When disaster struck Lendal Bridge

David Pearcy’s engraving of the Lendal Bridge tragedy in 1861, when the iron bridge collapsed during construction, killing five people

David Pearcy’s engraving of the Lendal Bridge tragedy in 1861, when the iron bridge collapsed during construction, killing five people

First published in History articles
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LENDAL Bridge has been in the news a bit recently: something to do with a trial closure, and motorists being incorrectly fined for driving over the bridge when the city council said they shouldn't. You may have noticed the odd comment in The Press' letters pages.

That's all just froth, however, compared to the tragic story behind the extraordinary engraving we reproduce today.

It depicts a disaster in 1861 when an iron bridge designed by one William Dredge that was being built across the River Ouse to replace the Lendal Ferry collapsed, killing five workmen and injuring three others.

The engraving has been hanging on the wall in the Heslington home of David Pearcy for many years. Pasted on the back is a cutting from the London Illustrated News which describes what happened.

"An accident of a fearful nature occurred at York yesterday week," it says.

"It will be remembered by visitors to that city that the railway station stands on the opposite bank of the river to the cathedral, with an inconvenient ferry to cross over at that point.

"It was proposed to erect an iron bridge there, consisting of four girders of iron, two to support a carriage-way, and two outer and lighter ones to support a footpath on each side.

"The two carriage girders were in their places; the two footpath girders were also brought to the spot, and one was in the act of being lowered to its proper position, when it toppled over, and fell on the lower girder; that after a few seconds fell on the next, till the whole mass was precipitated like a child's toyhouse on the ground and into the river."

The York History website (www.yorkhistory.org.uk) lists the men (one of them really no more than a boy) who died that day. They were Richard Masser, 15, a rivet heater; John Manuel, 22, a rivetter; Luke Brown, 28; Thomas Hoyle, 28; and John Smith, 20. Those injured were 15-year-old Peter Dealone, John Henry Peckett and Thomas Coulter.

The etching is based upon a contemporary sketch made shortly after the disaster by a Mr BJ Moore, according to the London Illustrated News. The detail its shows is extraordinary - down to the desperate figures clinging to pieces of wood in the water, and the small boats apparently trying to rescue them.

After the disaster, a new bridge designer was brought in - Thomas Page, who, according to York History, had once been an assistant to Isambard Kingdom Brunel and who had worked on Westminster and Chelsea Bridges.

His bridge was completed in 1863. It had a 175-foot span and cost £35,000 to build, York History says.

But Mr Pearcy thought it was time the people of York were reminded about the long-ago disaster involving the earlier Dredge bridge, which is why he invited The Press to photograph his engraving.

"It is forgotten, but people ought to know," he says.

Comments (9)

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4:20pm Mon 11 Aug 14

Fanny Free House says...

1861 is not the only tragedy to have happened in respect of Lendal Bridge.

2013/14 Yorks Labour Council struck with a vengeance against the residents of York.
1861 is not the only tragedy to have happened in respect of Lendal Bridge. 2013/14 Yorks Labour Council struck with a vengeance against the residents of York. Fanny Free House
  • Score: -8

4:44pm Mon 11 Aug 14

York2000 says...

@Fanny Free House

Did you read the list of people who died in 1861? Get some perspective and stop falling for the Press council clickbait.
@Fanny Free House Did you read the list of people who died in 1861? Get some perspective and stop falling for the Press council clickbait. York2000
  • Score: 0

5:27pm Mon 11 Aug 14

tgfoy says...

The 1861 structure was bought by Scarborough council and to this day forms part of Valley Bridge which still carries a road over the Valley near the railway station.
The 1861 structure was bought by Scarborough council and to this day forms part of Valley Bridge which still carries a road over the Valley near the railway station. tgfoy
  • Score: 8

8:09pm Mon 11 Aug 14

Philcrowder says...

Lendal bridge was hastily changed using a span cast for Westminster Bridge using the same patterns foundry and only detail white roses etc were changed.. I have repaired it and Skelergate Bridge several times and repaired and recast many of their embelishments. I was the last person to open the Bascule at Skeldergate and then weld it shut prior to fitting steel supportig beams. Look after these Bridges they will not last forever.
Lendal bridge was hastily changed using a span cast for Westminster Bridge using the same patterns foundry and only detail white roses etc were changed.. I have repaired it and Skelergate Bridge several times and repaired and recast many of their embelishments. I was the last person to open the Bascule at Skeldergate and then weld it shut prior to fitting steel supportig beams. Look after these Bridges they will not last forever. Philcrowder
  • Score: 3

8:38pm Mon 11 Aug 14

gmc_1963 says...

First published 15:49 Tuesday 11 August 2014

Monday ?
First published 15:49 Tuesday 11 August 2014 Monday ? gmc_1963
  • Score: 2

9:13pm Mon 11 Aug 14

Kelvar says...

gmc_1963 wrote:
First published 15:49 Tuesday 11 August 2014

Monday ?
hey do know about this 'mistake' . This is a response to one of my comments earlier

Gavin Aitchison says...

Kelvar: Sorry, a few people have mentioned that but it's not something we can quickly rectify here. Newsquest's technical team is looking at it.
[quote][p][bold]gmc_1963[/bold] wrote: First published 15:49 Tuesday 11 August 2014 Monday ?[/p][/quote]hey do know about this 'mistake' . This is a response to one of my comments earlier Gavin Aitchison says... Kelvar: Sorry, a few people have mentioned that but it's not something we can quickly rectify here. Newsquest's technical team is looking at it. Kelvar
  • Score: 0

9:36pm Mon 11 Aug 14

Yorkswalls says...

Both bridges need painting especially Skeldergate bridge.
Both bridges need painting especially Skeldergate bridge. Yorkswalls
  • Score: 0

11:15pm Mon 11 Aug 14

Scott Arten says...

Is that Merrett in the background putting up cameras.. :-)
Is that Merrett in the background putting up cameras.. :-) Scott Arten
  • Score: 5

9:03am Tue 12 Aug 14

pedalling paul says...

The second Lendal bridge was heavily reinforced beneath, to accommodate new electric trams. I doubt it will ever fall down.
Didn't the first Scarborough bridge likewise fall into the Ouse. There are some metal sockets on its stone abutments, that appear to have been intended to support arches.
The second Lendal bridge was heavily reinforced beneath, to accommodate new electric trams. I doubt it will ever fall down. Didn't the first Scarborough bridge likewise fall into the Ouse. There are some metal sockets on its stone abutments, that appear to have been intended to support arches. pedalling paul
  • Score: -1

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