Orwell Ipswich Bridge: Construction Drawings and Photos

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Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Orwell Bridge to traffic. Do you remember how it was built?

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


One of the photos of the construction of the Orwell Bridge taken by Vernon “Harry” Hard
– Credit: provided by Alan Hard

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

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


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

Prints of some of the pen and ink drawings by artist Keith Pilling created during the construction of the Orwell Bridge, from David Ingham’s file
– Credit: Archant

David and the other pilots operated the St Antonius Ferry, to transport mixer trucks from the West Bank to the East Bank, when they were not piloting, with the help of the local tugboat crew.

He said: “We used to work a 12-hour day placing the ferry where it was needed on demand. Sometimes if a concrete pour was not completed it was extended.


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“I remember Stevins (Royal Volker Stevin, the main Dutch entrepreneur) used to supply fish and chips all around if that happened.”


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 formwork joining the two sides was lowered to 140 feet on the St Antonius Bridge. The ferry took a list but remained standing.

“The formwork was wider than the trough and overhang on both sides.” After being brought along the ramp, he was lifted by a huge mobile crane.


Prints of drawings made by Keith Pilling during the construction of the Orwell Bridge

Some of the designs Keith Pilling created during the construction of the Orwell Bridge, bringing back memories of David Ingham
– Credit: Archant

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

“When the bridge was joined, the St Antonius was sold to the Frisian Islands to transport cattle from one island to another while they ate grass.

“A heavy transport vessel came to Ipswich to take her. It was my job, wearing my other hat as a pilot, to take the heavy transport vessel with the St Antonius on board down the river.”


One of Vernon's photos

One of Vernon “Harry” Hard’s photos showing the construction of the Orwell Bridge
– Credit: Alan Hard

Alan Hard, of Somersham, has an album of color photos of the building taken by his late father, Vernon “Harry” Hard, who died in 1995.


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

Vernon “Harry” Hard, who took numerous photographs of the construction of the Orwell Bridge, pictured with his wife Dolly.
– Credit: Alan Hard

Alan said: “My father was an avid amateur photographer his whole life and took a lot of pictures of the Orwell Bridge. He used to go down there and take pictures of the bridge at different stages of its construction.”


One of Vernon's photos

One of Vernon “Harry” Hard’s photos showing the construction of the Orwell Bridge
– Credit: provided by Alan Hard


One of Vernon's photos

One of Vernon “Harry” Hard’s photos showing the construction of the Orwell Bridge
– Credit: provided by Alan Hard

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

Alan added that he himself had crossed the bridge several times over the years.


Alan Hard has many photos taken by his father during the construction of the Orwell Bridge

Alan Hard has many photos taken by his father during the construction of the Orwell Bridge
– Credit: Danielle Hard


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