A bridge in Huddersfield that many people probably don’t even know exists is 150 years old this year.
And the Locomotive Bridge – located on Huddersfield Broad Canal just down from Aspley Wharf – has Scheduled Ancient Monument status which makes it a heritage asset of national importance.
This means the bridge – which is behind Sainsbury’s at Shorehead – has protection against unauthorised change and must be retained for future generations.
English Heritage takes the lead in identifying these outstanding sites and they are placed on a ‘schedule’ by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
Steve Cooper from the Canal and River Trust (formerly British Waterways) said: “To be considered of national importance by the government is a great honour for the Huddersfield Broad Canal.”
The ‘Loco’, opened in 1865, replacing an earlier swing bridge.
Huddersfield Broad Canal opened in 1776 at a cost of £11,975 and is a wide-locked navigable canal which runs for four miles between the Huddersfield Narrow Canal in the centre of Huddersfield at Aspley and the Calder and Hebble Navigation at Cooper Bridge. Originally known as the Cooper Canal as it branched off the Calder and Hebble Navigation at Cooper Bridge, it was later known as Sir John Ramsden’s Canal after the Lord of the Manor and main landowner and then later became known as the Broad Canal to distinguish it from the Narrow Canal which opened in 1811. The Broad proved to be a lifeline for the rapidly developing textile industry in Huddersfield, bringing in coal and shipping out finished textiles for which Huddersfield was world renowned.
Steve said: “The most historically significant structure on the canal is the lift bridge at Quay Street off St Andrews Road, colloquially known as the ‘Loco’ or sometimes as Turn Bridge. The latter name derives from the turning or swing bridge that originally spanned the canal here and which also gave its name to the wider area of this industrial sector of Huddersfield, known as Turnbridge. The name Locomotive Bridge apparently derives from its powered mechanical ‘locomotive’ movement (or ‘locomotion’). The machinery was operated by hand-winch, replaced by electric motors in the 1980s.”
The bridge is made of iron girders with planking over the central section of the roadway. It is raised in the horizontal position via chain pulleys carried on an iron box-framed gantry, with the machinery consisting of two large domed cylindrical counterweights each bearing the date 1865, the now redundant 19th century hand-crank, winch gear and the 20th century metal boxes containing the electrical equipment.
The stone-lined canal narrows quite sharply to accommodate the bridge and their abutments, or supports, are of dressed stone and brick.
The bridge is an imposing structure, prominently visible from the canal and approach roads.
Steve said: “Individual elements of the bridge contain subtle details that are important to its historic character and significance. For instance, the bold and simple design and layout of the historic machinery, the dated name plaque, the neatly dressed and coped walls, the rope marks and protective metalwork rubbing strips on the bridge stonework (to deflect tow-lines) and the original brickwork.
“The ongoing conservation management of the bridge by the Canal and River Trust takes into account the need to conserve and, if possible, enhance these and other historic features of the monument. Because of its visual prominence and the visual impact of graffiti and deteriorating paintwork, it is important that the footbridge is well maintained. Admittedly, the structure is not looking at its best presently because of the ongoing battle with fly-tipping and vandalism, but under the Trust’s new regime of priority maintenance and voluntary work, the future looks good.”
Locomotive Bridge stands neighbouring the Turnbridge Mills complex. The earlier mill building next to the bridge is listed Grade II, as is the prominent chimney alongside the bridge. The chimney is thought to have been built circa 1872 as part of a cotton spinning mill for the Hirst Brothers.
Steve regularly walks and cycles here along with the neighbouring Calder Valley Greenway Cycle Route.
He said: “An abundance of birdlife now lives alongside the commonly seen Mallard and Moorhen. The Goosander, in pairs or small groups, is the perfect fisherman with his saw-like bill, He is now a regular on this canal, as is the Kingfisher with his high pitch ‘peep’ and bright blue and orange plumage flying low across the water.”
Steve has also seen a Dipper, grey herons and cormorants that frequent the sewerage works site along the river at Cooper Bridge.
Visit www.canalrivertrust.org.uk for further information regarding the Broad Canal or email firstname.lastname@example.org for any heritage issues.
The Trust now operates and co-ordinates a volunteer group along the waterway and the team will be at the ‘Loco’ in the new year. For further information email email@example.com.
Other websites to look at regarding cycle paths and circular routes using the canal are www.cycle-route.com and follow the West Yorkshire/Greenway link. Also www.sustrans.org.uk and follow the Calder Valley Greenway Route 69 link. Also Kirklees Council have some good information on their site and search for The Green Network link.