[Much text by Con Maloney]
Glengall Road, later Grove, used to run right across the Island, from Westferry Rd (near the current Sir John McDougall Park) to Manchester Rd (near the current Cubitt Town School). This meant crossing the Millwall Docks, where an iron swing bridge was built.
After decades of use, the bridge was continually breaking down, but World War II got in the way of structural repairs. Instead, a “a barge bridge” was introduced – a Thames barge with a wooden gangway over it – a barge that could be moved to one side if a ship needed to pass.
After the war, the PLA stated its intention to close the public right of way across the Millwall Inner Dock, but this led to strong local opposition. The Council, the LCC and Charles Key, the local MP, forced the PLA to reconsider and prepare schemes for adapting the pedestrian crossing. In 1960 the PLA suggested either high-level footways with a double bascule bridge which would cost over £100,000, a tunnel under the dock for about £400,000, or a 180ft-high aerial cable car for about £50,000. The bridge option emerged as favourite, the tunnel being too expensive for the PLA and the cable car unpopular with the Council. A high-level bridge would keep the public out of the docks and allow barges to pass, opening only for ships.
The plans for the high-level bridge and walkway were developed in 1961–2 and amended to include a single opening span pivoting on a trunnion. John Mowlem & Company built the bridge in 1963–4, but the opening span and machinery, separately contracted to Head Wrightson, of Thornaby-on-Tees, were not operational until 1965. The bridge, which cost £256,198, comprised a walkway that was 1,140ft long, 30ft above the ground, 7ft 6in. wide at foot level, and 8ft high, with a hollow rectangular-section steel frame, aluminium roof and translucent glass sides (Plate 56b; fig. 138d). It was carried on nine precast- and pre-stressed-concrete supports, T columns with upper sections enclosing the walkway, with support from the canopy linking F and G Sheds Lift towers at the estate boundaries and the operating tower for the 113ft-long opening section were built of reinforced-concrete with facings of Fletton brick. The bridge operated with oil hydraulic machinery.
The Glengall Grove high-level bridge was immediately renamed by local people as ‘The Glass Bridge’. It gave the public the dubious privilege of a walk high over the Millwall Docks in an enclosed glazed tube.
The ‘glass bridge’ immediately became a prime target for vandals and pedestrians were so intimidated that few used it. The PLA had to spend about £20,000 on repairs. Severe damage to the glass and the lifts in 1975–6 caused the bridge to be closed.
The glass bridge also featured in an episode of The Chinese Detective.
The glass bridge was closed and demolished by the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) in 1983.