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Mark’s History: Crossing the River Aire

Before the coming of the Kirkstall Viaduct in 1849, (built from locally-sourced Bramley Fall stone) the only way to cross the River Aire between Armley and town was either the ford at Armley Mills or by ferry near where Washington Street is now, writes Mark Stevenson.

In 1882 Airegate was extended to cross the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and renamed Canal Road. Two foot bridges were also built across the River Aire.

Armley river aire 2
Photo: Mark Stevenson

The footbridge nearest to the Viaduct was demolished in the 1920s, evidence still remains of this bridge if you look carefully. The second footbridge which still survives today is the Warren Truss Bridge.

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It was said of this bridge that it was the only place you could stand on a bridge to look under a bridge looking over a bridge and see the town hall clock. The bridge did not have a good reputation with the local children.

armley river aire 3
Photo: Mark Stevenson

Sandra Irene Fowler said on Leodis:

“That is my nightmare bridge and I still haven’t got over having to walk over it to get to Kirkstall Road. I remember being dragged over it in 1953 just after the floods and the River Aire was only about few feet underneath the slats of the walkway.

“The little islands that used to be in the middle of the River Aire were covered. My sister was in her big pram but couldn’t see the water and I screamed all the way across. That was my nightmare for donkey years and I used to dream that I could fly over it lifting my Mum and sister with me. The trauma was terrible.”

armley river aire 4
Photo: Mark Stevenson

Others mention the river been polluted and smelly and how it would run with various colours depending on what was being deposited from the mills and how the river level could be very high in the winter nearly touching the bridge…


  1. I can remember crossing this bridge when I lived in Armley Rd nr the prison my dad took me to to watch Leeds RL play at Headingley. We always walked and I particularly hated going down the steps that clung to the wall before entering the bridge. One day there were some workmen repairing the planks ad putting new sections in.
    The terrifying thing was that they had removed about 3 or four planks and bridged the gap with a small bridge over which we had to walk.The river was high and the rushing water was making the bridge shiver! I would be between 8 to 10 years old and it really scared me. I watched the match but hoped the men had fixed the bridge by the time we had to go back home!


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