This film is part of Free

The Woolston Ferry

Fans of floating bridges will enjoy this nostalgic film about a long gone piece of Southampton history - the Woolston Ferry across the River Itchen

Amateur film 1960 1 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for Wessex Film and Sound Archive


This fascinating short film starts with a wide view of the Woolston Chain Ferry, a floating bridge, about to dock after making its short passage across the River Itchen. We see foot passengers waiting on the slipway prior to boarding. The chains which propel the ferry are also seen. After some onboard views, we end with a shot looking from the slipway which shows the ferry halfway across the river as well as a second ferry on the opposite shore.

The Woolston Ferry, as it was locally known, was first inaugurated in November 1836 and remained in operation until 1977, when a fixed bridge across the River Itchen was finally opened. There had been a plan beforehand to build a swing bridge over the Itchen but local fishermen and the Northam Bridge Company, which charged high tolls for the use of its own bridge, strongly objected. Even the Admiralty raised concerns though also suggesting that a floating bridge be constructed instead. The ferry was very popular with workers commuting between Woolston and Southampton and has since been immortalised in a folk song sung by 'Gutta Percha and the Balladeers.'