Back in 1996, Gateshead Council decided they’d quite like a new bridge for pedestrians and cyclists and so they started a competition to design one. The successful designer was the architects Wilkinson & Eyre, with the structural engineers being Gifford and Partners. It seems that because Gateshead Council were ahead of the curve (there’s an accidental pun there I didn’t initially intend) on this, they got to call it what they wanted, which is why it’s not called the Newcastle Millennium Bridge.
An information board by the bridge notes that this is “the world’s first and only tilting bridge” and it still opens to allow boats of up to 25 metres in height through. It takes just over four minutes for the bridge to tilt and costs very little to do so as the design was initially environmentally conscious.
The bridge (also known as the Blinking Eye Bridge) was constructed in one piece, which must have required some considerable planning as it was floated six miles down the river to get it here in November 2000. A floating crane was involved with the whole arrangement, but this sounds like a complex civil engineering challenge that is beyond my understanding, although my friend Liam is building a bridge and I’m sure he’d be excited by a floating crane (I don’t think they have one of those to construct the Great Yarmouth bridge). The bridge cost £22 million to construct, partly funded by the Millennium Commission and the European Regional Development Fund, which seems pretty decent value given how iconic it has become over the last couple of decades.
I’ve been to Newcastle on a few occasions before, but this is the first time that I’ve crossed over this iconic bridge. I can’t imagine that anyone else is excited by my doing that, but I was (I’m easily pleased and should probably get out more).