, the timber deck was replaced by wrought iron framework and the deck profile was lowered by about 7ft.
The deck and hangers were again substantially renewed in 1926. However, the masonry towers remain as originally built in 1853, and are therefore the oldest surviving elements in Glasgow's Clyde bridges.
Glasgow (or Jamaica ) Bridge - 1899
Engineer: Blyth & Westland
Glasgow Bridge stands at the foot of Jamaica Street and was built on the site of an earlier Glasgow Bridge which was designed by the Scottish engineer Thomas Telford, first President of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
The desire for a wider crossing, the deepening of the river by intermittent dredging, and the removal of the weir above Albert Bridge in 1880, all conspired against the old bridge and in 1899, after many schemes had been considered, a replacement bridge was built.
By popular demand, it was designed as a replica of Telford's bridge, although 20ft wider and founded on steel caissons up to 100ft deep.
1st Caledonian Railway Bridge - 1878
Engineer: Blyth & Cunningham
Only the granite piers of this bridge remain visible
While the City of Glasgow Union Railway had bridged the Clyde and had its terminus on the north side (to become St Enoch Station) in 1876, the Caledonian Railway Company stopped at Bridge Street on the south side.
Finally, in 1878, after paying £95,000 in compensation to the Clyde Trustees, the first Caledonian Railway Bridge in the centre of Glasgow was built just downstream of Glasgow Bridge.
The bridge deck, which carried four tracks, was of wrought iron construction supported on Dalbeattie Granite piers founded on cast iron cylinders sunk into the riverbed.
Only the granite piers of this bridge remain visible, the tracks and girders have been removed in 1966-1967.
2nd Caledonian Railway Bridge - 1905
Engineer: Donald A Matheson & Sir John Wolfe Barry
The Caledonian Railway Company was keen to develop, and in 1905 the 'New Clyde Viaduct' was opened alongside the first bridge, giving a total of 13 tracks into Central Station.
At one time it was the widest railway-over-river-bridge in the country. Steel lattice girders, spanning up to 194ft sit on granite piers founded at depth on rectangular steel caissons.
The bridge cost £200,000 with a further £75,000 being paid in compensation to the Clyde Trustees. Before opening it was load tested with nineteen locomotives.
George The Fifth Bridge - 1928
Engineer: Considère Construction Ltd
George the Fifth Bridge had been planned to be built at the foot of Oswald Street in 1914 but war delayed construction for 10 years and it finally opened in 1928.
Although the bridge appears to be a 3 span masonry arch bridge, it is in this respect a fraud. The granite masonry is facing to a 3 span reinforced concrete box girder construction. Each pier is founded on four cylindrical concrete caissons.
These were floated into position and settled onto the river bed on the ebb tide. The caissons were then sunk to their final positions by removing their temporary bottoms and excavating down to a solid foundation beneath the riverbed.
Kingston Bridge - 1970
Engineer: W A Fairhurst & Partners
In 1967 work began on the Kingston Bridge which was the second longest spanning pre-stressed concrete bridge in Britain.
It was opened in 1970 by the Queen Mother and continues to carry traffic on what is, at peak hours, one of the busiest sections of road in Europe.
The bridge has recently undergone a programme of strengthening work.
Bell's Bridge - 1988
Engineer: Crough & Hogg
Constructed in 1988 to link the Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre with the Glasgow Garden Festival site, Bell's Bridge comprises three spans, two of which are suspended by cable stays from a needle shaped pylon.
The cable stayed spans can rotate horizontally on the south pier to allow passage for larger vessels.
Engineer : M G Bennett Associates Ltd
Completed in 2002 as part of the Glasgow Science Centre development. The footbridge consists of four fixed spans with two lifting spans over the navigational channel of the river.
All six spans of the bridge are constructed of a triangular section tubular steel lattice frame with a single bottom boom member.
The bridge deck, which forms the walkway, is fabricated from sheet steel. To allow passage for larger vessels, hydraulic lifting cylinders raise the two lifting spans.
AND ... in a few years, we'll have these to add to our collestion: