Saturday 28 October 2017

130 The Slip Bridge

130 The Slip Bridge
The Slip Bridge was built by Swansea Corporation between June 1914 and September 1915 and sited on two stone abutments near the Bay View Hotel.  In March 2004 the footbridge was removed, ostensibly to examine what repairs were necessary, and placed on the Recreation Ground.  After a year the estimated cost of £350,000 to make it safe for restoration was deemed to be uneconomic, so it was moved onto the seafront promenade opposite, where after twelve years it seems unlikely to return to its original site.  Notwithstanding opposition from the Civic Society, the Open Spaces Society and others, the public right of way across the road which the Slip Bridge had spanned was closed. 
The “coat hanger” footbridge had been erected to take pedestrians across Oystermouth Road to the part of Swansea beach known as “the Slip”, near a signal box and level crossing.  The Slip was very popular before the last war, and crowded at holiday times, being near a tram terminus, and having tearooms, beach huts, vendors and offering donkey rides: Dylan Thomas’s short story “One Warm Saturday” starts there.  But the footbridge did not merely cross Oystermouth Road – substantially narrower in those days – but also crossed two railway lines that ran parallel with the road.  
One was the L.N.W.R. (London and North Western Railway), which from 1923 became the L.M.S. (London, Midland and Scottish), which ran along the coast from Swansea’s Victoria Station – roughly where the Leisure Centre LC2 is – to Blackpill.  There it turned inland over a long-demolished bridge to continue up the Clyne Valley – the route is now a cycle track – to Dunvant, Gowerton and along the Central Wales line to Mid Wales and Shrewsbury.  The section from Victoria Station to Gowerton was closed amid Dr Beeching’s reports of 1963 and 1965, which led to extensive closures throughout the entire rail network.
The other line was of course the Mumbles Railway – originally called the Swansea and Oystermouth Railway - which as most readers will know became the first passenger-carrying railway in the world.  It was initiated by an 1804 Act of Parliament as a mineral line to transport lime, bricks and also marble to Swansea from the Clyne Valley and Mumbles, but from 25th March 1807 it also carried passengers along the 4½-mile route to a regular timetable.  This was initially from the Rutland Street depot to Oystermouth Square, until in 1898 an embankment was built enclosing the natural harbour known as Horsepool, so the route could extend to the newly-opened Mumbles pier.  
Today a few signs of the railway remain, such as Blackpill’s Junction CafĂ© with its colonnaded porch, formerly the Mumbles Railway’s electricity sub-station and the Blackpill stop.  At Oystermouth Square a rusty pole remains that carried the overhead transmission wire to the electric carriages, and in the Maritime Quarter the tram-shed by the Dylan Thomas statue contains the front part of red double-deck passenger car no. 7.  The tram-shed also displays the three means of transportation during the 156 years that the railway operated – horse-power, then steam locomotion from 1877, and finally electrification from 1929, until closure on 5th January 1960.  
From the 130-tonne iron walkway of the Slip Bridge one had a fine view of Victoria Park’s working floral clock, which the Parks Department maintained from 1911 for much of the twentieth century, before a large segment of the park was taken as the site for the new Guildhall.  By the end of the twentieth century, with Victoria Park smaller, both railway lines removed, and car ownership opening up Mumbles and Gower’s beaches, the Slip had ceased to be a mecca for bathers, so the main reason for the footbridge was gone.  
The two stone abutments remain, with access up the steps blocked on safety grounds, so their future survival may be in doubt.  Those abutments at the Slip and the grounded footbridge on the prom are jarring reminders of what is missing.



No comments:

Post a Comment