- Woolston ferry
Initially there was only one ferry, but this increased to two in 1881 [www.plimsoll.org] .
Initially built and owned by the "Floating Bridge Company", the Floating Bridges were sold to Southampton Corporation in 1934The Illustrated History of Southampton's Suuburbs. Jim Brown. 2004. ISBN 1 85983 405 1.]
By 1977 these ferries were operating side by side during the day and reducing to a single ferry late in the evening. There was a bus terminus at either side of the crossing, connecting foot passengers with the centre of Soutampton and the road to Portsmouth.
The Itchen ferry & Itchen Ferry village
Woolston ferryhas also been appropriately referred to as the Itchen ferry, meaning a ferry across the Itchen.
That name that was shared by the small village on the east bank of the
River Itchenneighbouring Woolston. A ferry service had operated from this point for centuries prior to 1836, using small boats, thus giving Itchen Ferry villageits name and its livelihood. Itchen Ferry villagewas destroyed beyond repair during World War II.
A service that started out as the
Itchen ferrythus evolved into the Woolston ferry.
Woolston ferry, No. 14, was a self-propelled pontoonthat hauled itself across the river on cables, i.e. a cable ferry. there was no bridge number 13, for superstitious reasons.
When first introduced in 1836, the
Floating Bridgetook the form of a chain ferrypowered by steam enginesmounted on the shore [www.plimsoll.org] . The ferry was designed by engineer James Meadows Rendel[www.plimsoll.org] .
Floating Bridge No. 3 was built by Joseph Hodkinson in 1862 [Images of Southampton. Southampton City Council. ISBN1-873626-59-2] . Steam engines were mounted on-board.
By 1880, the ferry was still using chains to draw itself over the Itchen [Southampton. A pictorial peep into the past. Southern Newspapers Ltd. 1980] . Cables are first seen in pictures of Foating Bridge No. 7, built in 1892 by Day, Summers and Co [ Southampton. A pictorial peep into the past. Southern Newspapers Ltd. 1980] . This particular ferry sank in 1928, but was salvaged.
Floating Bridge No. 10 and all subsequent versions were powered by diesel engines [Images of Southampton. Southampton City Council. ISBN1-873626-59-2] .
Woolston ferrywas most commonly known as the Floating Bridgeduring its 141 years of operation [www.plimsoll.org] . It was an affectionate description of the technology rather than the name of the crossing itself. The term was first used by the engineer James Meadows Rendel, who had previously implemented a similar design of chain ferryat Torpointand at Dartmouth in Cornwall. The same technology was applied to create the Gosport Ferryin 1840South Coast Railways - Portsmouth to Southampton. Vic Mitchell and Keith Smith. ISBN 0-906520-31-2]
No variant of the
Woolston ferrytook the form of a pontoon bridgespanning the whole width of the crossing, to which the term Floating Bridgeis more widely applied and thought of today.
Nevertheless, the term
Floating Bridgehas been commonly used in Southampton to refer to this ferry service and it is still in use there today, more than 30 years after the Woolston ferrywas taken out of service. The terminology was immortalised in the 1956 painting entitled "The Floating Bridge" by L. S. Lowry[Southampton Art Gallery]
This use of the term
Floating Bridgehas also been applied to the Cowes Floating Bridge, which still provides a similar service in a similar situation just a few miles away, on the River Medinain Coweson the Isle of Wight.
In 1820, whilst the crossing was still served by the small boats of
Itchen Ferry village, a toll house was built [Southampton. A pictorial peep into the past. Southern Newspapers Ltd 1980] . This became a Coffee Tavern when the new ticket office was built for the new 'Floating Bridge' in 1836 [Southampton. A pictorial peep into the past. Southern Newspapers Ltd 1980] . The old toll-house / Coffee Tavern building survived until 1970. The Ticket Office was demolished in 1954. [Southampton. A pictorial peep into the past. Southern Newspapers Ltd 1980] .
At one time, Police Officers were specifically attached to the 'Floating Bridge'. Two were required to be on board on every trip [Southampton. A pictorial peep into the past. Southern Newspapers Ltd, 1980] .
James Warner, the Younger, a wealthy landowner from Botleywas one of the original proprieters of the the Floating Bridge company [The changing face of Hedge End. Joyce B Blyth] .
Other associations and impacts on the surrounding area
St Johns Road in
Hedge Endwas specifically constructed, starting in 1839, to serve the new Floating Bridge [The changing face of Hedge End. Joyce B Blyth] . This project was initiated by four of the proprietors of the new Floating Bridge company, including James Warner the Youngerof Botleyand was undertaken at their own expense [The changing face of Hedge End. Joyce B Blyth] . At the time, there was competition between the Floating Bridge and the Northam Bridge[The changing face of Hedge End. Joyce B Blyth] . Both were toll bridges [The changing face of Hedge End. Joyce B Blyth] . By building a new road that linked the hamletof Hedge Endto the existing Portsmouth Road at Sholing, the proprietors of the Floating Bridge company were able to poach some of the passengers that would otherwise be forced to use Northam Bridge[The changing face of Hedge End. Joyce B Blyth] . This new road, cut through Botley Commonand Netley Common[The changing face of Hedge End. Joyce B Blyth] . The inevitable further development alongside that new road further eroded the common land, and helped the hamletof Hedge Endto fully establish itself as a villagein its own right.
Other depictions of the Woolston Ferry
Woolston ferrywas the title of a 1977 folk song, by Gutta Percha & the Balladeers
[http://www.plimsoll.org/Southampton/RiverItchen/TheFloatingBridge The Floating Bridge]
[http://www.forest-tracks.co.uk/folk_music_pages/folk_music_woolston.html Woolston ferry folk song]
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