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Swing Bridge and Turning Platforms and Lock Gates at Former East Dock, Including Winches and Capstans, Dock Place, Leith, Edinburgh

A Category A Listed Building in Leith, Edinburgh

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Latitude: 55.9777 / 55°58'39"N

Longitude: -3.1716 / 3°10'17"W

OS Eastings: 326987

OS Northings: 676693

OS Grid: NT269766

Mapcode National: GBR 8T4.2N

Mapcode Global: WH6SM.70ZS

Entry Name: Swing Bridge and Turning Platforms and Lock Gates at Former East Dock, Including Winches and Capstans, Dock Place, Leith, Edinburgh

Listing Date: 16 February 1976

Last Amended: 29 May 2015

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 405146

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB27061

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Edinburgh

County: Edinburgh

Town: Edinburgh

Electoral Ward: Leith

Traditional County: Midlothian

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Early to mid-19th century swing bridge following the circa 1800-1806 template devised by John Rennie/Ralph Walker. Alterations by James Leslie, circa 1846-50. Rare, Rennie/Walker-type cast iron swing bridge (with associated lock gates, turning platforms, winches and capstans) spanning the Old East and West Dock entrance between Dock Place and Rennie's Isle, Leith.

BRIDGE AND TURNING PLATFORMS: shallow-arch, three-pin, braced cast iron swing bridge with six ribs. 27 metre long with 10 metre clear span over water. 4.7 metre width. Timber-planked deck with wrought iron handrails along outer sides. Ashlar, turning circle platforms supporting bridge structure to north and south of former dock entrance cut. Recessed ashlar walls with stone access steps.

LOCK GATES: remains of timber lock gates set flush with the quayside on either side of the entrance lock. Timber with some metal sheathing. Timber-decked walkways and wrought iron handrails matching those on the swing bridge.

WINCHES AND CAPSTANS: seven cast iron hand winches that operated the lock gates (originally two flanking each gate). Larger hand winch located on south turning platform operated the swing bridge. Two ashlar-mounted, cast iron capstans, one on either platform.

Statement of Interest

The swing bridge spanning the entrance cut to John Rennie's (no longer extant) old East and West Dock at Dock Place is an exceptionally rare and early survival of a two-leaf swing bridge in Scotland. The swing bridge is of the John Rennie/Ralph Walker design of circa 1803 and is among the earliest surviving examples of a cast-iron swing bridge in the UK by one of Britain foremost engineers of the 19th century.

The former East and West Dock entrance (circa 1801-6) is one of the only remaining visible features of the earliest dock developments at Leith, at that time the most advanced port in Scotland, built by John Rennie at the advent of the modern industrial period. The survival of the swing bridge and associated lock gates and associated equipment are indicative of the former use of the old East and West Dock entrance and provide a significant focal point for neighbouring dockland redevelopment within the 19th century maritime context of the Port of Leith.

There were no cast iron swing bridges in the UK prior to 1800. Rennie installed the first cast iron swing bridges at his West India Docks, Wapping, London in 1804. Rennie's notebooks of the period feature plan and elevation drawings of a cast iron swing bridge broadly identical to the bridge at Dock Place, Leith. A swing bridge with turning platforms is shown at the old East and West Dock entrance on Charles Thomson's 1822 plan of the 'Town of Leith and its Environs'. The present bridge may have replaced an earlier timber bridge when improvements were made to the East and west Docks by John Rennie between 1810 and 1817.

When opening, the lower hinged part of each half of the arch disengaged by means of gearing devised by Rennie. Each half would have pivoted away from the other in an anti-clockwise direction, sliding along metal cart-wheel channels set into the circular turning platforms. The bridge was operated manually by hand winches and capstans to either side. The capstans and manual winch were possibly modified circa 1846 as a replacement for the more open winch arrangement seen in the 1800-1806 Rennie/ Walker drawings. The lock gates, fixed in the open position flush to the quayside walls, form a part of the listing for their associated infrastructural interest with the swing bridge.

John Rennie was one of Britain's foremost civil engineers of the early 19th century, following the death of John Smeaton in 1792 and before Thomas Telford rose to prominence by 1820. Born in Scotland and based in London from 1792, Rennie became nationally renowned for his innovative and pioneering early 19th century dock and harbour works. His plans often incorporated early use of steam locomotives, cranes and other industrial innovations for the purpose of economy and production, with close attention to detail and accuracy.

A small number of swing bridges are recognised through listing including the nearby Victoria Swing Bridge, Leith (1871) an important example of a large counterweighted bow-string swing bridge. At Dundee's Victoria Dock, one vehicular and one pedestrian wrought iron example survive (circa 1870). The largest hydraulically-operated swing bridge in Scotland is the Kincardine Bridge (1937), which is made of steel and is centrally pivoted. Pre-1850 cast iron swing bridges (as distinct from other types of movable bridge) are exceptionally rare with very few examples surviving in Scotland.

While no longer operational, the swing bridge is used in its fixed position by pedestrians and cyclists as an access route between Rennie s Isle and Dock Place. The Old East and West Dock are now infilled as a car park with its outer edges still visible to indicate its former footprint.

Change of category from B to A and update to Listed Building Record, 2015. Previously a scheduled monument SM No 3849 – descheduled 2015.

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