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Visiting the Humber Bridge, near Hull, England: formerly record-breaking, 2,220-metre single span suspension bridge

Updated on November 13, 2015
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
A misty Humber, from Hessle, East Riding of Yorkshire, England
A misty Humber, from Hessle, East Riding of Yorkshire, England | Source
Humber Bridge South Tower base, Barton-upon-Humber, Lincolnshire, England.
Humber Bridge South Tower base, Barton-upon-Humber, Lincolnshire, England. | Source
Humber Bank, Hessle, East Riding of Yorkshire, England. Picture taken from the top deck of a No. 350 bus travelling North over the Humber Bridge. The road to the right is the A63 Clive Sullivan Way.
Humber Bank, Hessle, East Riding of Yorkshire, England. Picture taken from the top deck of a No. 350 bus travelling North over the Humber Bridge. The road to the right is the A63 Clive Sullivan Way. | Source

A long way to go and a long time coming

When opened in 1981, this was the world's longest single span suspension bridge. Extending to 2220 metres, the Humber Bridge bears testimony to the sheer width which the natural fluvial barrier evidences (1) at its crossing near Hull, Yokshire. The Humber River is one of England's great rivers, yet in some ways remains curiously little known; this is probably because where the river is at its widest, the local population remains relatively sparse, compared with the built up areas such as those that around the Thames, Mersey and Severn Rivers.

Fascinatingly, the Bridge's two 155.5-metre concrete towers are slightly further away from each other at the top than they are at their base, even though the towers are exactly vertical; this is because of the curvature of the earth: such is the width of the Humber which this 2220 metre Bridge crosses.

The opening the Humber Bridge by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II in 1981 drastically reduced an 80 kilometre d├ętour by road, between its banks. Consulting engineers for the Bridge's construction were Freeman Fox and Partners.

Interestingly, a Bridge over the Humber was designed in the 1930s, although World War Two brought about other, pressing expenditure priorities. In the 1950s, the issue of building a bridge over the Humber was revisited, and in 1959 the Humber Bridge Act was passed in Parliament. Still the actual building of the Bridge was delayed for over two decades further. This means that engineers who, for the sake of argument, were already familiar with basic plans for the Bridge on the outbreak of World War Two, would have been aged over 90 by the time the Humber Bridge was opened in 1981.

The minister responsible for moving forward the long awaited plans for the Humber Bridge was Barbara Castle (1910-2002), who served as Minister of Transport 1965-1968 (2).

Then came the Government of Mr. Heath (1970-1974), which created a new county called Humberside, named for the Humber River. This involved detaching part of Yorkshire and part of Lincolnshire and joining them in a new entity thus named. However, this local identity did not sit well with local people, whose desire for a bridge over the Humber greatly outweighed the desire to live in a local jurisdiction called Humberside! Eventually local wishes prevailed; the Humber had formerly provided the natural boundary between Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and the former state of affairs was eventually reestablished!

And local people also have their Bridge over the Humber!

March 24, 2015


(1) Canadians will recall the identically named Humber River on the outskirts of Toronto, Ontario. The original English settlers of the former Upper Canada took with them memories of other place-names also in the north of England, such as York and Scarborough.

(2) Barbara Castle served as Member of Parliament for Blackburn from 1945-1979 and as Member of the European Parliament 1979-1989. Mrs. Castle also served variously in different Governments as Minister for Overseas Development, Secretary of State for Employment, and for Social Services. Barbara Castle came from a distinguished political family; her mother, Annie Betts, served as a Councillor in Bradford and her husband was Edward Castle (Lord Castle of Islington in Greater London), journalist, Greater London Councillor and Member of the European Parliament. I myself remember hearing Barbara Castle lecture at Reading University a number of decades ago; as I recall, her inimitable delivery and thought-provoking content was deemed at the time to be rather controversial; but what remain in my mind most of all are recollections of her determination and energy: qualities which Mrs Castle surely also employed during her efforts to move forward the Humber Bridge project.

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

Map location of Hull in the United Kingdom
Map location of Hull in the United Kingdom | Source

Also worth seeing

In Hull itself, there are various museums in the High Street's Museum Quarter, including Wilberforce House, the Hull and East Riding Museum and the Streetlife Transport museum; the City has a noted statue of King William III; the University of Hull's administration is based in the Neo-Georgian Venn Building.

Beverley (distance: approx. 15 kilometres) has a fine Minster church in Perpendicular Gothic style, dating from 13th to 14th centuries.


How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Manchester Airport (England), where car hire is available; there is rail access from Manchester Airport to Hull (distance: 177 kilometres) via Manchester Piccadilly railroad station. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. It is advisable to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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