Sandport Place Bridge
|Sandport Place Bridge|
|Location Map ( geo)|
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The bridge now known as Sandport Place Bridge across the Water of Leith to the north of Edinburgh City Centre was previously known as the Upper Drawbridge. Looking at the bridge today, this name seems odd, as the bridge appears to consist of three ancient stone arches across the river, with just a couple of feet clearance between the water and the arch when the water level is high. However, look more closely, and it becomes apparent that the central arch has been inserted more recently, even if the parapets above look to be continuous.
Originally this bridge was constructed with a drawbridge in place of the central arch, allowing small boats access to the upper reaches of the river, albeit perhaps never as far as the city centre. Today the scene is deceptive, the river has had lock gates installed to keep the water level artificially high. When the bridge was first built, this section of the river was tidal, with old photos showing the bridge at low tide. Now hidden below the water are sturdy piers and massive cutwaters, presumably built substantially to counteract the missing central span.
The drawbridge itself was a very flimsy looking affair, two delicate iron framed cantilevers decked with wood, and apparently carrying tram or railway lines too. They appear to have been hand cranked, lifting from either side independently to allow boats through, and while the depth of water at high tide is substantial, the narrow opening provided would have prevented large boats from passing.
However, more than just the central arch was inserted when the bridge was refurbished. Old photos show flared cast iron parapet sections in place of the modern stone ones, and substantial pedestrian refuges over the piers which today have been blocked up.