The Portsmouth to Gosport Floating Bridge December 11 2014

We have recently acquired a very interesting original letter in ink manuscript, dated 8 March 1841, from Joshua Hill, engineer, to the directors of the recently formed Floating Bridge Company. It is written on two sides of company notepaper headed with a superb engraving depicting the floating bridge off the Gosport shoreline.

Gentlemen,

I beg to inform you I will find timber and keep the sills in good repair at 6/- per week, I will find timber and keep drums in good repair at 8/- per week, oil for engines at 4/- per week, oil and cotton for lamps at 3/6 per week, tallow and wipings for engines at 5/- per week, I keep the bridge free from all filth which comes in by the chains at 3/- per week, I will find oil and cotton for lamps on deck and 1 in each cabin for 2/6 per week.

I am Gentlemen, your obedient servant, Joshua Hill, Engineer

 

Up until the mid 19th century and the advent of steam propulsion all passengers and goods were transported across the harbour by watermen using wherries. In 1840 a floating bridge arrived on the scene. It was 100 feet long and 60 feet wide with two steam engines driving heavy oak logs which engaged on iron chains laid out across the harbour. It transported carriages, carts, horses and cattle as well as foot passengers, crossing the harbour from the Point at Old Portsmouth to Gosport every 15 minutes for 14 hours a day.

Remarkably the chain ferry remained in operation until 1959 - some 115 years later!