The Tees Transporter Bridge, or as we usually call it, the Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge was opened by the third son of Queen Victoria, His Royal Highness Prince Arthur of Connaught, on 17th October 1911.
The bridge connects Middlesbrough on the southern bank of the river Tees to Port Clarence on the north bank of the river. It is unusual in its design because it does not have a permanent deck for road traffic to pass over.
Instead, in order to keep river traffic flowing, people and vehicles wanting to cross over the river must do so in a gondola suspended on cables from the top of the bridge.
Despite its age, the grade II* listed bridge is still in operation today, fulfilling its role in replacing the previous ferry service. (High winds can force the suspension of operations.)
In 2002 the bridge played a central role in the much-loved comedy series, Auf Wiedersehen Pet. Dennis, Neville and the rest of the lads all get invited to Oz’s funeral only to find out it was a ruse to get them back together again. Oz had been in prison and shared a cell with a dubious politician who had won the contract to demolish the bridge. The lads were to be ‘gaffas’ on this job and had planned to sell the bridge by taking it apart piece by piece and reassembling it once they had sold it to new owners.
Needless to say, the plan didn’t go smoothly. However, the special effects of the partly dismantled bridge throughout the series caused some real-life controversy as some locals actually believed the bridge was to be taken down.
When we visited early on a Sunday morning, the bridge was closed to traffic because it was being used as a bungee jumping platform. In fact, it was the first bridge to be licenced for bungee jumping in the UK.
The high upper structure of the bridge over the river provides the ideal start point and those brave enough, or perhaps that should be mad enough to give it a try, get a fantastic view from the upper level 160 feet above the water.
The Transporter Bridge is operated and maintained by Middlesbrough Council who have provided the bridge with its very own page on their website as well as a visitors’ centre right next door to the bridge.