There are lots of bridges in Goole because of the flat land and the large number of river crossings. The largest bridge to dominate the skyline is the Ouse Bridge which carries the trans-Pennine M62 motorway between Liverpool towards Hull.
The bridge was completed in the mid-1970s and resembles a huge Scalextric model. If you stop under the bridge along Westfield Banks, you can hear the rumble of thunder from the traffic in the sky above and there's a spooky echo if you shout. There is a panoramic view of Goole from the top of the bridge, along with Boothferry Bridge and the Humber Bridge if you know where to look. It has solar-powered navigation lights in the central piers.
The Ouse Bridge was built to ease the congestion on Boothferry Bridge, which was built to replace an earlier ferry. From the days of "Booth's Ferry", this crossing point became increasingly important to travel and communication in the region and, with the demise of the Selby ferry, became the major crossing on the entire length of the River Ouse. It opened up the area to the north of the river and helped the growth of Howden. When the ferry ceased in 1929, it could claim to be the longest serving ferry on the Ouse and is forever remembered in the Ferryboat Inn nearby.
Boothferry Bridge was built to provide a more reliable way of crossing the river and was officially opened on 18 July 1929. It quickly became a traffic bottle-neck as the designers could not have anticipated the rapid growth in motor transport.
There are two footbridges across the railway, the Monkey Bridge off Gordon Street and Kingsway Bridge. The railway itself crosses the Dutch River, but the most famous bridge is Goole Railway Bridge at Hook. This is a huge iron bridge made of several spans and is notorious for getting struck by ships which struggle to navigate in the fast flowing Ouse.
Bridge Street is the original name given to the road running through the heart of the docks. There are three bridges crossing West Dock, South Dock and the Dutch River. These bridges are notorious for slowing down the traffic because there are single-lanes, and when they close all traffic comes to a standstill. Although the bypass provides a detour around West Dock bridge, there is no alternative for the others unless the bypass is extended.
There was also a railway bridge across the road to carry coal wagons along a high-level line to a hoist. This was removed in the 1980s after the line was retired as it split the docks in two for high-side vehicles.
The Lowther Bridge crosses the docks at the top end of Aire Street. It was built around World War I and replaced an earlier bascule bridge.
The South Dock bridge was recently replaced with a newer model. The new bridge was built by the side of the existing one and slid across with a huge floating crane over the space of a weekend. It allows two lanes of traffic to cross at once and was part of a more general modernising of all the bridge mechanisms. Instead of a man and a bike, the bridges are now controlled from one place and monitored with CCTV.
There were plans to preserve the original bridge, but these never happened. Instead the bridge has been abandoned and provides a sunshade for people fishing in South Dock.
The broad and tidal rivers that mark the northern frontiers of this area do not lend themselves to bridges. Until modern times the way out has been by ferry. In times past Whitgift Ferry was the most important with a long list of famous people from Charles I to John Wesley who have crossed there and a melancholy list of tragic drownings. The most dramatic of these happened in December 1614 when Sir John, Sir Edmund and Mr Philip Sheffield, sons of Edmund Lord Sheffield, Earl of Mulgrave and President of the Council of the North, with all their retinue were drowned at Whitgift Ferry. The 1906 Ordnance Survey records other ferries at Reedness, Swinefleet, Howden Dyke, Boothferry, Airmyn and Rawciffe. No doubt there were others.
Swinefleet Ferry was important too. Its great tragedy was on the 21st September, 1735 when, as Whitgift parish register tells us "The ferry boat at Swinefleet was overset with 15 persons on it, 14 of whom miserably perished in ye river". Since the development of Goole much the most important of these ferries was that to Booth - the Booth Ferry. Originally it belonged to the Bishop of Durham as Lord of Howden and those who ran it leased it from the reigning Bishop. In the tidying up of episcopal estates that took place after 1836, rather oddly, it came to belong to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.
The great days of the Ferry seemed to end with the coming of the Railways. Up until then the Boothferry Inn had been famous nationwide for its hospitality and comfort. But the motor car brought traffic back to the roads and the Boothferry soon became again a very busy place. Indeed from 1888 onwards there had been a growing demand for a bridge. Building began in 1926 and the bridge - swing bridge, of course, because of the shipping - opened in July 1929. The final ferry crossed on 17 July 1929. Today the only ferry still in use - for pedestrians only and not available apparently to the general public - is that at Airmyn. Let it be treasured both for its continued practical usefulness and also as a surviving fragment of a nearly lost strand in our history.
The first bridge across the lower Aire was between Carlton and Snaith. It needed an Act of Parliament and, built in 1777 for £1,850 at the expense of Thomas Stapleton of Carlton Hall, it was a Toll Bridge. Though the reasons given for the bridge was "the importance of the flax trade to the area and the inadequacy of the ferry for the transport of bodies for burial in Snaith Churchyard", it looks as though it might really have been something of a commercial enterprise. As in those days ships had priority over roads it had to be a swing bridge. In 1928 because of the old bridge's "exorbitant tolls" and "total inadequacy for motor traffic", it was replaced by the present steel girder bridge. Much of the old bridge and its toll houses still remain. It is a great deal more beautiful than its replacement.
Horses (and mighty stagecoaches) can cross rivers by ferry. The last of the Aire railway bridges was built in 1912 for the Selby-Goole line between Rawcliffe and Newland. The line closed in 1964 and the bridge was demolished and only its be-graffitied supports remain. It is a scene of desolation. But the great and famous railway bridge is that across the Ouse near Goole. This was built with great difficulty in 1868 to carry the new line to Hull. When it was built it was one of the largest swing bridges in Europe and a great marvel.
The most beautiful of the bridges (actually the only beautiful bridge in the neighbourhood) is the magnificent new bridge that carries the M62 high above the Ouse at Hook. Begun in 1973 it was completed in 1976. The old rivers nearly won. Firm ground for the foundations was found with difficulty and the final cost was vastly greater than the estimates.
"Rivers, Rectors and Abbots", David Lunn - Bishop of Sheffield, 1990