Hebden Township Historical Data

Opening of the Hebden Suspension Bridge

The following is a transcript of an article on the opening of Hebden Suspension Bridge published in the Craven Herald on Saturday, October 3rd 1885. It was transcribed from photographs of a poor quality microfiche, and so its absolute accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Where a word has been in doubt but guessed, it is suffixed with "(??)". Where a word cannot be decyphered at all it has been replaced with "(???)".

Opening of a Suspension Bridge at Hebden

On Saturday afternoon last the inhabitants of those picturesquely situated villages on the Wharfe - Hebden and Burnsall, turned out in order to witness the ceremony of opening a new suspension bridge which has been put up to do away, in some degree, with the necessity of crossing the river over the stepping stones, and also to have a shorter connection between the two places than is afforded by the route over the county bridge.

The Wharfe, at this spot, is not at all safe, and the stepping-stones, which has up to the present, been the only means of communication at this point, and which is by far the shorter way(??) between the (???) villages of Hebden and Burnsall, are often covered when the waters of the river are only moderately high. The result of this only what could have been expected. Slips and accidents have been fairly numerous at this spot, whilst of fatalities there is also a melancholy list, one inhabitant of the place knowing of four to his own knowledge, who have met an untimely end at this place.

When the old county bridge was washed away, the stepping stones came in for more use, although a wooden structure had been put in its place, and it was seen that unless something was done, and done quickly, other fatalities might be added to a list already sufficiently long. The whole matter was (???) by the Rector of Burnsall - the Rev. C.H. Carlisle - who broached the subject of having a safer passage over the Wharfe. The idea was taken up by the villagers, and a committee appointed comprising of the Rev. C.H. Carlisle, Messrs T.F. Hammond, J.L. Herd, J. WIlkinson, and R. Bowdin, and later on the Messrs Turner, Mason, and Hebden were added. After a full discussion, it was decided that the passage should take the form of a suspension bridge. Negotiations were commenced with a view of purchasing the material used in the temporary wooden bridge, but the prices asked were so exorbitant that this portion of the plan had to be abandoned. The committee then viewed the suspension bridge at Netherside, and after due deliberations they decided that a bridge similar in all respects to that one would be the most useful for the purpose required. They therefore instructed Mr. Wm. Bell of Hebden, who had erected the Netherside Bridge, to construct and erect a similar bridge over the Wharfe at Hebden. The committee having gone so far, the next important point was getting subscriptions. This work was mainly undertaken by the Rector, whilst the committee assisted him in the general work of preparation, especially was this so in the case of Mr. T.F. Hammond, who has worked most industriously throughout the whole time the project has been (???) (???). Subscriptions have come in very well, of the £88(??) which it is estimated the bridge will cost, £80 being forthcoming, and it is expected that by the efforts which were made on Saturday and other subscriptions, the debt will be cleared in a very short space of time.

The bridge which has been put up by Mr. Bell is a very pretty little structure, and though of no great artistic pretensions, is of a substantial character. The bridge is 138 feet in length, and consists of an ordinary foot board, enclosed in perforated(??) iron sides, painted a light red, surmounted on the top with a wood handrail.At each end are two substantial iron pillars, and over each are two steel ropes 1 1/8 inches thick. These run the whole length of the bridge and for 30 yards beyond on either side, where they are embedded in the ground amidst stones which are filled in by concrete. These ropes are so arranged that the whole weight of the bridge shall fall upon the pillars. The bridge weight is about four and a half tons. There is a slight support given to the bridge by an iron pillar embedded in the Wharfe, but this is only to keep the oscillations of the bridge within normal bounds. The bridge is calculated to bear a weight of 33 tons upon it at once, and this will show the solidarity of the work. Previous to the opening, four engineers surveyed the bridge, all of whom declared themselves satisfied with the work.

Saturday, the day fixed for the opening ceremony, was far from propitious for such an event, but still it was not as bad as it might have been. Heavy showers fell at brief intervals during the day, which not only marred the enjoyment of outdoor amusements, but also prevented strangers from enjoying fully the beauty of what is generally acknowledged to be one of the most delightful bits of scenery to be viewed on any portion of the Wharfe. Still at times when the sun did shine as it did when the opening ceremony was being performed, the visitors could fully revel in the beauties that abounded on all sides, and the little bridge as it strode(??) out boldly across the river with the lovely outlook beyond did not in any way detract the grandeur of Nature's gifts in this lovely valley.

The committee had made the most ample arrangements for a general holiday, and as such it was accepted by the inhabitants. The opening was fixed for four o'clock, Mr. W.A. Nowell of Linton, having consented to perform the ceremony. After the opening a public tea was to be served in a large tent close by, the tent having been lent by Sir Mathew Wilson, Bart., M.P., this being followed by an entertainment and speech-making. The Bell Busk Band was also engaged, and played during the afternoon and evening.

At four o'clock there was a large number gathered in the neighbourhood of the bridge, and shortly after that hour the sun shining most resplendently after a heavy shower, Mr. Nowell accompanied by the Rev C.H. Carlisle and the members of the committee, took up his stand near the bridge.

Mr. Nowell, in addressing those assembled, said he had been asked to come over there that day to open the new bridge, and it gave him very great pleasure to accede to the request. He did not think that anything that had been done in the district would be more useful, not only to the district, but to the county at large, than the putting up of this bridge. It connected the two villages of Hebden and Burnsall, and was in other ways a great improvement. He would say this: That since his connection with this neighbourhood, and that was some years now, he knew of no place where improvements were so rapidly made as in these two villages, but this latest improvement - this connecting of the two villages was the greatest improvement of all. He believed the first idea of building this bridge arose out of the washing away of the old county bridge. During the time of this being rebuilt it was necessary to put up a wooden bridge, the cost of which was considered rather expensive by some parties. It was thought that a bridge made up of the materials of the wooden bridge could be put up at less cost. It was found, however, that could not be done, and then it was that the suggestion that a suspension bridge should be provided (???), and this idea had been carried out today with great credit to the contractor - Mr. Bell of Hebden (hear, hear). In every sense the bridge would be of great benefit. It would be of benefit to the inhabitants of the two villages, for when the river, as often was the case, was tolerably high, they would be able to cross without having to go such a long (???) as was previously the case. Then again it would save quite half-an-hour in the post times - in fact the postman would be saved many miles in a week by use of the bridge. The policemen, too, would likewise be the gainers, and he could not account for their presence that day unless it was to (???) the (???) their (???), for it was well known what law abiding people there were in these parts. He must give great credit to all those who had taken part in the work, especially those who were the beginners, and in doing so he must not forget to mention the worthy Rector of Burnsall (hear,hear). He did not mean to say that the others were not deserving of praise; they certainly were, but the Rector was the first to begin the work, and those that begin should really have more credit than those who merely came in to help at the finish. He did not know that he could say more, but he would now declare the bridge open, and ask them to accompany him across.

Mr. Nowell, the Rector, the committee and others then crossed and re-crossed the bridge, during which time the band played a lively tune.

The tea was partaken of by over 500 adults and children, and the ladies who attended to theirwants were busily employed for about two hours and a half. These ladies who presided over the tables were:- (1) Mrs and Miss Dawkin, Appletreewick; Mrs R. Hebden and Miss E. Metcalfe; (2) Mrs Hardcastle (jnr) and Miss Stockdale, Mrs Herd and Miss Lister(??); (3) Mrs T. Hudson, and Miss Bowden, Mrs. Hardacre, and Miss E. Rodwell; (4) Mrs. Waite(??) and Miss Constantine, Thorpe, Mrs Carlisle and Miss Wilkinson.

The entertainment which followed was presided over by the Rev. C.H. Carlisle, who briefly spoke of the circumstances which led up to bridge being built, and which are given in full above.

Mr T.F. Hammond, in addressing the meeting, said Mr. Thos. Stockdale, aged 90 years, after crossing the bridge the other day had composed the following lines, which he thought would answer the objections raised by those who complained that the bridge was not so steady as it might be. The (???) (???):

Here's health to William Bell,
Who built this bridge so well
That a man of ninety years
Can get across right well

He was convinced that the bridge would give general satisfaction to the public. He also spoke of the ready assistance which had been given the committee by the inhabitants. The committee's object had been to supply a (???) and strong bridge at a little cost as possible, and in this, he believed, they had succeeded. He thanked all those who had rendered assistance, including Messrs J.R. Eddy (who had supplied the iron(??) at a cheap rate(??) ), Dunkin, Hill and Watson (the district surveyor).

Mr. Dunkin, of Appletreewick, in speaking of the capabilities of the bridge, said that each of the ropes were capable of maintaining(??) a weight of 30 tons. He spoke very highly of the work, and congratulated the promoters on their success.

Mr. Hill, in the essence(??) of his speech, said he had seen many a suspension bridge in his time, but he thought this would prove as useful as any of those which had been erected for a similar purpose. He had seen the ropes severely loaded; he had also seen them fixed to the bridge and knew that they were securely fastened, and the whole work gave great credit to Mr. Bell who had erected it.

Mr. J.L. Herd also addressed the meeting, and spoke of the many advantages which the bridge wouldafford. He thought that they should take great credit that the work had been begun, (???), and (???) by their own efforts.

At intervals between the speeches a musical programme was gone through. The Burnsall and Barden (???) Voices(??) gave the following (???) during the evening with their usual spirit and good (???):- "The Gypsies", "I see them on the Winding Waves(??)", "Let the Hills Resound" and "Come where my love lies dreaming". The Bell Busk Band played various selections of music, which they rendered in good style. Miss Wilton(??), of Skipton, sang the songs "(???) (???) Mountains(??)" and "Tit for Tat"(??) the latter of which was loudly cheered, and responded to with "(???) the (???)". Mr. Turner gave the song "May of B**(??)", and Mr. Whiteley that of "(???)". Mr. Tom Twistleton, the Craven poet, recited(??) his most harmonious compositions, "The Picnic Party at Garsdale Show" which caused roars of laughter and was loudly cheered(??); he responding with "Brass(??)" another of his own composing. Mr.C. Inman gave in his usual good voice the (???) "My Stick(??)". Votes of thanks were then given to all who had in any way contributed to the enjoyment of the evening. The National Anthem closed the entertainment, after which the young people enjoyed an hour's dancing in the tent.