Weymouth Town Bridge
Since 1597, this is the sixth bridge built uniting the towns of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, after its predecessor only allowed small vessels to pass through and the opening machinery was thought to be too slow.
Constructed by men recruited from the unemployed of Weymouth and surrounding areas, consulting engineer Mr H Fitzsimmons of Westminster and contractors Messrs Bolton and Lakin, Birmingham and Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company, Darlington, built the £90,000 bridge which was then first opened on 4th July 1930. The historic event was marked with a grand opening ceremony performed by HRH Duke of York who later became King George VI, and the first passage through the bridge was made by the paddle steamer EMPRESS, owned by Cosens.
Initially designed to be lifted occasionally to allow larger vessels into the inner harbour for repairs, it is now scheduled to lift every two hours, 363 days of the year, bar Christmas Day and New Years Day. The record for the most number of vessels transiting the bridge was in 2005/06 with a staggering 11528!
How it Works
A twin leaf bascule type bridge, each leaf weighs over 200 tonnes and is ‘moved’ by a small DC motor and gear train on each bascule, with each having a counter balance ballast weight. This is also used to control the wedges, which ‘lock’ the leaves in place when the bridge is raised or lowered.
To open the leaf is rolled along the fixed gear and using the counter balance weight the leaf then starts to tilt. Breaks are then applied when it is fully open. In the raised position the entire ballast counter weight fills the Bascule pit and excess rain water runs directly into the harbour.
Formerly it was raised by hand winches, one on either side of the mechanism, on both the north and south leaf. These are also believed to have manually operated the ‘wedges’ too. Today’s operating system on lifting the Town Bridge is done in a sequence whereby buttons are pressed on a lower control panel, with each button having a specific function from operating the waterway traffic signals to raising the leaves and barriers, and if a step is missed the bridge will not operate.
The mechanics of the bridge are largely original, electrical components have been updated and a great deal of work has been carried out in recent years to replace and upgrade obsolete parts.
Whilst the addition of a lighting system illuminating the bridge at night, showcases the magnificence of this 85 year old wonderful piece of engineering.