A leisurely walk along the Clyde’s river bank between these two structures is a highly rewarding experience. The Institute of Civil Engineers, with support from Glasgow City Council, has published The Clyde Bridges Heritage Trail to encourage and add value to this activity. Take your time and take a camera. Examine the bridges. Touch and feel the materials from which they are constructed. Read the affixed plaques. Observe the construction and note the variety of types.
But in addition to examining the physical characteristics of the bridges, give some thought to the history of the bridges and their antecedents and also of the locations at which the bridges are sited.
When you walk across Victoria Bridge, reflect on the fact that this is the site of the first bridge across the Clyde in Glasgow and that for 700 years or so Glaswegians, travellers and armies have crossed here.
When you cross Glasgow Bridge you are walking on the third incarnation of the bridge which defined the eastern extreme of Glasgow Harbour and in former times you would have been gazing on a forest of masts and rigging of transatlantic vessels as they loaded and unloaded their cargoes.
Crossing the Clyde Arc, or the ‘Squinty Bridge’ as it is affectionately known by Glaswegians owing to the fact that it crosses the river at an angle, you are crossing between the sites of the Queen’s Dock on the north and Prince’s Dock on the south which, from the latter part of the 19th century, formed the hub of Glasgow’s maritime trading activity.
The Kingston Bridge which carries the M8 across the Clyde, crosses at the site of a tragedy that occurred in November 1864 when a rowing boat, carrying 27 men across the river, capsized and 19 drowned in the freezing waters. The public outcry led to the introduction of the steam ferries.
The first Rutherglen Bridge at Shawfield was built in 1775 in response to a ban on carts crossing the old bridge at Stockwell Street in Glasgow imposed when it had been declared unsafe. The Rutherglen Bridge was built to a design by the Scottish engineer and inventor, James Watt, and its opening led to the settlement of Barrowfield on the northern side of the bridge being renamed as ‘Bridgeton’. The current Rutherglen Bridge replaced the original in 1896.
Glasgow’s emotional attachment to its river is strong. The River Clyde’s bridges, with their blend of traditional and contemporary designs, and their long and diverse engineering, commercial and social histories continue to fascinate Glaswegians and visitors alike. No doubt in the years ahead there will be further developments on the Clyde as its system of river crossings evolves to meet the ever-changing needs of Glasgow.
The Glasgow Bridges celebrates the diversity of form and function of the bridges that span the River Clyde in Glasgow.
The Glasgow Bridges