A quick background shot on television of Sydney Harbour Bridge reminded me of watching silent black and white footage on the building of the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle’s Discovery Museum a few years before (the gift shop doing a roaring trade in ‘coal from Newcastle’).
Newcastle is a Roman city (named after a Norman construction), so it’s no surprise the first bridge to cross the River Tyne (the Pons Aelius) between Newcastle and Gateshead was built by the engineers of the mighty Roman army, and stood in the vicinity of the modern Tyne Bridge.
It’s perhaps more of a surprise to learn that the Roman bridge was used for almost 1000 years, finally falling into disrepair and being replaced in 1270. You can get a lot for your money up north, and a second bridge lasted a further 500 years until it was destroyed by flooding in 1771.
At Newcastle’s heart
Construction of the ‘New Tyne Bridge’ was begun in 1925. Contrary to what I’ve heard in the past it wasn’t a scale model for Sydney’s similar looking Harbour Bridge, which was started two years beforehand by the same Middleborough based construction company.
The Tyne Bridge was opened three years later; King George V and Queen Mary the first to travel across its 160 metre stretch between the stone pillars.
As a mark of the north-east’s industrial pride the bridge has become Newcastle’s centrepiece. I was lucky enough to run along its roadway a few years ago, the Red Arrows roaring above me, while taking part in the annual Great North Run half-marathon.
Even more recently the bridge held the largest rings of the London 2012 Olympics, stretching 25 metres across and 12 metres high.