Visited by: Stewart Marchant, 07/10/2006 Present Condition: replaced by swing bridge
The modern bridge is about 100 yards upstream from the original site.
Simon Carey has given me the following account of the history of the old swing bridge which was built in 1866 and replaced a previous wooden bridge.
The 1866 swing bridge replaced a wooden drawbridge constructed in 1784.
The 1866 bridge did for a time carry the main road and also a tramway built to transport materials for the construction of the breakwater at the harbour entrance, and was then used until 1963 to carry shingle back to the main railway line.
The 1866 swing bridge was manually operated, and needed a team of several men to operate the bridge using a capstan mounted in the centre of the swing span, presumable giving a direct vertical drive to the pivot mechanism.
A postcard published by the London Brighton & South Coast Railway states that the old swing bridge consisted of 5 spans and that the swing span gave a 50 foot wide navigation passage for vessels. The bridge was owned by the LB&SC Railway who at that time operated steam ships from Newhaven to Dieppe.
Chris Bradfield - quoting from an article in 'Illustrated Railway Histories of Sussex' - reports that at one time the Newhaven Bridge carried a gas main. When the bridge was to be opened the section of gas main on the swing section had to be isolated and the main seperated. The writer reports that the volume of gas remaining in the isolated section was sufficient to keep the gas lamps on the swing section burning while the bridge was swung!
Technical details of the bidge were published in an article by John Bosham in the 1906 edition of 'Railway Magazine'. (Railway Maazine is now owned and published by Mortons Media Ltd of Horncastle, Lincolnshire.
Bosham reported that the centre span of five opened to give a 50 foot clear passage for vessels going to and from the harbour on the River Ouse. The girders carrying the swing section reached over three spans. The swing section was pivoted in the centre and sat on a fixed turntable between 2 piers which were cylindrical. As with other LB&SCR swing bridges the swing section travelled round a roller path and was hand operated.
The Chief Engineer for London Brighton and South Coast Raillway in 1864 was Frederick Banister - who held the post from 1860-1895. Banister was born in London in 1823. He trained as a surveyor and later moved in to civil engineering. He joined the LB & SR in 1845 as Robert Jacomb Hood's deputy. After desiging and supervising the construction of the Deptford Wharf branch he left the railway to set up his own business, but rejoined the company in 1860 replacing Jacomb Hood as chief engineer when the latter retired. Banister is credited with re-designing many buildings and structures owned by the railway. He retired in 1895 and died in 1897.
Reports and obituaries record how Banister was the prime mover in a huge redevelopment of Newhaven Harbour during the 1870's. It was Banister who drew up the plans and once Parliamentary peermission was obtained Banister supervised all the works using direct labour rather than employ conractors. I have so far been unable to establish his role in the design and construction of the 1866 swing bridge.
Simon Carey and Harbourmaster Doug Nye; Chris Bradfield