Hawarden Bridge, Shotton

Hawarden Bridge, Shotton

This picturesque steel bridge carries the Borderlands railway (Wrexham to Bidston) and a walking and cycling route over the Dee. One of the three bowstring-girder spans used to swing open to enable ships to pass.

Prime Minister William Gladstone, whose Hawarden home was nearby, performed the ceremonial start of the bridge’s construction in August 1887. He had supported the campaign for a bridge to connect the railway systems north and south of the river. Objectors had argued the bridge would impede shipping on the river.

The bridge was built by the Manchester Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway Company, primarily for freight. Passenger trains initially ran from Wrexham Central to Chester Northgate station.

The Great Central Railway took over the route in the early 20th century. From 1923 to the end of 1947 the route belonged to the London & North Eastern Railway, famous for the Flying Scotsman and Mallard locomotives on the East Coast Main Line.

Notice the castellated building of red brick on the north bank, upstream of the bridge. It was built in 1907 as the offices of Hawarden Bridge Steel Works. Construction of the works had been started in 1895 by the Summers family. Freight trains still cross the bridge to reach the site, now known as Shotton Steelworks. You can see the steelworks on the north side of the river, downstream of Hawarden Bridge.

The view upriver from the footpath over the bridge shows how the Dee was turned into a wide, straight canal in the 18th century, to maintain ship access to Chester. Large areas of land alongside were drained and used for farming and industries.

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