Monthly Archives: May 2019

Sandsend bridge, living on borrowed time …

This is another postcard from our family archive sent by GBB to his friend Mrs Roebuck in Doncaster.

It was stamped 8.00pm on Saturday, July 20th, 1907. “Lovely weather”, he writes, adding “I am improving”. Maybe a holiday at the seaside reinvigorated him after an illness, though his stay here was just a short visit: “Was at Sandsend today”. He gives an address “C/o Miss Swales” at West Cliff in nearby Whitby, a picturesque fishing village which has since become a very popular tourist destination.

(Whitby is famed as the early home of England’s greatest navigator and explorer, Captain James Cook, who first trained there for his epic adventures. He’s not to be confused with Captain James T. Kirk, though his mission too was “… to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!”).

Sandsend is a lovely spot, as I recall from a visit many years ago – and indeed we will be holidaying in Sandsend later this summer.

The area around Whitby is a photographer’s dream – the snap in the postcard was taken by Tom Watson of Lythe (1863-1957), though the region’s most well-known photographer by far was Frank Meadow Sutcliffe (1853-1941). The Whitby Museum website exhibits and offers for sale prints of photos taken by these two and a number of other acclaimed local photographers.

The water level in this particular photograph is low but appears to be both tidal and potentially fed by waters from the surrounding hills – the North York Moors. Thus at certain times the bridge could be under pressure from both sides – from North Sea storms and tidal surges and from waters cascading down the hills.

Thus it was that 109 years ago this month, on 20th May, 1910, the East Row bridge disaster sent the 132-year-old structure tumbling down, as illustrated in this dramatic photo in the East Cleveland Image Archive. Theories as to the precise cause of the collapse were briefly recounted in this piece in the Whitby Gazette in 2010.

So this postcard from our family archive is a somewhat poignant memento of a time less than three years before disaster struck …


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Filed under Family, History, Photography