This is a bridge with a longer and more surprising history than you might expect! Locally it is known as 'Halton Bridge', 'The Iron Bridge', 'Denny Beck Bridge' or 'The Penny Bridge'. but it has never been given an official title.
When the 'Little' North Western Railway Company began work on constructing Halton Train Station in the late 1840's, there was no bridge across the Lune. Workers would regularly be ferried across the river from the village to work on the new station building and rail road. Sadly in 1849, only months away from the station's completion, severe flooding claimed the lives of 8 men. Soon after the railway company undertook construction of a toll bridge, which opened in December 1849, one month after the station opening. It is unclear if this tragic loss of life prompted the construction of a bridge, or if it had always been intended as a commuter crossing for station customers.
This first bridge across the Lune at Denny Beck met its fate in 1869, being swept away in bad weather. The railway company hastily erected a replacement which opened in the same year. Whilst these timber structures were clearly serving their purpose, a more robust and permanent solution was desired.
In 1864 Lancaster cut the ribbon on its shiny new wrought iron railway bridge, 'The Greyhound' bridge. This bridge was a replacement for a previous laminated timber bridge that connected Salt Ayre to Morecambe Harbour.
Looking at photographs of the original Greyhound Bridge, you could be forgiven for thinking it looks more than a little familiar...
The bridge that we all know as the modern Greyhound road bridge was constructed in 1911, and once again carried the railroad over the Lune toward Morecambe. The railway company spotted an opportunity to recycle components from the old Greyhound bridge, and began moving ironwork up the river to Halton.
In 1913 the current bridge at Denny Beck was opened. Built from the bones of Lancaster's demolished old wrought iron Greyhound bridge. (Could this be why the nearest pub to the bridge in Halton is called The Greyhound?). The bridge's narrow construction features double beams of heavy riveted iron latticework, with much of the structure encased in a concrete deck. Underneath, the bridge is supported above the water on a series of cross-braced trestle piers, with additional inclined braces on the upstream side to protect the main legs from floating debris.
The railway company owned the bridge and continued to operate it as a toll bridge until 1966 when the railway and station finally closed. The bridge's long term status as a toll crossing earning it the local nickname 'the penny bridge' as it cost a penny to cross.
Responsibility for maintenance of the bridge was a contentious issue for many years after the closure of the railway. The matter must have been resolved however, as in the 1990's the bridge underwent a significant renovation.
Cars and foot traffic alike use the bridge, which is rated to take 3 tons and vehicles up to 6 feet in width. The bridge has been fitted with several yellow bollards, which divide the single lane, bi-directional carriageway from the narrow footpath. Over the years these bollards have traded paint with hundreds of vehicles, and doubtless been cursed to hades and back by Halton's drivers! The lack of traffic lights, and no defined priority for right of way, means that drivers have to negotiate with on-coming vehicles about who gets to go first. This has lead to some pretty spectacular stand-offs! There have been many awkward occasions where drivers have met head-to-head in the middle of the bridge, with queues of cars trailing behind both sides. One notable confrontation saw a driver take his keys from the ignition before he walked away, leaving his car, and the debate about priority, behind him!
In 2015 storm Desmond raised the level of the Lune so high that the flood waters passed over the deck of the bridge! The iron latticework was choked with sticks, straw, leaves and rubbish for weeks afterwards. Remarkably the bridge withstood the force of the water and the many impacts from floating debris, without need of repair.
Not bad for a hundred year old bridge with 150 year old bones!
Denny Beck Bridge, Denny Beck Lane, Halton, LA2 9HQ
Since penning this blog post Phil Black from the chippy has gone on to star in a local history video on this very subject. Give it a watch here:
Halton Bridge is just one of many elements that make the village an interesting place to visit. It also boasts an open air skatepark (free to use, open 24 hours), an eco village, adventure playground, award winning chip shop, riverside walks and dozens of quaint or historic buildings.