The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Railway bridge in Newcastle

Railway bridge in Newcastle

A topographical carte-de-visite showing the High Level Bridge in Newcastle, opened in 1849. This was the first bridge across the Tyne at this point although a bridge already existed west of the city at Scotswood, carrying the Newcastle and Carlisle railway. Designed by Robert Stephenson, it was to have two decks, the upper for the railway and the lower for the road. Construction commenced in 1846 with foundations for the piers.

The masonry arches followed and then the ironwork, the bridge being completed in June 1849. The bridge was tested with a train on 11 August and four days later the first train carrying passengers made the crossing. Queen Victoria officially opened the High Level on 28 September 1849 but the road bridge and its approaches did not come into use until 5 February 1850. Tolls were charged until 1937, by when revenue had decreased due to the opening of the New Tyne Bridge, which could be used for free. Trams linking Newcastle with Gateshead ran over the bridge, horse-drawn at first and electric from 1923.

Recently the railway on the High Level was reduced to two tracks and electrified. In February 2005 the roadway over the bridge was closed to enable essential repairs, but there are doubts whether the Grade 1 listed structure will ever reopen to all road vehicles.

Photographed by W. and D. Downey of Newcastle and London.

William and Daniel Downey are known principally for their portraits of celebrities and the royal family, photographing Queen Victoria on many occasions throughout the last forty years of her life. They were, however, as the Photographic News pointed out in 1881, happy to photograph anyone willing to tender one guinea. For this sum, the subject got one pose printed on a dozen cartes. The company occupied two modest houses in Ebury Street. Number 61 had two studios and number 57, which had only recently been completed at the time of the article, had a glasshouse specially designed for photography. The firm's printing was largely done at their Newcastle branch, where all the images for publication were mounted and finished. Daniel Downey died in July 1881, but the firm continued operating well into the 20th century, finally closing their doors in the 1920s.


Code: 124440
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