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Civil Engineering heritage: Scotland - Lowlands and Borders

Date 2007

Event ID 602901

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account


Jamaica Street or Glasgow Bridge - Telford’s classical style seven-arch masonry bridge erected at the Broomielaw by Gibb & Son, resident engineer Atherton (the team from Dean Bridge, Edinburgh), from 1833–35 was the widest in Britain at the time. It replaced a masonry seven-arch, 42 ft wide bridge designed by Mylne and built from 1768–72 by John Adam (NS56SE 444.00).

In 1892 Blyth & Westland proposed a granite arch bridge with four spans from 88 ft–92 1/2 ft and 100 ft wide between parapets, estimated to cost £240 000. Glasgow Corporation declined this proposal because, apart from costing more than rebuilding the original, Telford’s bridge was held in high regard by Glasgow people. In 1894 work began and Telford’s elevation with its gently curving extrados rising less than 3 ft from the banks to the centre and spans from 52 ft to 58 ft 10 in. was retained. Much of the original Aberdeen granite was reused and the bridge, completed in 1899 cost just over £100 000.

The present bridge is 20 ft wider than its predecessor at 80 ft and has much deeper foundations consisting, instead of timber piles, of 15 ft diameter steel cylinders sunk by pneumatic pressure. Excavation for these piers was done manually in a 9 ft high air compression chamber, 43 lb sq in. of pressure being required at the greatest depth, a condition under which it was almost impossible to get the men to work. The cylinders were then filled with concrete. Some piers are founded more than 100 ft below springing level. A temporary eight-span bridge 60 ft wide consisting of steel beams on timber piles was erected to accommodate traffic during construction. The engineers were Blyth & Westland and the contractor, Morrison & Mason, Glasgow, with steelwork by Sir William Arrol & Co. Sir Alexander Gibb dubbed Telford’s creation ‘perhaps the most beautiful of all his bridges . . . a fitting crown to his creative life’. Despite developments since 1835 it is still possible to appreciate something of the bridge’s style and elegance.

R Paxton and J Shipway 2007

Reproduced from 'Civil Engineering heritage: Scotland - Lowlands and Borders' with kind permission of Thomas Telford Publishers.

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