Ethelfleda Railway bridge ticket booth. The oldest crossing at Runcorn gap, the bridge opened officially to goods trains and pedestrians in 1869. Named after Ethelfleda the Queen of the Mercians of the late 9th century whose kingdom’s most northerly border was at Runcorn.
Originally a ticket booth was located on both sides of the River Mersey. On the Runcorn side the booth was located in Lord Street at the bottom of the access steps, and in Widnes at Viaduct street. In later years tickets were only sold on the Widnes side. Persons wishing to cross from Widnes to Runcorn purchased their tickets before they went onto the footpath but people coming in the other direction paid their fare after they had already crossed the bridge.
During the Second World War a sentry was posted on each side of the bridge. The sentries checked each person who crossed the bridge to ensure that no saboteurs accessed the bridge which carried such a vitally important railway link between Liverpool and the South.
The new Runcorn-Widnes bridge eventually provided pedestrian footpaths that would be free to use in 1961. Because of this, tolls for using the footpath were withdrawn in 1962 and staff who manned the booth were taken away from the bridge. However even though the new road bridge was available for the public to use, more people continued to use the railway bridge footpath. Most likely due to the feeling of suddenly getting a good deal!
Without a staff presence problems occurred on the Ethelfleda Bridge footpath including the throwing of stones and bottles by youths which caused a great deal of annoyance to householders in the West Bank district of Widnes. The wooden walkway had also started to perish and gaps had appeared, allowing pedestrians to catch a glimpse of the water below. British Railways were very keen to close the footpath and eventually the steps were demolished and the booth entrance bricked up to this day. There are still many residents including myself that never got to enjoy the experience of crossing the Ethelfleda and seeing her up close, who hope that one day the walkway will be restored.