Halton's Denny Beck Bridge

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.

The original 'Greyhound' Midland Railway Bridge in Lancaster, built in 1864.  Posted to Lancaster Past & Present Facebook group by Nigel Radcliffe.

The original 'Greyhound' Midland Railway Bridge in Lancaster, built in 1864.  Posted to Lancaster Past & Present Facebook group by Nigel Radcliffe.

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 construction of the new Greyhound bridge (foreground) with the original in the background. Posted to Lancaster Past & Present group on Facebook by Andrew Reillly.

The construction of the new Greyhound bridge (foreground) with the original in the background. Posted to Lancaster Past & Present group on Facebook by Andrew Reillly.

Demolition of the original Greyhound bridge in 1911.  Photo posted to Lancaster Past & Present by Mandy Sharpe.

Demolition of the original Greyhound bridge in 1911.  Photo posted to Lancaster Past & Present by Mandy Sharpe.

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.

A sign shows the list of tolls to be paid for crossing 'the penny bridge' at Halton.  Photo taken from Lancaster Past & Present on Facebook, shared by Michael Howie.

A sign shows the list of tolls to be paid for crossing 'the penny bridge' at Halton.  Photo taken from Lancaster Past & Present on Facebook, shared by Michael Howie.

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.

Renovation of the bridge in the 1990's.  Posted to Lancaster Past & Present group on Facebook by Michael Howie.

Renovation of the bridge in the 1990's.  Posted to Lancaster Past & Present group on Facebook by Michael Howie.

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!

Flooding at the Halton entry to Denny Beck Bridge, caused by storm Desmond in 2015, Photo by Rebecca Mitchell, posted to Lancaster Past & Present on Facebook.

Flooding at the Halton entry to Denny Beck Bridge, caused by storm Desmond in 2015, Photo by Rebecca Mitchell, posted to Lancaster Past & Present on Facebook.

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.

Halton Railway Station

Halton's train station is the last remaining station building on a former railway line that ran between Lancaster and Clapham.  (Not to be confused with Halton Station in Cheshire)  The original timber station building was opened by the 'Little' North Western Railway company in November 1849.  Whilst the village residents and industry owners may have celebrated the arrival of the Iron Road, access was an issue.  The River Lune separates Halton from it's railway station, and the single lane bridge at Denny Beck was operated as a toll bridge (owned by the railway!)

Tragedy struck in April 1907, when a spark from the engine of a passing train set fire to oil barrels alongside the station's goods shed.  The fire took quickly and the fire brigade were unable to cross the narrow bridge over the river to tackle the blaze.  Eventually a train load of railway workers was dispatched from Lancaster, and instructed to form a human chain, passing buckets of water up from the river.  The original building was completely destroyed, however the station was rebuilt in a mixed brick and timber design.

Image source, Marcel Gommers, posted on photo-forums.net

Image source, Marcel Gommers, posted on photo-forums.net

The line between Morecambe and Wennington was eventually closed in January 1966, and Halton station along with it.  The building was immediately purchased by Sir Harold Parkinson and donated to Lancaster University's Boating Club.  Sir Harold was reputed to be a difficult man, and apparently was rather insistent that in exchange for their new boathouse, LUBC ought to strive to win the Roses Varsity race.  To their credit the rowers from Lancaster University beat the team from York by 10 lengths!  Hopefully this sound investment made Sir Harold a happy man.

The grade 2 listed station building is now better considered a boathouse.  The ground floor of the station houses a fleet of rowing boats and other rowing equipment, while upstairs has been outfitted with showers, changing rooms and a kitchen.  Unfortunately there was damage to the property due to flooding during storm Desmond in November 2015.  Doors and shutters were damaged and some boats were destroyed.

These days the station is probably best known as a landmark along the Lune Valley Cycle Track, located about 2 miles out of Lancaster city centre toward Caton.  The goods shed, station building and part of the platform remain intact, and a free car park has been established on the former track bed.  Halton's train station is one of many quaint and unexpected elements which help to make the village so charming.

Visitors to Halton Station, passing cyclists and walkers alike should consider a trip over the iron bridge into the village proper.  Halton boasts an excellent pub (The Greyhound) on the opposite bank to the Station, an adventure playground and skate park.  There is also an Award Winning fish and chip shop on the High Road.

 

Halton Railway Station, Denny Beck Lane, Halton, Lancashire, LA2 9HQ

Halton Skatepark

Photo of Mark Kendall, taken by Callum Beattie.  Click for source.

Photo of Mark Kendall, taken by Callum Beattie.  Click for source.

Halton's concrete bowl skatepark is one of the village's star attractions.  Built by Maverick Skateparks back in 2011, the facility has proved itself to be popular with skate boarders, roller bladers and BMX riders alike.  The skatepark is cleverly designed with two main bowls, the larger of which is wrapped around a central pyramid, making the experience much more like skating in a three bowl park.  The second bowl is deeper and narrower, making it both more challenging, and more suitable for flips and stunts.  The park is smooth and fast, with plenty of transitions, two spines and a manny pad.  To get more of a perspective of the park from a riders point of view, pay a visit to the Facebook group, Halton Skatepark Local Riders Group.

 

The skatepark is free of charge to use and is open to the public 24 hours a day.  The park is popular and attracts people of all ages.  During the school holidays very young children can be seen loaded down with helmets and crash pads giving the ramps the first try.  The bigger kids are generally very patient and give way to the younger ones 9 times out of 10.  For the most part it is the older kids and teenagers who frequent the skatepark, although it isn't uncommon to see adult boarders or BMXers grinding away during school hours.  

Halton bowl skatepark is managed by the village centre, which provides ample parking, a cafe and toilets immediately adjacent to the skatepark.  The site also boasts an adventure playground, a kiddies play park, a large open green and an enclosed multi-purpose sports pitch.  See the centre@Halton's tripadvisor page for reviews.

The park is close to local bus routes, and easily accessible by car. ( ...oh and there is a great chippy on the High Road, only 5 mins walk away!)

Halton Skate Park, Low Road, Halton, LA2 6NH