A lot it is already known about the two bridges on the northern edge of the town of Yarm, linking it with the village of Egglescliffe. However, what is sometimes forgotten is just how much they can signify the change our region has undergone and their importance to the town and the history of the region.

Yarm Bridge was the first to be built, on orders of Bishop Skirlaw of Durham, around 1400A.D, replacing an earlier bridge. Made from stone, it served as an important crossing point for traders, soldiers and common folk. Until the construction of the Tees Barrage, the river here was still tidal and was a major port. It connected Yarm on the southern bank to Egglescliffe, immediately on the northern bank and other towns such as Stockton and Newcastle further north. During the English Civil War, Yarm was acknowledged as being of strategic importance. A drawbridge was constructed on the northernmost arch as a defence against Parliamentary troops and to protect the Royalist town of Stockton. During this period, Yarm Bridge was the closest crossing point of the River Tees to the sea. Royalist troops, commanded by the Marquis of Newcastle, William Cavendish (of the same house which the current Duke of Devonshire is descended, along with many other intriguing characters, which I unfortunately do not have time to write about!), marched south to support York, and met a force of Parliamentarians at Yarm. The ensuing skirmish resulted in a victory for Cavendish and the Royalists, despite the strong defensive position of the Parliamentary troops.

A later bridge constructed from iron replaced the stone one because of problems with the flow of the River Tees, however this one collapsed after only a year and the stone bridge was reinstated after it was widened as the main crossing point. Due to many restorations, the bridge still stands today.

The other bridge is Yarm Viaduct. Built in 1848, it is widely considered a magnificent feat of engineering, as no mechanical cranes or diggers were available! It took 4 years to build at a cost of £44,500 and is an extraordinary 760 yards long, made up of over 7.5million bricks! The need for the bridge signifies the strong industrial heritage of the Tees Valley. An extension of the Leeds – Thirsk railway, it connected the coalfields of Stockton and Durham with the south. The bridge was built at a time that saw the Tees region become ever-more important to the industrial power of Great Britain. It is a fine example of the developing industry and the engineering expertise the region had, and continues to have today. There are still companies such as Cummins who are a world-leader in engine manufacturing, and although recent closures have slightly diminished the region’s industrial power, there is still an enormous amount of pride in Teessiders for their industrial heritage.

 

The two bridges are vastly contrasting in terms of style, but both represent the importance of crossing points over the River Tees and what lies beyond. They highlight the importance of controlling traffic, especially in times of conflict, and in developing the economic strength of a region by connecting it to the rest of the country. The River Tees has many fabulous bridges, and I am lucky enough to be based in one, the Tees Barrage. All serve a purpose, yet some have had a much more significant one than others. You can explore most of these bridges yourselves through a wonderful variety of activities and by walking the paths that run alongside the River Tees.