Selby Railway Swing Bridge HUL 2/25


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Selby Railway Swing Bridge, Selby, North Yorkshire, YO8 8BH


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Statutory Address:
Selby Railway Swing Bridge, Selby, North Yorkshire, YO8 8BH

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Selby (District Authority)
Barlby with Osgodby
North Yorkshire
Selby (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Wrought-iron swing bridge, and associated hydraulic tower and engine house, built c1888-91, designed by T. E. Harrison.

Reasons for Designation

Selby Railway Swing Bridge (HUL 2/25) completed 1891 by the North Eastern Railway, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Historical interest; the bridge was built to replace an early hand-operated bascule bridge, to allow for the marked increase in volume and weight of rail traffic on the North Eastern Railway - East Coast Joint Stock route through Selby during the late-C19; this traffic was in addition to the existing heavy goods traffic from Leeds and Hull. The bridge formed part of the route from London to Edinburgh and was used by the Special Scotch Express, which later in 1924, became the Flying Scotsman;

* Architectural interest: the bridge was built to carry a twin-main line railway, over the tidal River Ouse and one span could be swung open using hydraulic power to permit the passage of shipping;

* Intactness: the bridge is relatively intact, although wear and tear caused by continuing heavy usage, has necessitated the replacement of the deck, waybeams and the landward spans. The associated control cabin, hydraulic tower and engine house are extant;

* Group value: it forms a group with both of the listed stations at Selby.


In the early C19 Leeds was a major textile manufacturing centre and needed a good transport connection to the sea for the import of raw wool and export of finished cloth. The pre-existing river and canal system to Hull was slow and expensive and a railway link from Leeds to Selby and then onwards to Hull was considered to have potential to improve the transport infrastructure, and could also benefit local coal mine and quarry owners.

In 1825 George Stephenson was asked to survey a possible route to Selby. However, financial uncertainties led to the project being postponed and Stephenson concentrated on the Liverpool & Manchester Railway instead. In 1829 the engineer James Walker was asked to review the Stephenson proposal. Walker (1781-1862) is best known for designing harbours, docks and lighthouses, having been appointed consulting engineer to Trinity House in 1825. However, he also played an important role in the early development of the railway system. In 1829 he went into partnership with his assistant, Alfred Burges (1797-1886, father of architect William Burges), though Burges does not appear to have been involved in Walker's railway projects. Having resurveyed the route Walker suggested some adjustments to enable the use of horse or locomotive power without the inclusion of inclined planes worked with stationary steam engines. The proposed route ran from Leeds to the River Ouse at Selby via Crossgates, Garforth and Milford, a distance of just over 19 miles. Walker also suggested that the plan put before Parliament allowed sufficient land to be purchased for the construction of a four track line. It was authorised by Parliament in 1830, four months before the pioneering Liverpool & Manchester Railway opened, and was fully opened by December 1834.

Walker acted as consulting engineer, and in common with other early railway builders, had a resident engineer for the day-to-day supervision and some of the detailed design, using Thomas Dyson, and, from 1832, George Smith. Nowell & Sons of Dewsbury and Homer & Pratt of Goole were the two contractors. The scale of the project was unusual because of the decision to provide four tracks. This resulted in a track-bed of 66ft (20.1m) rather than the typical two track line which had a track-bed of 30ft (9.1m). The extra width gave the railway a quite different character from the simple lines and wagon-ways that had preceded it; in the event only a double-track line was laid.

In 1840 the Leeds & Selby Railway was extended to Hull by a separate development of the Hull & Selby Railway, again with James Walker as engineer. In 1871 the North Eastern Railway opened two new lines - Doncaster to Selby (Shaftholme Junction to Selby Old West Junction) and Selby to York (Barby Junction to Chandler’s Whin Junction, Dringhouses), which resulted in a marked increase of through traffic from London to Edinburgh, including the ‘Special Scotch Express’ (later in 1924 to become the ‘Flying Scotsman’). At that time River Ouse was still crossed by a manually operated double-span, double-leaf bascule bridge, but in 1889, the North Eastern Railway commenced work on a new five-span swing bridge, which was officially opened in 1891. The replacement swing bridge was designed by Thomas Eliot Harrison, built by Nelson and Company, with ironwork by the Cleveland Bridge Company, and the hydraulic swinging mechanism by Sir W. G. Armstrong. During the early 1980s, with the development of the Selby Coalfield, fears of subsidence resulted in the building of the ‘Selby Diversion’ and the closure of the Barby Junction to Dringhouses section of the East Coast Main Line; the consequence of which, was that the swing bridge once more only serves traffic to and from Hull.

One hundred and twenty-five years after its completion Selby Swing Bridge was subject to a refurbishment project between July and November 2014, which entailed the replacement of the waybeams, the refurbishment of the hydraulic systems, grit blasting and the re-painting of the whole structure.


Wrought-iron swing-bridge, hydraulic accumulator tower and engine house, built 1891, designed by T.E. Harrison.

MATERIALS: Wrought-iron bridge structure, brick-built hydraulic accumulator tower and engine house with Welsh slate clad roof.

PLAN: rectangular-plan.

DESCRIPTION: two-span, double-track wrought-iron swing-bridge with timber and steel sheeting clad deck.


The two river spans (spans 3 and 4) of the bridge are approached by two smaller spans to the South and one to the North which are excluded from the listing (see Exclusions below). These river spans have hog-backed plate girders with riveted cross girders supporting a secondary deck. The spans meet centrally over a pair of tubular wrought-iron piers protected by piled timber cutwaters clad with steel rail rubbing strakes. The two piers are linked together by braced round-arched girders with pierced spandrels. The fixed river span (span 3) is 33.52m long. The northern swing span (span 4) is 39.62m long and can be swung to allow the passage of shipping through the channel and is controlled from a timber cabin mounted on top of two riveted girder arches.

The span 4 sits on a rotating roller bed mounted on top of a 9.44m diameter tubular wrought-iron pier that is set into the riverbank. The span is cantilevered and the rotating roller bed permits the bridge to swing in a 90º arc. A 92-ton counterbalance box is slung under the northern end of the span, to allow for the weight of the cantilevered section. To prevent the span from misaligning or swinging out of place, a lever locking mechanisms runs from the control cabin along the deck and engages with the ends of the fixed span 3 and span 5 (the northern landward span).

The control cabin is mounted above the pivoting point of the bridge on a pair of riveted girder arches. It has an 8 x 6 bay rectangular-plan with a felt-covered pyramidal roof. All walls have centrally pivoting nine-light and single-light timber casement windows with weather-boarded panels below. The cabin is entered by a doorway in the south-eastern elevation from a catwalk that surrounds the cabin on three sides. A secondary steel catwalk on the eastern side runs the length of the bridge and a secondary two-flight galvanized steel stairs rises from it to the control cabin catwalk. A steel ladder within a protective cage on the western side of the northern river span also gives access to the control cabin catwalk. Power cables enter the cabin through a slip-ring mounting in the apex of the pyramidal roof, to allow for the rotation of the structure with the bridge.

The side of the northern abutment has an ashlar string-course supporting a brick parapet wall with ashlar copings on its eastern side. There is no parapet wall on the western side, as a retaining wall continues out from the abutment to form the base of the south-west wall of a hydraulic accumulator tower and engine house.


Hydraulic Accumulator Tower and Engine House

The hydraulic accumulator tower is brick-built, approximately 7.6m tall two-storey structure, with an open roof, hidden by a parapet wall with plain ashlar copings that are raised on a projecting ashlar string course. The tower has a rectangular-plan and is built using pier and panel construction. The two-bay south-east elevation is pierced by a pair of round-headed twenty-two light metal windows set in brick surrounds, with plain ashlar cills. The north-west and south-east elevations each have a blind round-headed window opening. The accumulator tower has an attached engine house to the north-eastern side of the structure.

The engine house is a brick-built, five-bay, rectangular plan single-storey structure with a basement, which extends beneath the adjoining accumulator tower. Allowing for the base of the accumulator and the timber buffering at the top, the height within the tower would be approximately 11.5m. The gabled roof is slate-clad and has the base of a galvanized steel ventilator cowl set into the ridge. The north-west and south-east elevations both have three basket arched windows set in brick surrounds with plain ashlar cills; those in the north-east elevation have been bricked-up. The structure has a pedestrian doorway beneath a basket arch in the south-east elevation. The gabled north-east elevation has a vent in the apex of the gable and a pair of four-centred brick arches to the basement level; the westernmost housing a sliding timber door. Access to the interior of the accumulator tower has not been obtained.

EXCLUSIONS Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 ('the Act') it is declared that spans 1, 2, and 5 (built 2014), the associated brick abutments, the timber cut waters, the timber servicing quay and jetties, and the road retaining walls of Ousegate are not of special architectural or historic interest.


Suzannah Meade, Richard Pollard and Robert Thorne, NTP-E Statement of History and Significance: East of Leeds. Revised Draft. Prepared for Network Rail., December 2013,


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building(s) is/are shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.

End of official listing

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