It’s a bridge of national importance, it’s hidden away … and it’s in Huddersfield.
Many people don’t know that the Loco Liftbridge on Huddersfield Broad Canal at Turnbridge near Huddersfield town centre even exists, it’s almost 160 years old and a scheduled ancient monument which means it’s recognised as being of national importance and protected against any unauthorised change.
The bridge has just undergone a detailed inspection and a report is now being drawn up to see if it needs any repair or maintenance work.
The bridge crosses the canal where Turnbridge Road meets Quay Street near to St Andrew’s Road and is looked after by the Canal and River Trust waterways charity. The bridge is 20ft high so a cherry picker was needed to reach the top.
Sean McGinley, Canal and River Trust regional director for Yorkshire and the North East, said: “This is the most historically significant structure on the Huddersfield Broad Canal and will be 160 years old next year.
“While many objects of this age are locked away in a museum, our canals showcase working heritage. You can see these amazing feats of engineering and remarkable relics still being regularly used today, especially with our canals more popular than ever.
“Vandalism and fly-tipping continue to be ongoing challenges along this stretch of the canal, with graffiti on the nearby footbridge so we’d love to hear from anyone interested in supporting our charity to look after this area.”
Andy Featherby, bridge inspector at the Canal and River Trust, added: “I’ll be looking for any structural changes or defects that could affect the stability of the structure, as well as signs of rusting and corrosion. From this inspection we can work out how best to continue looking after this impressive bridge.”
Opened in 1865, Loco Liftbridge replaced an earlier 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 Loco Liftbridge is derived from its powered mechanical ‘locomotive’ movement. Originally operated by hand-winch, they were replaced by electric motors in the 1980s to operate the machinery.
Loco Liftbridge is next to 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 around 1872 as part of a cotton spinning mill for the Hirst Brothers.
Made of iron girders with planking over the central section of the roadway, the bridge can be raised in the horizontal position to let boats through via chain pulleys carried on an iron box-framed gantry.
The machinery includes two large domed cylindrical counterweights each dated 1865, a now redundant 19th century hand-crank, winch gear and the 20th century metal boxes containing the electrical equipment.
It’s on Huddersfield Broad Canal which opened in 1776 at a cost of £11,975 and runs for almost four miles between the Huddersfield Narrow Canal in the centre of Huddersfield in 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 in Huddersfield 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.
Unlike the Huddersfield Narrow, the Broad Canal was never abandoned. However, it saw little use for 50 years until the Narrow was reopened in 2001 when the Broad Canal became part of a through-route once again.
The Canal and River Trust is responsible for 2,000 miles of canals across the UK which includes listed structures, scheduled ancient monuments and sites of scientific interest.
Largely constructed during the reign of George III, the canal network is around 250 years old. The Trust has the challenging task of keeping these historic structures in good working order with regular inspections and extensive maintenance.
This winter, £50m is being allocated to restoration and repairs across the network with just over £10m being spent within the Yorkshire and North East region.
For more information on the work of the Canal and River Trust, including how to support through volunteering or making a donation go to www.canalrivertrust.org.uk.
Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.