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Publication Account

Date 1985

Event ID 1016153

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account


One of the latter-day wonders of the world and a remarkable tribute to Victorian engineering, this bridge-the first really major structure to be made entirely of steel-was built between 1882 and 1890. Over 2.5 km long, and expanding by almost a metre from mid-winter to mid-summer, it incorporates 3 massive double cantilevers, the Queensferry, Inchgarvie and Fife Erections, which support in turn 2 main spans each 518 m long and 110 m high. The approach spans, supported on slender stone piers, are equally dramatic as they reach out across the Forth; they are quite separate, however, from the main cantilevers, and bear none of the weight Massive 1016 tonne counterpoise weights at either end of the bridge are responsible for this.

After his Tay Bridge collapsed in the winter storm in 1879, Thomas Bouch was stopped from beginning work on the new bridge across the Forth. Finally the crossing was engineered by Sir John Fowler and Benjamin Baker. It owes its massive structure, in part at least, to a deep-seated concern that it, too, should not collapse; and contemporary comment suggests that not every one found it as overtly beautiful as it was strong!

It was the equally remarkable road bridge, however, opened in 1964, that fmally put an end to the ferry crossing and completed the metamorphosis of Queensferry from ferry-toun to commuter suburb. The first public ferry had been established in 1129 by David I, though Margaret, wife of Malcolm Canmore, had regularly crossed there since 1067, travelling between the abbey at Dunfermline and the castle at Edinburgh. The monks of Dunfermline were given a charter to operate it, and it helped encourage pilgrims from the south to visit the shrine at St Andrews.

The last in a sequence of piers, a straight stone-built sloping jetty built c1812 by John Rennie in the subsequent shadow of the railway bridge, has been left to the inshore lifeboat and seasonal excursion boat to the 12th century Augustinian abbey on Inchcolm. A central breakwater bisects it, with a hexagonal lighthouse at its landward end.

Information from 'Exploring Scotland's Heritage, Lothian and Borders' (1985).

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