Another impressive piece of engineering spanning the river is the Tees (Newport) Bridge to give it it’s correct name. Built by Dorman Long of Middlesbrough (who also constructed the Sydney Harbour and Tyne bridges) and opened in 1934 it was the first vertical lift bridge in the British Isles and the largest of it’s type in the world. The lifting span is 81 metres long (265 feet) and the actual vertical lift 30 metres (90 feet) giving a clearance of 36 metres (120 feet) at high water.
There was a social cost to be paid for the building of this bridge – 70 families needed to be rehoused when their homes on the Whinney Banks Estate were demolished and Middlesbrough Amateur Boating Club saw their boathouse disappear to become part of the site. The club never found alternative premises and amalgamated with Tees ABC in the late 1940s. In it’s heyday in the early 1940s the bridge was lifted on average 300 times a year. The operating team who worked on a shift basis comprised 7 drivers and 12 gatemen under the supervision of a Bridgemaster.
When port activities ceased at Stockton the lift element of this bridge was rendered redundant. The last vessel to cause the bridge to be lifted was the John Amos, an historic tug which had been moored for some time at Stockton and on 4th March 1976 was towed under Newport on it’s way to a maritime museum in Kent. To reduce the cost of maintenance it was decided that the lifting span should be fixed down permanently. A special ceremony, attended by thousands, was held on 18th November 1990 when the bridge was raised and lowered for the last time. (The approach road bridge on the Stockton side passes over the Billingham Branch Railway. This bridge was the first all welded portal frame bridge in the country and as such requires little maintenance).
The end of an era – the 18th November 1990.