Site of James Street swing bridge, Cardiff

Site of James Street swing bridge, Cardiff

This section of James Street was originally carried over the Glamorganshire Canal on a large steel swing bridge. The photos below – courtesy of Cardiff Libraries – were taken in 1943.

cardiff_james_street_swing_bridgeIf you’ve just scanned the QR codes near the zebra crossing, you can get your bearings from the building on the left in the first photo. The hat-like roof on the corner of Ocean House is still a landmark. The route of the filled-in canal runs north and south of James Street as Canal Park.

This section of the canal, opened in 1798, was designed for sea-going vessels to reach the wharves at what is now Callaghan Square from the sea lock beside the Taff estuary. Those vessels were too large to pass beneath low road bridges, as traditional narrow boats (canal boats) could.

Cardiff Town Council decided to extend James Street from the docks to Grangetown in the late 1880s. This involved building the new Clarence Bridge over the Taff and a swing bridge here, where some cottages had to be demolished. The swing bridge was 32 metres (105ft) long and pivoted at the western end. When a ship required passage, a bell sounded and all people and vehicles had to clear the bridge deck, which would rotate about 90 degrees.

The photos show the bridge’s control tower, with windows on all sides. People and businesses soon began to comcardiff_canal_swing_bridgeplain about the bridge being closed to road users too often, and for up to 15 minutes at a time!

The upper photo shows a lorry, horse-drawn wagon and hand cart. In the distance are a motor car and an electric tram. Children sit on the bridge’s footway.

Postcode: CF10 5EW    View Location Map

Website of Cardiff Libraries