Leven Bridge c1950s

t14651This photograph shows Leven Bridge in the mid 1950s, for the last 40 years I have lived not more than 200 yards from where this photograph was taken and have never viewed the bridge from this angle, there are a number of people visiting the river in the photograph including a ‘Solitary Cyclist’ (sic) and a brave child up to his chest in the river. On the bank opposite are a number of wooden huts and at the top of that field there is a building that looks to me as if it may be a pigeon loft, also in the field is what appears to be an old passenger railway carriage.
Somebody may be able to answer the question, ‘What is the purpose of the set of steps to the right of the bridge?’, I first thought they may be from an old mill race but of course the mill was on the other side of the river, my other thought was that it may drain flood water from the low lying field on the other side of the bridge. At the left side of the bridge it looks as if there is a box on a pole containing a lifebelt and there are a couple of notice boards very likely prohibiting swimming.

Photograph and details courtesy of Bruce Coleman.

22 thoughts on “Leven Bridge c1950s

  1. Leven, we used to dive off the road bridge, swim to the falls and slide down the lower pool. Also swam across the river at Sandy Bottoms upstream. This site was used by everyone. There was a pub and a shop, it also had a small fairground. Further downriver near the mill was a campsite made up of bits of wood and tin sheets, similar to the old bomb shelters we had in our gardens. The number 8A bus ran from Stockton to Leven, but as kids we walked from Thornaby over giant fields… happy memories.

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  2. I know of a young Thornaby Driving Instructor who also spent his evenings as a Barman at the Kirk Country Club, coming home late one evening down the bank from Yarm he hit another car coming from Thornaby on the Bridge, he shot through the garden fence of the end Bungalow opposite the Pub, then through the garden killing the family pet Pig and hit the end Wall of the Bungalow knocking the fireplace out of position!!! The Driving School car he was driving had less than 3,000 Miles on the clock and was written off, he was slightly injured. His Father who owned the Driving School and the car was not amused.

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  3. Great place to go fishing, I remember having to pay for the privilege to fish, you paid at the shop. I remember also catching a good size trout at the water fall…..happy days had by all.

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  4. I’ve driven over this bridge a few times but didn’t realise the waterfall was there so was intrigued to see how it looks now and turned to the internet to help me out as I won’t get chance to get over there in person for a while. Google maps/streetview wasn’t much help, but the Birdseye option on Bing maps gives a good view of this area. It’s also interesting to see the development which is taking place when the Bing & Google aerial photos were taken – although there are new houses being built, the ones in the this photo remain but have been completely gutted leaving just the exterior walls. I also found the detached house nearest the river now being advertised as a holiday rental on Airbnb (Bridgewater Cottage) – which shows people still using the river for fishing and canoeing.

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    • The new houses are now finished and are occupied, they are excellent properties and fit sympathetically into the area, the old buildings are all still standing and have been renovated and turned into houses, it has been beautifully done.

      The steps when used for decorative purposes are called “cascades”, they are used all over the world, Chatsworth House in Derbyshire has the best known cascade in England, I have not visited the water gardens in Alnwick but I have seen them on the television and they have very nice cascades, the most beautiful I have seen are in St. Petersburg.

      A number of years ago the whole area was flooded when the Leven overflowed its banks, the pub cellar was totally destroyed and the pub never reopened, the house developers raised the whole plain by a couple of metres and built brick flood defences alongside the river to keep it at bay.

      I am only a ten minute walk away from Leven Bridge and I will stroll down during the holidays to retake the photograph, weather permitting, and pass it on to Picture Stockton, the view is very much the same as when the original photograph was taken but there are no huts or railway carriages to be seen, the new housing is mainly out of the picture to the left , on Google Earth the “steps” appear to have been replaced with a concrete slipway.

      When I was a child in the early 1950s I also spent holidays in wooden huts with Hurricane lamps and a cast iron pot bellied stove for cooking, this was lit all day in the height of summer and the hut was stifling, this was at Barkers field in Redcar.

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  5. Up to the end of the 1950s, when there were few cars on the road, it was safe to hit high speeds on a bike by coming down the bank from the Yarm end of the approach to the bridge. There was then about a quarter of a mile to slow down from the bottom of the bank to the bridge. I would guess that I used to get up to 40 mph on that stretch.

    I understand that a famous racing motorist was killed on the bank at Leven in the prewar years.

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  6. Just before the water runs over the weir, you can see the start of the mill race leading off to the left of the photo. This took the water to Leven Mill several hundred yards away. The mill race is now no more and has been filled in and built over.

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  7. In the 1930s there was a footballer called Benny Yorston who played for both the Boro and Sunderland. After his footballing days were over he was for a time the landlord of the Cross Keys next to the Leven Bridge. I wonder if he was still the landlord when this photograph was taken ?.

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  8. An O.S. map of 1855 shows that Leven Bridge lay at the junction of three parish boundaries.
    The boundary of Yarm and Hilton parishes ran down the centre of the river. So that might explain why the two sets of arches were treated differently? Then running down the centre of the road on the north side was the boundary between Stainton and Hilton parishes.

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  9. I used to bike all the way over to Leven from Tilery, enjoy the swimming and sliding down the weir, great fun and I was never on my own.

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  10. I must have crossed the Leven Bridge a number of times in my first thirty years of life but memories don’t include such a stupendous view as is portrayed in your photograph. Now, I wonder if any interested party, sixty odd years later, can submit a current photograph, hopefully from the same view-point? .

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  11. Evokes memories of regular walking or cycling visits from Thornaby as a child. A great place for adventure. The river was rarely suitable for swimming in so the notices would probably have stated “Private Fishing”.

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  12. My guess is that the arches above the steps are flood arches that only used when the river level is high, and the steps are a weir, the adjacent walls I believe are training walls to prevent the earthworks embankment abutting the bridge from being scoured away in times of flood.
    It is possible that the adjacent river weir and earthwork embankment was built at the same time as the Mill.

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  13. Circa 1950, a cyclist riding too fast down Leven Bank got out of control, being unable to stop he crossed the centre line off the road and collided with the doorway of the small shop at the entrance to the pub car park and got killed. Some said the shop door was open and he catapulted off the bike (to) inside the shop and died on the shop floor?

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    • Hi Maureen, We used to dive off the Bridge, Swim to the Falls and Slide down the mossy waterfall. This was our play area enjoyed by everyone. No health and safety rules then. It should have been kept for public to use. NOT sold for Posh houses. Grr. A Thornaby Lad. Derek Brittain.

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  14. Although we visited Leven several times, and stayed at my Aunt May Anne’s chalet during the summer, I don’t think I had known of the “steps” on the other side of the waterfall, which was really a weir, although higher than usual.

    The stepped portion and the two arches which fed them would only come into action during periods of heavy rainfall when the river would flood. The steps would then break up the surge of water flow, which if there was a smooth downward slope would have led to erosion of the nearside bank.

    My recollection, in fact, is that the river, immediately below the smooth weir, was quite deep, probably because of erosion during the winter. It was deep enough to dive into, and was one reason why young kids were told not to venture out on the weir. But 20 yards downstream, at low tide the river was shallow enough to paddle in.

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  15. The Rail carriage is one of many Cabins that were located around the river. We often spent our Easter and Summer Holidays here. The Kelly and Mcglade Family owned a few of them. We had Bottled Gas and hurricane Lamps, and the lads would come from the pub and have sing songs on the Verandas.

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