Tyne Bridge listed status upgraded during Great Exhibition of the North to celebrate its importance

  • Iconic bridge spanning the Tyne between Newcastle and Gateshead upgraded to Grade II* listed to celebrate its importance
  • Relisting of defining symbol of the North East coincides with Great Exhibition of the North
  • Tyne Bridge’s clever construction was a prototype for the Sydney Harbour Bridge and was built using shipbuilding techniques by local shipyard workers
  • Bridge photographed by John Kippin for Historic England’s Spirit of the North exhibition at Bessie Surtees House until 9th September in Newcastle and features in new podcast

Image of Tyne Bridge in the distance, photographed by John Kippin.
Tyne Bridge in the distance, photographed by John Kippin.

The Tyne Bridge has been upgraded to Grade II* listed today by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England.

Celebrated photographer John Kippin has also captured this defining symbol of the North East in Historic England’s Spirit of the North exhibition at Bessie Surtees House which runs until 9th September, as part of the Great Exhibition of the North’s ‘Inspired by’ programme.

Image of Tyne Bridge taken by John Kippin
Tyne Bridge taken by John Kippin

Veronica Fiorato, Historic England’s Listing Team Leader in the North said: “The Tyne Bridge has long been a symbol of Tyneside and a defining landmark of the North East. Its dramatic design and construction make it a real source of pride for Geordies as well as a representation of the North East’s steely attitude. It fully deserves to be among the 5.8% of structures which are Grade II* listed.”

Photographer John Kippin said he chose to photograph the bridge "because it is a symbol of modernity in the C20, with its wonderful, visible engineering construction and also the contrast between its four pillars and its elegant curved parabola. It is the gateway to what feels like the true North."

Cllr Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council said: “The Tyne Bridge is undoubtedly the most iconic image of the North East. It is recognised internationally and conjures up passionate feelings of home for all Geordies.

“We are a city that makes history and shapes the future and our Tyne Bridge truly symbolises this. We are delighted that the bridge has received this well-deserved recognition which is a testament to its legacy and importance to future generations.”

Gateshead Council Leader Martin Gannon said: “The Tyne Bridge is an enduring icon of the North East. For many, seeing the Tyne Bridge is a sign they have returned home.

“It is fitting that as we celebrate all that is great about the North this summer, this fantastic structure is honoured in this way.”

Image of one of the Tyne bridge piers, taken by photgrapher John Kippin
One of the Tyne bridge piers, taken by photgrapher John Kippin

Prototype for Sydney Harbour Bridge

Construction began on this North East landmark 93 years ago this month, in August 1925, by Dorman, Long & Co Ltd, the same contractors working on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Tyne Bridge is a scaled down version of a slightly earlier, similar design for Sydney Harbour. It needed to be a clever design because the River Tyne had to be clear and accessible, without being obstructed by piers.

Authorities also decided that the river should remain open throughout the building process, so the striking single span steel arch had to be dramatically manoeuvred into place from each side of the river, using cables, cradles and cranes, rather than by lifting materials from floating barges.

This is thought to be the first time such an innovative building method was used in Britain and paved the way for the construction of Sydney Harbour Bridge, completed four years after the New Tyne Bridge.

The bridge was built by largely unemployed shipyard workers using the same techniques to build ships. It remains a source of local pride that construction workers scaled the heights without safety equipment, lashing ladders together to reach the top, or often simply shimmying up the columns.

Tragically, Nathanial Collins, a scaffolder from South Shields, lost his life during the construction process, only a few days before the bridge was completed in February 1928.

At the time of its completion, it was the largest single span bridge in Britain and has since become a defining symbol of the region.

Image of Tyne Bridge under construction in March 1928
Tyne Bridge under construction in March 1928 © Historic England Archive

Spirit of the North

Photographer John Kippin chose to capture the Tyne Bridge in his photography series ‘Spirit of the North’ because of its iconic status and extraordinary place in the North’s history of creativity, innovation and cultural influence.

‘Spirit of the North’ is currently on display at Bessie Surtees House on Newcastle Quayside until 9 September 2018 as part of the Great Exhibition of the North’s ‘Inspired by’ programme.

The exhibition is open Monday – Friday 10am-4pm and entry is free.

Great Exhibition of the North is a free, summer-long celebration of the North of England’s pioneering spirit.

Listen to the podcast

A new six-episode podcast series from Historic England is delving into the history of landmark buildings and sites across the North, including the Tyne Bridge.

Hear photographer John Kippin reveal the inspiration behind his photographs and discover more about the places he chose to capture from the people that know and love them best.

Next Steps

Learn more about the Spirit of the North exhibition

Listen to the podcast on Soundcloud

Listen to the podcast on iTunes

Was this page helpful?