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Lendal Bridge was the second of the three modern road bridges built over the River Ouse at York (the first being Ouse Bridge which has existed since as early as the ninth century).
The bridge replaced an earlier ferry service, which had operated from Barker Tower, on the south-west bank, to Lendal Tower. The advent of the railways in York in the first half of the nineteenth century made the ferry service busier than ever with passengers wanting to cross the river going to and from York’s original railway station in Tanner Row.
A bridge to replace the Lendal ferry service was first suggested in 1838 but responsibility for its construction became a point of controversy between the Corporation of York and the railway companies. After much debate, the Lendal Bridge and York Improvement Act was finally passed in 1860 and the foundation stone of the original bridge, designed by William Dredge, was laid later that year.
Then disaster struck. In 1861 the original bridge collapsed during construction, killing five men.
The bridge was redesigned and finally opened in 1863. The new architect, brought in after the failed first attempt, was Thomas Page, who also designed Skeldergate Bridge in York and Westminster Bridge in London.
Lendal Bridge is an iron bridge with details in the Gothic style popular in Victorian England. The ornate parapet of the bridge features the white rose of York, the crossed keys of the Diocese of York and the lions of England. Additional ironwork includes York’s coat of arms and the initials V & A, representing Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
The new bridge put the ferryman out of business. Records show that he received compensation of 15 pounds and a horse and cart.
A toll was charged to cross the new bridge to help pay for its construction. The charge was half a penny for foot passengers, a penny for animals and twopence for horse-drawn vehicles. The two small toll-houses can still be seen today, now housing cafés. The last toll was charged in 1894.
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