Tale of 5 Bridges

Shoreham has 5 bridges over the Adur. Before 1781 the only way to cross was by ferry boat or detour upriver to cross at Bramber bridge. The ‘old’ Toll Bridge changed this in 1781, followed 50 years later by the suspension Bridge and causeway to Lancing. Within 12 years the railway was extended westwards from the Shoreham terminus with the building of an impressive viaduct / wooden trestle rail bridge (1845). This was replaced 50 years later. By 1921 Shoreham had a new footbridge to the beach and 2 years later the original Norfolk Bridge was replaced. 46 years later a brand new road bridge was constructed as part of the new A27 trunk road, bringing the tally of river bridges to five.

Toll Bridge, Rail Viaduct, Norfolk Bridge (2), Footbridge (1) Photo Britain From Above

Adur Toll Bridge 1781-present

The original tollbridge of 1781 lasted 130 years until a major reconstruction in 1916. In 1847 a new river rail crossing was built to provide a dedicated crossing for the new South Coast Railway and the railway company acquired a controlling interest in the road Toll Bridge. Ownership passed to the newly created nationalised British Rail in 1947 and to West Sussex County Council, the present owners, in 1970.

Photo: Bartlett Collection

The bridge was listed at Grade II* by English Heritage on 12 October 1954.  Tolls were collected at the Eastern end up until the bridge was closed to road traffic in 1968, co-inciding with the iopening of the new A27 flyover a mile to the North.  The bridge underwent a major refurbishment in 2008.

Adur Toll Bridge 1781-present

Norfolk Bridge 1833-1922, 1923-1987, 1987-present

The first Norfolk Bridge was a chain link suspension bridge – designed after success with Hammersmith Bridge and with a smaller design at Marlow over the Thames. The Norfolk Bridge was a toll bridge and had 2 toll booths at each end. There was also a semaphore signal system to control traffic embarking onto the bridge.

Causeway and new Norfolk Bridge 1840’s just before the railway bridged the Adur: https://www.shorehambysea.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/23.-1844a.jpg

The suspension bridge had a twin – the iconic Széchenyi Chain Bridge in Budapest, built 16 years later in 1849. The designer of both bridges was English engineer William Tierney Clark and built by Scottish engineer Adam Clark.

The Budapest bridge required significant strengthening, and was completely rebuilt following bombing in WWII.

The Norfolk Bridge just before demolition c1921
The wooden supports can be seen in this photograph from a race during the Water Pageant.

The Shoreham Chain Suspension Bridge was deemed unfit for future use and by 1915 it was evident that the increase in weight and volume of motorised traffic was causing damage to the deck. Strengthening works and wooden supports under the deck were installed as a temporary measure but by this time it was clear that a modern replacement was needed.

So by 1923 the two-pier suspension bridge had been demolished, new abutments and new piers built. The 2 Coade stone statues of lion and horse were winched down and erected at Arundel Castle. A few parts of the original suspension bridge still exist. The massive chain ends are still underground within the abutment at the North end. Some of the pillars from the bridge walkways turned up in various front gardens of homes on Old Fort Road. There is rumour that the rods from the suspension struts were used to build the fences to the approach road from Lancing – but those rods predate the 1920’s.

The railings.
1922 and the lion is moved to the Duke of Norfolk’s Estate at Arundel.

Norfolk Bridge No.2

Lord Leconfield opens the 2nd Norfolk Bridge 4th July 1923
Opening day. Note the metal toll gate that now resides at the entrance to Sele Priory Beeding.
The gate and pilar in 2013: Photo courtesy © Barry Lee Photography Flickr.

The new five-pier, four span bow string bridge opened in July 1923 initially as a toll bridge. This second bridge lasted less time than the first. By the 1970’s it was unable to cope with traffic volumes and the restricted width prevented upgrade.

2nd Norfolk Bridge 1923-1987. Photo © Paul Osborne 1976
The new bridge alongside the old. Evening Argus 1987

In 1987 a new bridge was constructed with a novel method to keep traffic running. Temporary piers were constructed in the river to the North of the Bow String bridge and over a number of days each original span was hydraulically winched sideways onto the temporary piers. Traffic was then re-directed onto the deviation over the river. The new bridge was then constructed onto the original piers in the same place as the original.

New Bridge 1987-

Adur Rail Bridge 1845-1896, 1896-present

Adur wooden trestle railway Viaduct 1845 – 1893

The original 1000 foot trestle bridge (1845) used a traditional wooden pier structure with cast iron girders. At the same time a substantial brick arch viaduct and embankment was constructed on the East side approach.

By 1896 the replacement came by the building of a 16-span, 360m-long steel viaduct, designed by Sir John Aird. It is one of the UK’s earliest steel structures. The bridge has cast iron supporting cylinders, 6 foot diameter that are concrete filled, secured 70 feet into the river bed to the chalk below. The main 20 ton steel girders were 75 ft long and 7ft high. Each was assembled at a site half a mile away (we assume adjacent the mainline at Ham Road sidings) and then shunted along the track to the bridge site.

Construction in 1893 utilising the trestle structure of the old bridge to enable placement of new girders.
Adur Railway Viaduct 1893- present. Photo © Paul Osborne 1976
The 1845 viaduct approaches adjacent Ropetackle 1927. Britain from Above
The Adur Rail Bridge after refurb and without the gas pipeline. Phil Moran photography https://www.locationscout.net/united-kingdom/33608-railway-bridge-across-river-adur-shoreham

Those Shoreham residents of a certain age may recall the graffiti that often marked the steel faces of the bridge. Most notably for 6 or 7 years the bridge was adorned with the words “It’s Frothy Man!” that referenced a TV commercial for Cresta lemonade. In 2017 the 130 year old bridge was strengthened, repaired and repainted as part of a £9.5m investment by Network Rail. The old gas main that ran along the South side was removed.

Footbridge 1921-2013, 2013-present

Shoreham Footbridge 1921-2013. Photo Paul Osborne 2001

The footbridge was the answer to the rapid growth of building of chalets and bungalows on Shoreham beach. Upto 1921 the route to the far end of the Shoreham spit required travelling many miles via the Norfolk Bridge and Saltings in Lancing. The opening of the new footbridge heralded a new age for the beach and the event was well attended by Shoreham residents.

1921 and all gather at the North end to witness the opening of the footbridge

The bridge was constructed with precast piers and panels. The opening section in the middle was a travelling deck winched along rails within the bridge walls. The bridge was rarely opened and certainly I can’t think of more than a handful of occasions when it was opened in my lifetime from the mid 1960’s onwards. A toll booth was built on the North side but it was out of use by the 1950’s and eventually demolished in the 80’s. Cycling was prohibited on the bridge – especially as many small boys would present a hazard and take joy in running and stopping to look down the 7-hole drains in the pedestrian deck revealing the river below.

The drawbridge section, looking North.

The replacement footbridge, inexplicably called the Adur Ferry Bridge, was a replacement for the concrete original that had become uneconomic to maintain. The position was diagonally across the Adur landing slightly to the east of the old bridge on the South side – following the route of the row-boat ferry service that operated 100 years earlier. The new bridge cost close to £9m to build, not least to provide bespoke glass balustrade panels. These panels were later shattered randomly by design faults. There has never been a time when at least one panel isn’t broken. Just like the preceding bridge, the new bridge had an expensive to maintain opening mechanism to allow, on the very rare occasion, for a boat into the basin 100 yards upstream.

Adur Footbridge 2013-present

Adur Flyover 1969-present

The glamorous sounding Folkestone to Honiton Trunk Road was to bring significant change to the Downs and river plain at Shoreham. By 1969 the ambitious plans to upgrade the A27 to bypass the conurbation of Shoreham, Southwick and Hove with a dual carriageway had seen a huge cutting excavated into the downs from Holmbush to the Adur. The Adur Flyover was the elevated section with cloverleaf road junction and bridge over the river that landed at the Sussex Pad. A new road bridge over the cutting at Mill Hill added to the scale of the project. Decades later the A27 was extended from Holmbush to Waterhall Hove via the Southwick Tunnel – over budget, undersized and 3 years late.

Adur Flyover (A27) in 1969. View from Mill Hill looking West
1976 from Mill Hill Photo © Paul Osborne 1976

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.