The Woolston Floating Bridge, was a Cable Ferry that crossed the River Itchen in England between Woolston and Southampton from 23 November 1836 until 11 June 1977.
It was taken Out of Service when the new Itchen Bridge was opened.
Initially there was only one Ferry built and owned by the Floating Bridge Company but this increased to two in 1881 and in 1934 the Floating Bridges were sold to Southampton Corporation.
By 1977 these Ferries were operating side by side during the day and reducing to a single Ferry late in the Evening. There was a Bus Terminus at either side of the Crossing, connecting Foot Passengers with the centre of Southampton and the road to Portsmouth.
The Floating Bridge was technically called the Woolston Ferry during its 141 years of Operation.
Floating Bridge is an affectionate description of the technology rather than the name of the crossing itself.
The term was first used by the Engineer James Meadows Rendel, who had previously implemented a similar design of chain Ferry at Torpoint and at Dartmouth in Cornwall. The same technology was applied to create the Gosport Ferry in 1840
No variant of the Ferry took the form of a Pontoon Bridge spanning the whole width of the crossing, to which the term Floating Bridge is more widely applied and thought of today.
Nevertheless, the term Floating Bridge has been commonly used in Southampton and it is still in use today, more than 30 years after the Woolston Ferry was taken Out of Service. The terminology was immortalised in the 1956 painting entitled "The Floating Bridge" by L. S. Lowry
This use of the term Floating Bridge has also been applied to the Cowes Floating Bridge, which still provides a similar service in a similar situation just a few miles away, on the River Medina in Cowes on the Isle of Wight.
A pair of chain Ferries would run every 15 minutes during the Daytime, taking about 5 minutes to cross the Itchen.
It is a tribute to the 'Captains' of the Ferry that there was only one serious accident, bearing in mind the amount of Sea traffic which used the River.
In March 1928, the tug 'Fawley' collided with one of the Ferries, snapping its chains and sending it under. Fortunately, all the Passengers were rescued unscathed.
It made its last trip on June 11th 1977, complete with Jazz Band on Board.
This song, written by Mike Sadler, evokes a time and place still special in the hearts of Sotonians, and our version was recorded at the Fo'c'sle Folk Club in Southampton.