INTERESTING to hear that plans are afoot for another footbridge over the Severn at Worcester, because when it comes to footbridges, Worcester City Council hasn’t always had the best track record.

There was a real rumpus preceding the building of Sabrina Bridge between Hylton Road and Pitchcroft in the early 1990s, while 80 years before that a similar project sank without trace.

On both occasions the bump in the road – or maybe the sandbank in the river – was finance.

Spending a whack of money on something the populace has managed to do perfectly well without has always been a hard sell.

Back in the 1980s, when the Sabrina Bridge project was dipping its toe in the water, battle lines were drawn in no uncertain fashion.

There were For and Against petitions to be signed in High Street and heated debate at the Guildhall.

Walkers, cyclists, dog owners and short cutters were all for it, while those opposed maintained the existing road bridge was only a quarter of a mile away and the £580,000 cost would be better spent on something else.

Perhaps fortunately the footbridge won the day, because it would be hard to think of life without it now. Especially bearing in mind the increase in student numbers, which weren’t around 30 years ago.

But in 1908 the bridge project lost. Coincidentally, the plan was to build it at virtually the same place Sabrina now occupies.

Growing up in St George's Lane

Detailed designs were produced for two types of bridge. One in ferro-concrete and the other mainly of metal. Both were elegant structures and either would have graced the riverside.

However there was a sharp divide among city councillors when two suggestions were looked into in December 1907 – one to build a new footbridge across the river and the other to provide a working free ferry service at the same point.

The estimated cost of the bridge was between £3,000 and £3,500, although that didn’t include the price of the land at the river edge nor the expense of “any cable necessary for the electric lighting of the bridge”.

But this spend was deemed excessive and the city council eventually came to the conclusion that it “could not see its way at the present time to proceed with a footbridge scheme”..

As was again to happen in the 1990s, councillors then suggested that officers should explore the possibility of creating a footway across the nearby railway viaduct. Talks took place with Great Western Railway, but were eventually abandoned in June, 1908.

In 2019, the cost of providing another footbridge across the Severn, this time between Gheluvelt Park and the old rubbish tip site off Hallow Road, appears to have leapt to around £4.2 million.

Which at 1990 prices would have paid for eight pedestrian river bridges and in 1908 would likely have kitted out several battalions of the British Army.