2020 is proving to be a different year in many ways but it is worth remembering that it marks the 40th anniversary of the Newcastle Metro. The Metro runs majestically across the Lower Ouseburn Valley between the Railway Viaduct and Byker Bridge.

The fascinating story of Byker Metro Bridge is included in Sue Bright’s excellent book ‘Bridging the Ouseburn'. Here is an excerpt in Sue’s own words: 

The Byker Metro Bridge was a huge engineering work on a scale not seen in Ouseburn since the building of the Byker Road Bridge in 1878. An innovative engineering technique involving pre-fabricated concrete joined together with epoxy-resin, it was part of the largest urban transport system in the UK at the time, which carried approximately 60,000 passengers in its first year of operation. The Metro was opened in the summer of 1981 by Her Majesty the Queen.

Ove Narquist Arup, who founded Ove Arup & Partners was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1895 but his connection with the Ouseburn goes back much further than 1980. Ove was born on 16th April 1895 at 16 Heaton Vale Terrace. The house still stands today on Heaton Road opposite the entrance to Heaton Park. He was the son of Jens Simon Johannes Arup and his second wife Mathilde Boletter Nyquist who had been governess to Jens’ three daughters from his first marriage.

Photo of Ove Arup

Photo credit: unknown

Jens Arup was employed as Danish Veterinary Consul at the time of Ove’s birth and was involved in overseeing live animal imports to Newcastle, so would undoubtedly have worked in the Ouseburn Valley, at the Cattle Sanitorium. As live cattle imports were banned in the late 1890’s, Jens moved his family back to Denmark, but Ove’s connection with the North East reappeared with the formation of his business in the 1940’s.

Ove’s life-long passion was to promote what he called ‘total architecture’ a marriage of engineering and architecture throughout a building project. He famously engineered the Sydney Opera House, Centre Pompidou in Paris, Highpoint 1 in London, Coventry Cathedral and Kingsgate Bridge in Durham in 1963. Kingsgate Bridge was reputed to be his favourite work and in 1988 he had his ashes scattered in the River Wear from the centre of the bridge.

In 1974 his company designed the ‘s’-shaped masterpiece known as Byker Metro Bridge. Towering 30 metres above the Ouseburn the bridge was the first in Britain to be built using cantilevered concrete sections with epoxy-resin glued joints. Each of the arches is approximately 68.9 metres long, one of them standing over a footpath on the original Bykerhill Lane route to Byker Bar.

A comprehensive record of the building of the bridge was produced by Turners Film Productions and can be viewed via the North East Film Archive. It is certainly worth 16 minutes of your time.

Mentro bridge seen from Ouseburn. Photo by David Lawson

Photo credit: David Lawson