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Thursday, 16 September 2021

Three Bridges, Family Memories & Some Local History

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt photograph features a bridge.  Cue for me to tell the tale of three iconic bridges  with family memories plus a bit of local history. 

The Chain Bridge in Melrose in the Scottish Borders   - I  live six miles from the historic Border town of Melrose with its 12th century ruined abbey.   The town  nestles below the Eildon Hills, and flowing close by  is the famous salmon river of the Tweed.  The pedestrian bridge, made with iron  linked suspension  chains and a wooden deck was opened in 1826. 

 Conditions were imposed on  its use including the restraint that no more than eight people should be on it at any one time and  "no loitering, climbing or intentional swinging" permitted, Contravention of the rules was  punishable by a £2 fine (£135 in today's money) -  or imprisonment.  (Currency Converter)

Since it cost 1/2 penny to cross the bridge, walkers sometimes chose to go downstream and cross at a  ford used by horse drawn vehicles.  To help pedestrians on a safe crossing, journey,in high waters, stilts were provided at both ends of the ford.

The bridge is still in use today - at no charge! 

Ironbridge in Shropshire

My brother on the  ancestral trail in Ironbridge, c.2015

Ironbridge in Shropshire,is now famous as "the cradle  of England's industrial revolution" was the world's first ever cast iron bridge, with its 100 feet span, built in 1779  over the River Severn.  

My father  grew up in the village of Broseley, across the river from Ironbridge, Shropshire, Dad  had many happy memories of his childhood there and I persuaded him to write these down for me. He  sang in the church choir from the age of  7  and was vice-captain of the school football team. He remained an ardent football supporter all his life  and  was  proud to have known  local footballer Billy Wright from Ironbridge,  who was the first player in the world to be awarded 100 international caps. 

 Dad left school at the age of 14 "I went to work at the grocers, where still at school I had been an errand boy and also worked on Saturdays with time off for soccer.  The main assistant was 19 and one morning as I passed the shop,  he asked me if would help him move some bags of corn, I did and he gave me a bag of biscuits,  so that was my introduction.  I then went out with him delivering orders (we sold bags of corn 80 plus pounds).  The pony, a Welsh cob named Tommy, was inclined to be lazy.  After time,  I did the deliveries with Tommy and the trap.  At night time I rode him bareback to a field!     This was  a surprising memory as Dad never gave any indication later in life of having the slightest interest or affinity with horses!    Kelly' Directory of Broseley for 1926 listed the shop at 84 High Street  where Dad worked until the family left the town in 1929. 

The local historical society has been particularly helpful in my family history, supplying me with a photograph of Dad in the football team. Local newspaper transcriptions online  gave  a fascinating insight into the lives  of ordinary people  and included    district council and county council reports, court cases, concerts, dances, whist drives, activities of local clubs, church services and social events, fulsome details of marriages and funerals. etc. I used some   typical entries to illustrate what life was like in Broseley  in the 1920's when the Weston family was  living there,  although I found no specific mention of them personally. 

My grandfather worked at the power house at Coalbrookdale, which meant a 35 minute walk each way each day over the iron bridge.  According to my father,  he also played in the Coalbrookdale Brass Band, although I have been unable to verify this. 
The Ironbridge Gorge is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

To complete this trio of distinctive, a look at the Forth Rail Bridge, near Edinburgh.

Bridge, Railway, Scotland, Forth, River, Train 

 The Forth Bridge, Railway Bridge, Steel 

Photographs courtesy of Pixabay

The Forth Rail Bridge, crossing the Forth estuary   is a celebrated Scottish landmark, and a milestone in the development of railway civil engineering,  Built in the aftermath of one of the most infamous railway engineering failures  -the Tay Rail Bridge disaster in 1879, it was the first major structure in Britain to be made of steel and its construction resulted in a continuous East Coast railway route from London to Aberdeen.  The railway bridge, had the world's longest spans (541 m) when it opened in 1890.  At the height of constructive, it employed a workforce of 4600 with the loss of  57 lives.  It remains one of the greatest cantilever trussed bridges and continues to carry passengers and freight today. It now has been given   a World Heritage status.

In South Queensferry,  prior to the opening of the Forth Road Bridge in 1964, the only way traffic could cross  the  Forth Estuary was by car ferry. My father often travelled north on work, and left early to try and avoid the long queues for the morning ferries - a real bottleneck for everyone.

Here are my parents on the walkway of the newly opened Forth Road Bridge, spanning the Firth of Forth, with the historic Rail Bridge to the right,  In the early 1960's, it was my father's favourite Sunday outing to drive to South Queensferry to see how the new bridge was progressing.   It was opened  by the Queen in September 1964 and replaced the centuries-old ferry service.  When the new bridge opened,  it was the fourth biggest suspension bridge in the world and the longest outside the United States.  
Sepia Saturday gives an opportunity for genealogy bloggers  
to share their family history and memories through photographs
  Click HERE to see how other Sepia Saturday blogger have reflected 
this week's prompt photograph


  1. What great historic bridges...and there's your father in different years as well! I am so glad you could tell so much history about each of them. I remember reading "The Iron Bridge" which is one of Bess Crawford's mysteries (and I can't remember the author at this moment.)

  2. I love this post -- and your dad's memoir is delightful. The first bridge is amazing. I believe I would have fundraised to get a half penny to cross the second bridge rather than risk those stilts. The last bridge is awe-inspiring. I love that your dad is featured with that one, too.

  3. I was enchanted by the landscape and bridges in your photos and it was a plus to read your family connections.

  4. I love how many different kinds of bridges we can see here.

  5. Sad to say, they don't make bridges like these anymore. I imagine that the workers took great pride in their construction.

  6. That railway bridge looks really impressive!

  7. Thank you all for your kind comments.

  8. Such an interesting post, I have crossed two of those three bridges but sorry we missed the one in Melrose - was unaware of its existence when we visited. Putting it on my bucket list for next time we visit Scotland.

    1. Jill - The Chain Bridge at Melrose is away from the centre of the town, so you would not necessarily know about it on a general day visit - walk down past the Abbey, turn left along a narrow road which runs alongside the River Tweed - and there is the bridge. A lovely walk. I have also sent you a PM.

  9. An interesting selection of bridges to feature - all rather different from each other and each with their own story. I've never seen the first one you spotlighted, and I've always thought the Forth Rail Bridge to be quite a work of art.


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