Building our landmark - memories of the Orwell Bridge construction

One of the photos by Vernon "Harry" Hard showing the Orwell Bridge construction

Taking shape - one of the photos by Vernon "Harry" Hard showing the Orwell Bridge construction - Credit: Supplied by Alan Hard

Next year will mark 40 years since the Orwell Bridge opened to traffic. Do you remember its construction?

Readers have shared their memories and images of the building process, following our previous article about the construction.

One of the photos of the Orwell Bridge construction taken by Vernon "Harry" Hard

One of the photos of the Orwell Bridge construction taken by Vernon "Harry" Hard - Credit: Supplied by Alan Hard

Captain David Ingham, who lives near Ipswich, was involved with the Orwell Bridge construction as one of nine Orwell pilots, who were self-employed and licensed by Trinity House.

He remembers seeing official artist Keith Pilling creating pen-and-ink drawings on-site, and he has a folder of prints of these, showing how the bridge took shape.

Drawings artist Keith Pilling created during the construction of the Orwell Bridge

Prints of some of the pen-and-ink drawings artist Keith Pilling created during the construction of the Orwell Bridge, from David Ingham's folder - Credit: Archant

David and the other pilots ran the ferry St Antonius, to carry concrete mixer lorries from the west to the east bank, when they were not piloting, with assistance from crew from the local tug.

He said: "We used to work a 12-hour day placing the ferry where required on demand. Sometimes if a pour of concrete was not complete, this would be extended.


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"I remember Stevins (Royal Volker Stevin, the Dutch main contractor) used to supply fish and chips all round if that occurred."

Captain David Ingham wearing his Orwell tie

Captain David Ingham wearing his Orwell tie - Credit: David Ingham

David added: "I was on duty when the last piece of form work joining the two sides up was lowered 140ft on to the deck of St Antonius. The ferry took a list but remained upright.

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"The formwork was wider than the ferry and overhung both sides." After being brought alongside the ramp, it was lifted off by a massive mobile crane.

Prints of drawings Keith Pilling created during the construction of the Orwell Bridge

Some of the drawings Keith Pilling created during the construction of the Orwell Bridge, bringing back memories for David Ingham - Credit: Archant

He said the St Antonius travelled the equivalent of all the way to Australia and halfway back during construction.

"When the bridge was joined up, the St Antonius was sold to the Friesian Islands for carrying cattle from one island to another as they ate the grass.

"A heavy lift ship came to Ipswich to take her away. It was my job, wearing my other hat as pilot, to take the heavy lift ship with the St Antonius on board down the river." 

One of the photos by Vernon "Harry" Hard showing the Orwell Bridge construction

One of the photos by Vernon "Harry" Hard showing the Orwell Bridge construction - Credit: Alan Hard

Alan Hard, of Somersham, has an album of colour photos of the construction taken by his late father, Vernon "Harry" Hard, who died in 1995.

Vernon "Harry" Hard, who took many photographs of the Orwell Bridge construction, pictured with his wife Dolly.

Vernon "Harry" Hard, who took many photographs of the Orwell Bridge construction, pictured with his wife Dolly. - Credit: Alan Hard

Alan said: "My dad was a keen amateur photographer all his life and took a lot of photographs of the Orwell Bridge. He used to go down there and took photos of the bridge at various stages of construction."

One of the photos by Vernon "Harry" Hard showing the Orwell Bridge construction

One of the photos by Vernon "Harry" Hard showing the Orwell Bridge construction - Credit: Supplied by Alan Hard

One of the photos by Vernon "Harry" Hard showing the Orwell Bridge construction

One of the photos by Vernon "Harry" Hard showing the Orwell Bridge construction - Credit: Supplied by Alan Hard

He said his father was an electrician and worked in maintenance at the then Anglesea Road Hospital, but had to retire early for health reasons after suffering a stroke at 59.

Alan added he had travelled over the bridge many times himself over the years.

Alan Hard has many photos his father took during the Orwell Bridge construction

Alan Hard has many photos his father took during the Orwell Bridge construction - Credit: Danielle Hard


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