Hawarden Bridge

The year 1989 marked the centenary of the official opening of the Hawarden Bridge which carries the railway lines across the River Dee joining the Wirral Peninsular with North Wales. In 2014 the bridge was freshly painted.

The opening ceremony was carried out by Mrs Gladstone of Hawarden Castle, the wife of then Prime Minister Mr William Ewart Gladstone, on the 3rd August 1889.

Celebrating their Golden Wedding Anniversary on that date, the Gladstones had travelled by rail from Wrexham Exchange Station for part of the way but had to complete the last few miles to Shotton by road because the line had not been finished in time.

Two years earlier, on 20th August 1887, Mr Gladstone himseld had laid the first cylinder in the river for the construction of the bridge to commence.

The bridge, costing £70,000 was considered a remarkable engineering achievement and remains so today for Mr Frances Fox, the Chief Engineer for the project, who used a system known as Indian Brick Wells for the foundations in the notoriously difficult tidal conditions and the ever moving sands of the Dee.

The bridge has two fixed spans of 120 feet each and a third opening span, weighing 752 tons, which, by giving a river opening on 140 feet was the largest of its type in the United Kingdom and therefor allowed the river to remain navigable upstream to Chester.

When the Queensferry bypass was authorised in the 1960s, with a fixed bridge alongside the 1920s Queensferry opening bridge the River Dee was closed for navigation beyond Connah’s Quay. Therefore the Hawarden Bridge and the Queensferry Bridge were no longer required to be maintained as opening bridges and the mechanism for opening the Hawarden Bridge, which was housed in a tower on the north bank of the river, was dismantled.

One of the memorable features in the later years of its operation was on Sunday mornings when the bridge was opened to check that the mechanism was in good working order and the routine oiling and greasing took place. This attracted many local people including children to the river bank to watch and sometimes youngsters would go onto the bridge and have a ride on the swivelling section.