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Edinburgh, Leith Docks, Victoria Swing Bridge

A Category A Listed Building in Edinburgh, Edinburgh

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.9788 / 55°58'43"N

Longitude: -3.1697 / 3°10'11"W

OS Eastings: 327104

OS Northings: 676822

OS Grid: NT271768

Mapcode National: GBR 8T4.F7

Mapcode Global: WH6SF.8ZVF

Entry Name: Edinburgh, Leith Docks, Victoria Swing Bridge

Listing Date: 12 December 1974

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 364912

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB27644

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Edinburgh

County: Edinburgh

Town: Edinburgh

Unitary Authority Ward: Leith

Traditional County: Midlothian

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Description

Alexander M Rendel,1871-74; Skerne Iron Works (Contractors). Peter Whyte, alterations, 1896. Large, single span, bowed truss hydraulic swing bridge of riveted wrought-iron, timber and steel construction. Asymmetrical arch profile defines the cantilever span. 120 ft clear span and overall length of 212 ft. The roadway width is 24 ft. Timber deck and pedestrian walkways to either side. Metal railings along the outer edge of the pedestrian walkways on each side of the bridge. Timber resting platform along quayside to north west. Flight of concrete steps running down the south east side of the turning platform, from the bridge deck level to the bottom of the platform.

Statement of Interest

The Victoria Swing Bridge, constructed between 1871-1874, is an important and rare example of a 19th century counterweighted swing bridge. The 120 ft clear span of the bridge was the largest yet attempted in the UK at the time of construction in 1871-74 and it remains the largest counterweighted swing bridge in Scotland. It is very prominently located, forming a key part of a wider grouping of industrial landmarks at Leith Docks, Scotland's largest contiguous wet dock complex.

The hydraulically operated 'bow-string' design swing bridge provided a rail connection across the north end of the inner harbour. It carried a double rail track along its central deck and also gave access to vessels navigating to and from the East and West Old Docks on the west side of the harbour, facilitating faster access the key areas of the harbour and the docklands for trading and commercial purposes.

Swing bridges present tangible evidence of the rapidly expanding industrial landscape of mid to late 19th century Scotland, a period when maritime, canal and dockland commercial enterprises were at their height. Swing bridges are a rare building type in Scotland. Examples recognised through listing include two (one vehicular, one pedestrian) listed at Category A as part of Dundee's Victoria Dock. These slightly pre-date the Victoria Swing Bridge at Leith Docks. More than 50 years after the construction of the Victoria Swing Bridge at Leith Docks, the Kincardine Bridge of 1937, also listed at category A, was built using a centrally pivoting swing section rather than counter-weight from one side.

The outer docks and harbour at Leith were built primarily in the 1860s and 1870s. The inner harbour was largely built from 1850 with some 18th century fabric remaining in parts. The construction of the Albert and Edinburgh Docks made it necessary to have an efficient means of communication between the east and west side of the harbour for road and railway use which led to the construction of the Victoria Swing Bridge. The cost was about £30 000.

The bridge was operated by hydraulic power supplied by the small red sandstone power station (see separate listing) to the north east, by Peter Whyte with A M Rendel as consultant engineer. The swing bridge was latterly used for vehicular traffic until the mid-1990s, when a modern road bridge was constructed just to the north. A plaque fixed to the east end of the bridge states that refurbishment was completed in 2000 with funding provided by The Millennium Commission and Forth Ports.

The main timber deck of the bridge was renewed in 2000. Anti-pigeon spikes have been fixed to its upper trusses. Modern chains block the main deck to exclude vehicular traffic. Part of the timber resting platform at the east end of the bridge has been re-decked. It extends to the north side of the swing bridge, ending at the south side of the modern road bridge. Remains of the original timber resting platform are visible in the water underneath and to the north of the road bridge.

Change of category from B to A, 2014.

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