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.