Swing Bridge, River Tyne


The Swing Bridge is a swing bridge over the River Tyne, England, connecting Newcastle upon Tyne and Gateshead, and lying between the Tyne Bridge and the High Level Bridge. It is a Grade II* listed structure.[1]

Swing Bridge
High Level Bridge and Swing Bridge - Newcastle Upon Tyne - England - 14082004.jpg
The High Level Bridge towers above the Swing Bridge across the River Tyne; photograph facing Newcastle
Coordinates54°58′03″N 1°36′27″W / 54.9674°N 1.6076°W / 54.9674; -1.6076
OS grid referenceNZ251637
  • Motor vehicles
  • Pedestrians
CrossesRiver Tyne
OwnerPort of Tyne Authority
Heritage statusGrade II* listed[1]
DesignSwing bridge
Total length171 m (561 ft)
Width14 m (46 ft)
Longest span85.5 m (281 ft)
Clearance below4.42 m (14.5 ft)
Construction end1876
Construction cost£240,000
Opened15 June 1876 (1876-06-15)


The machine room, showing one of Armstrong's original three-cylinder oscillating hydraulic motors

The Swing Bridge stands on the site of the Old Tyne Bridges of 1270 and 1781, and probably of the Roman Pons Aelius.[2]

The previous bridge on the site was demolished in 1868 to enable larger ships to move upstream to William Armstrong's works.[3] The hydraulic Swing Bridge was designed and paid for by Armstrong, with work beginning in 1873. It was first used for road traffic on 15 June 1876 and opened for river traffic on 17 July 1876.[4] At the time of construction it was the largest swing bridge ever built. The construction cost was £240,000.[5]

The hydraulic power still used to move the bridge is today derived from electrically driven pumps. These feed a hydraulic accumulator sunk into a 60 ft (18 m) shaft below the bridge; the water is then released under pressure which runs the machinery to turn the bridge. The mechanism used for this is still the same machinery originally installed by Armstrong.[4] It has an 281 ft (85.6 m) cantilevered span with a central axis of rotation able to move through 360° to allow vessels to pass on either side of it.[6]

The busiest year of operation was 1924 when the bridge was rotated 6,000 times unlike current use where it is only required to turn occasionally to allow yachts and pleasure craft to pass by and on the first Wednesday of each month as a maintenance exercise.[7] The bridge featured in the final episode and climax of the educational series Geordie Racer from Look and Read when the villains became stranded on the bridge after a robbery.[8] In May 2016, a fire broke out on the pontoon under the bridge. Around 215 square feet (20.0 m2) was affected by the blaze which was tackled by two fire crews and a fire boat.[9] The bridge was renovated in 2018 at a cost of £200,000. The restoration involved 25,000 hours of work and 10,000 screws were used in repairs.[7] Its reopening in August 2021 was marred by technical issues which saw the bridge unable to swing.[10]


  1. ^ a b Historic England. "Swing Bridge Over River Tyne (Grade II*) (1390930)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 17 June 2015.
  2. ^ "Ever wondered why the Swing Bridge in Newcastle has two rickety old jetties attached?". Chronicle Live. 3 December 2017. Retrieved 17 September 2018.
  3. ^ "Heritage Locations". Transportheritage.com. 31 December 1981. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Celebrating Armstrong's Legacy with a visit to the Swing Bridge". Port of Tyne. 4 March 2010. Retrieved 14 December 2013.
  5. ^ "The Swingbridge". Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums. Archived from the original on 13 September 2014.
  6. ^ Swing Bridge at Structurae
  7. ^ a b "The inside story of how the Swing Bridge was built as it turns 150 this year". Chronicle Live. 16 September 2018. Retrieved 17 September 2018.
  8. ^ Louisa Mellor. "Geordie Racer: revisiting an 80s Look And Read classic". Den of Geek. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  9. ^ "Blaze breaks out at River Tyne's Swing Bridge". 24 May 2016 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  10. ^ Sherwood, Harriet (21 August 2021). "Bid to save River Tyne swing bridge that just won't swing". The Observer.

External linksEdit

  • Map sources

Next bridge upstream River Tyne Next bridge downstream
High Level Bridge
 B1307  and Durham Coast Line
Swing Bridge
Grid reference NZ251637
Tyne Bridge
 A167  and National Cycle Route 725