When we here at York Explore first studied this photograph from the York Motor Yacht Club archive collection (reference MYC), we were baffled as to how it actually got to the Kings Arms, considering the existence of both Ouse Bridge and Skeldergate Bridge. Could its masts have collapsed to get under the bridges? This did not seem likely considering the height and apparent robustness of them. Seeing as the photograph caused so much discussion amongst staff here at Explore, we decided to reach out to the public in our latest feature in the York Press, and hopefully stir up some public discussion on the topic. And so we did!
The answer I hear you ask? Skeldergate Bridge was an opening bridge! It turns out that the Clifford’s Tower side of the bridge was designed so that it could be opened so that taller vessels were able to pass through. Upon learning this, I decided to delve into our archive collections and see what I could find about the Skeldergate Bridge…
I located the Skeldergate Bridge Committee Minute Book (Y/COU/5/9/2) in our civic collection and started reading… Here’s what I found:
In 1873, it was decided that a bridge in the Skeldergate area of York was needed, and in 1875 the York Skeldergate Bridge Improvement Act was passed, permitting the building of the bridge. The photograph below to the right shows a section of the Act that described the terms under which the bridge would open. The Act permitted the bridge to be opened when required between 10:30 and 11:30 “in the forenoon”, and between 3:30 – 4:30 in the afternoon so that vessels that would otherwise be unable to, to pass through.
The bridge was to be a Bascule Bridge and, according to architect Gordon Page, it was the largest of its kind in the world at the time.
We also hold some of the fabulous plans for the proposed Skeldergate Bridge here at Explore:
The bridge was officially opened to pedestrians on 1st January 1881 and to carriage traffic on 10th March 1881.
The official opening of the bridge was marked by a wonderful procession, as can be seen in this image:
The ship that is shown in the image from the York Motor Yacht Club collection (reference MYC), is a replica of the ‘Centurion’, which was the ship in which the first Society for the Propagation of the Gospel mission sailed to America. According to one email I had in response to our York Press call out, the ship visited York in 1953, hence why it is pictured moored up outside the Kings Arms.
We would like to thank all those who got in touch with responses to our call out in the York Press, it has been very informative and we are thrilled to have stirred up such a popular discussion!