Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see ‘About Listed Buildings’ below for more information.

VICTORIA SWING BRIDGE, LEITH DOCKSLB27644

Status: Designated

Documents

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Summary

Category
A
Date Added
12/12/1974
Supplementary Information Updated
05/09/2014
Local Authority
Edinburgh
Planning Authority
Edinburgh
Burgh
Edinburgh
NGR
NT 27104 76822
Coordinates
327104, 676822

Description

Alexander M Rendel,1871-74; Skerne Iron Works (Contractors). Peter Whyte, alterations, 1896. Large, single span, bowed truss hydraulic swing bridge of riveted wrought-iron, timber and steel construction. Asymmetrical arch profile defines the cantilever span. 120 ft clear span and overall length of 212 ft. The roadway width is 24 ft. Timber deck and pedestrian walkways to either side. Metal railings along the outer edge of the pedestrian walkways on each side of the bridge. Timber resting platform along quayside to north west. Flight of concrete steps running down the south east side of the turning platform, from the bridge deck level to the bottom of the platform.

Statement of Special Interest

The Victoria Swing Bridge, constructed between 1871-1874, is an important and rare example of a 19th century counterweighted swing bridge. The 120 ft clear span of the bridge was the largest yet attempted in the UK at the time of construction in 1871-74 and it remains the largest counterweighted swing bridge in Scotland. It is very prominently located, forming a key part of a wider grouping of industrial landmarks at Leith Docks, Scotland's largest contiguous wet dock complex.

The hydraulically operated 'bow-string' design swing bridge provided a rail connection across the north end of the inner harbour. It carried a double rail track along its central deck and also gave access to vessels navigating to and from the East and West Old Docks on the west side of the harbour, facilitating faster access the key areas of the harbour and the docklands for trading and commercial purposes.

Swing bridges present tangible evidence of the rapidly expanding industrial landscape of mid to late 19th century Scotland, a period when maritime, canal and dockland commercial enterprises were at their height. Swing bridges are a rare building type in Scotland. Examples recognised through listing include two (one vehicular, one pedestrian) listed at Category A as part of Dundee's Victoria Dock. These slightly pre-date the Victoria Swing Bridge at Leith Docks. More than 50 years after the construction of the Victoria Swing Bridge at Leith Docks, the Kincardine Bridge of 1937, also listed at category A, was built using a centrally pivoting swing section rather than counter-weight from one side.

The outer docks and harbour at Leith were built primarily in the 1860s and 1870s. The inner harbour was largely built from 1850 with some 18th century fabric remaining in parts. The construction of the Albert and Edinburgh Docks made it necessary to have an efficient means of communication between the east and west side of the harbour for road and railway use which led to the construction of the Victoria Swing Bridge. The cost was about £30 000.

The bridge was operated by hydraulic power supplied by the small red sandstone power station (see separate listing) to the north east, by Peter Whyte with A M Rendel as consultant engineer. The swing bridge was latterly used for vehicular traffic until the mid-1990s, when a modern road bridge was constructed just to the north. A plaque fixed to the east end of the bridge states that refurbishment was completed in 2000 with funding provided by The Millennium Commission and Forth Ports.

The main timber deck of the bridge was renewed in 2000. Anti-pigeon spikes have been fixed to its upper trusses. Modern chains block the main deck to exclude vehicular traffic. Part of the timber resting platform at the east end of the bridge has been re-decked. It extends to the north side of the swing bridge, ending at the south side of the modern road bridge. Remains of the original timber resting platform are visible in the water underneath and to the north of the road bridge.

Change of category from B to A, 2014.

References

Bibliography

E. M. Hutchinson (1879) Girder-Making And The Practice Of Bridge Building In Wrought Iron, p119-123.

2nd Editions Ordnance Survey (1893). 25 inch to 1 mile: London, Ordnance Survey.

J. Gifford et al (1984) The Buildings Of Scotland - Edinburgh, Penguin Books, p461.

J. Hume (1976) The Industrial Archaeology Of Scotland, Vol I. London, p187.

R. Paxton and J. Shipway (2007) Civil Engineering Heritage: Scotland - Lowlands and Borders. London, Thomas Telford Ltd, p 161.

About Listed Buildings

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Listing is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for buildings of special architectural or historic interest as set out in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings which are found to be of special architectural or historic interest using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Listed building records provide an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building which has been identified by its statutory address. The description and additional information provided are supplementary and have no legal weight.

These records are not definitive historical accounts or a complete description of the building(s). If part of a building is not described it does not mean it is not listed. The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site which is known as the statutory address. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing. Even if a number or name is missing from a listing address it will still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing also applies to buildings or structures not physically attached but which are part of the curtilage (or land) of the listed building as long as they were erected before 1 July 1948.

While Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating listed buildings, the planning authority is responsible for determining what is covered by the listing, including what is listed through curtilage. However, for listed buildings designated or for listings amended from 1 October 2015, legal exclusions to the listing may apply.

If part of a building is not listed, it will say that it is excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest in the listed building record. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the 1997 Act. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect subsequent legislation.

Listed building consent is required for changes to a listed building which affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest. The relevant planning authority is the point of contact for applications for listed building consent.

Find out more about listing and our other designations at www.historicenvironment.scot/advice-and-support. You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at designations@hes.scot.

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