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Skeldergate Bridge was the third of the modern road bridges to cross the River Ouse at York (the first being Ouse Bridge as early as the ninth century and the second, Lendal Bridge in 1861-3). The need for a third bridge was identified in 1873 when the Corporation of York reported that more than 800 people a day were using the Skeldergate ferry crossing. The York (Skeldergate Bridge) Improvement Act was passed in 1875.
The foundation stone of the new bridge was laid in 1878 and the completed bridge officially opened to pedestrians on 1 January 1881 and to general traffic two months later. The original architect behind the construction was Thomas Page, who also designed Lendal Bridge in York and Westminster Bridge in London. When Thomas died at an early stage in the development, he was succeeded by his son, George Page.
Skeldergate Bridge, like Lendal, is an iron bridge with Gothic details. The parapet is decorated with ornate ironwork featuring trefoils, six-pointed stars and the white rose of York. The original design of the bridge was altered during planning to enable the north-easternmost span of the bridge to open, allowing tall ships to reach the busy quaysides further upstream. The bridge was last opened in 1975 and the winding mechanism has since been removed.
Skeldergate Bridge was originally built as a toll bridge. The toll-house, which also housed the winding machinery, still remains. The bridge was formally declared toll-free on 1 April 1914, an event which was greeted so enthusiastically by the citizens of York that a regatta was held to celebrate the occasion.