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Fascinating history of the A180 bridges

1:50 pm, Friday, 2nd February 2024 - 6 months ago


Flyover plans were reported as boasting the capacity for 300 vehicles every five hours!

A VITAL artery between the outskirts of Grimsby and the golden beaches of Cleethorpes, the stretch of A180 between the Pyewipe and Riby Square has a fascinating and, at times, controversial history.

Today, the road is known locally as being the northern-most thoroughfare of North East Lincolnshire, connecting not only residents to their homes, workplaces, and leisure activities, but also lorries and fish workers to their businesses, traffic to the offshore wind operations and management base, tourists to their holiday destinations, and huge static homes to their sites in Humberston.

Opened on 16 October 1968, by the Mayor of Grimsby, Councillor Sleeman, documents suggest that the seeds for the £1million 1,100ft ‘Cleethorpe Road’ flyover, between Grimsby’s Lockhill and Riby Square, were first planted in the early 1950s.  Until its construction, traffic passing from the two key areas of the town had to stop at Cleethorpe Road railway crossing, which during Grimsby’s fishing heyday was not a convenient place to be stuck.

It was noted in 1911 that almost 180,000 tonnes of fish alone had left the port that year, an increase of almost 179,500 tonnes compared to 1854.  This was largely due to the arrival of the railway, in 1848, allowing for the transportation of fish to Billingsgate Market in London, and other areas of the country.  At its peak, Grimsby was generating around 20,000 metric tons of fish a day, a mammoth amount leaving the area by road or rail, the latter remaining the dominant method of transport at that time.

It can only be imagined how difficult crossing the railway to the eastern part of the borough would be at this time.

Brian Hames, an elderly resident of present-day Grimsby, said: “The flyover was certainly needed and was long overdue.  Everyone got stuck at the railway crossing, which was frustrating if you were trying to get anywhere.

“The problem was, the fish industry was beginning to change and the reason the flyover was put there, the railway, was also changing in response.”

With road haulage on the increase, the railways were dealt a further blow when chair of the British
Railways Board, Richard Beeching, declared the closure of a number of major routes as part of the railways’ rationalisation. The East Lincolnshire line serving Grimsby directly from the south and east of England was closed to through-traffic in 1970, with just a limited freight service to Louth which ceased in 1980.

The flyover was as controversial as it was useful, with some saying the design was innovative while others, including Alderman Larmour, declaring it “ugly”.  The bridge ultimately won architectural commendations by The Civic Trust, in 1970.

It was also the subject of a “Think Again” campaign in 1966, with a small number of local councillors and residents deeming the Cleethorpe Road flyover unnecessary at the time, but with a wider vision for the town, increasing traffic, and a significant £750,000 of funding from the Government, the so-called “overbridge” plan was passed in 1963 with a Council majority.

Its construction also saw the demolition of several local streets, and subsequent rehousing of residents, but these homes were reported to have been in decline at this time.  The Royal Hotel, home to acclaimed actress Patricia Hodge, also succumbed to the new bridge, its ‘Coffee House’ stained glass window now at home in the Town Hall’s Time Trap museum.  Even Albert, the Prince Consort, was unsafe, first moved from his plot at the former Prince Albert Memorial Gardens to make way for a British Rail rail freight terminal, then to a space across Cleethorpe Road, and again to the dock offices to make way for the flyover.

The flyover was reported by the Grimsby Evening Telegraph in 1966 as being more than adequate for the expected 300 vehicles every five hours, including transport from berthed roll-on roll-off vessels.  Although fixed and updated in 1975 and 2001, the bridge now carries an estimated 27,000 vehicles each day and requires much-needed work if it is to remain an important artery into Grimsby, Cleethorpes, and other areas of the town.

Beating the bog!

Alexandra Dock Bridge spans a section of the A180 between Lockhill and Boulevard Avenue roundabout.  A fairly unassuming bridge, this is the link between the upper River Freshney and the town centre, and Alexandra Dock, the Royal Dock, and the estuary.  Due to its slight curvature and approach to Lockhill roundabout, along with its obscured view due to the position of The Range and yacht club, it is probably unusual for the general public to see the bridge from its side, as opposed to the top.

Alexandra Dock Bridge was created in 1983 as part of the extension to the Department of Transport’s  A180, which was due to end “in a Pyewipe field” until the former Humberside County Council’s engineering department took control and designed the ‘West Marsh Relief Road’.   The bridge came in £800,000 under budget due to innovative methods used on the vertical band drains, which ultimately eased pressure on the foundations.  This in turn changed the design from a seven-span bridge to a three-span bridge by its completion.

Prior to the new “Westgate” A180 relief road, the route out of town via Gilbey Road took traffic over the historic Cleveland Bridge.  The bridge, parts of which are now more than 115 years old, remains a thoroughfare for cyclists and pedestrians but vehicles ceased to cross the bridge when the relief road became operational.  At time, the headmaster of nearby school Littlecoates, Mr Colin Kennedy, happy for its closure said: “It’s been like trying to run a school on the M1.”

Cleveland Bridge was built around the turn of the 20th Century, carrying the former Grimsby to Immingham tramway – the Clicketty – across the railway.  As heavy traffic increased, the bridge – a main thoroughfare into town – was hampered by problems, and it was finally closed to vehicles in January, 1983.  The newest and closest bridge to it in the current era is the Gilbey Road viaduct, a bridge carrying the A180 and all its traffic over the pedestrianised section of Gilbey Road, the railway, and a section of land used as storage for new car imports.  The area is widely used by workers heading over to nearby estate roads and Humber bank businesses.

The section of A180 between the Pyewipe’s Westgate Roundabout and Lockhill was certainly a much-lauded piece of engineering.  Crossing over a mile of spongy land, a railway, and a significant piece of dock was a difficult feat, but Humberside County Council staff were determined to provide a link for Grimsby and Cleethorpes residents to the national motorway system.  It is a stretch of road that remains a vital part of the borough’s economy today.

Images provided by Lincs Inspire Leisure Library and Archive Service. Copyright for Grimsby Evening Telegraph and Grimsby Telegraph images and articles: Grimsby Telegraph.

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