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Thursday, 24 July 2014

Would Jubilee've it?

THE biggest celebration seen in Furness since The Relief of Mafeking greeted the opening of Walney Bridge on July 30 in 1908.
Flags were flown from the Town Hall and many other leading buildings while the new bridge was covered with bunting.
People needed an official ticket to get close to the action but that didn’t stop residents from both sides of Walney Channel from staking an early claim on every vantage point.
The slopes of Vickerstown Park, Walney, thronged with people and the channel was dotted with small craft eager to be among the first to pass under the bridge.
It would have been suits and starched shirt collars for the men and long dresses with wide-brimmed hats and parasols for the ladies as Barrow and Walney dressed to impress.
The official procession left the town hall at midday with escorts from the police and the Territorial Army. Thirty minutes later the open bridge arms were lowered and a ribbon stretched across the roadway was cut by the Mayoress, Mrs TF Butler, with a special pair of presentation scissors.
She was also given a silver salver inscribed: “Presented to the Mayoress of Barrow-in-Furness, Mrs TF Butler, on the occasion of the opening by her of the Walney Bridge, the 30th July, 1908”.
The bridge arms were raised and three Furness Railway Company steamers passed through the opening – followed by several yachts and fishing boats.
The official events of the day ended with a slap-up meal for 270 at the Town Hall.
The published programme for the opening day had noted: “Guests arriving at the bridge in carriages must alight at the gates and be in their positions not later than 12 noon.
“No guests will be permitted to enter the bridge from the Walney side.
“The bridge will be thrown open to the public free from 1.45pm until midnight, when tolls will be charged.”
It was to be 1935 before people could cross the bridge for free again.
Despite the celebrations to mark the opening of the bridge, it was not a time of economic prosperity in Barrow.
The mayor had marked the occasion by donating £50 of his own money to a special committee set up to relieve distress.
This is how the Ulverston Advertiser announced the news that Walney’s bridge was finally open for public use on July 30 in 1908.
It noted: “Hurrah for the Walney Bridge! At last we have witnessed the consummation of the efforts to secure better access to Walney, for the bridge is opened at last, and the days of the steam ferry are at an end.
“Walney people, who have fought strenuously for the bridge ever since it was first mooted, will rejoice, and people who reside on this side of the water will also hail with satisfaction the establishment of better communication between the mainland and the picturesque little isle across the channel, which is nothing if not up-to-date.
“The development of Walney Island has been one of the chief characteristics of Barrow’s progress during the last eight or nine years.
“A decade ago Walney Island was inhabited by a mere handful of people, some 500 all told. Today it has its model Vickerstown, its splendid promenade, its public park and bandstand, its well laid out streets and comfortable dwellings, all lit with electricity; its modern school, and churches and recreation grounds.
“What the future may have in store for it none can tell.”

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