WOOLSTON FERRY'S HISTORY 
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 Soutampton and the road to Portsmouth. 
Naming 
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. 
 
Two Southampton Historians 
Remember The Ferry 
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.  
Ferry Song's Words 
I looked over Woolston and what did I see  
Coming for to carry me home?  
That old Woolston Ferry coming towards me,  
Coming for to carry me home . . .  
 
If you're ever out in Sholing  
And you want to go to town  
Don't you go via Bitterne  
That's the long way round  
Take a trip across the ferry  
Take a trip across the sea  
And if you're a pedestrian, you can go for free . .  
On the Woolston Ferry  
It doesn't travel very fast  
It was never built for comfort  
It was built to last  
 
On two steel hauses  
Across the river it'll creep  
The steel glints in the sunlight  
And flops back into the deep  
And from the deck of the ferry  
What a wonderful sight  
All they shipwrights grafting  
At Thorneycrofts on the right  
 
On the Woolston Ferry  
It doesn't travel very fast  
It was never built for comfort  
It was built to last  
 
Go and see Lowry's painting  
In the art gallery  
Of this wonderful relic of a past century  
When I sing of its construction  
You'll be surprised to learn  
That the bow going one way  
Coming back becomes the stern!  
 
On the Woolston Ferry  
It doesn't travel very fast  
It was never built for comfort  
It was built to last  
 
See the weather-beaten captain  
With his weather-beaten tan  
He don't wear no gold braid  
He's a corporation man  
And the captains of the ferry  
They're a dying race  
Cos there ain't no ex-tram drivers  
To go and take their place  
 
On the Woolston Ferry  
It doesn't travel very fast  
It was never built for comfort  
It was built to last  
 
But the floating bridge has had it  
They say it's got to go  
Cos the motorists don't like it  
At 15p a throw  
So they build a bridge of concrete  
Very modern, very high  
But every time I use it  
I look down on either side . . .  
 
On the Woolston Ferry  
It doesn't travel very fast  
It was never built for comfort  
It was built to last, to last  
The Ferry Restaurant 
The Original Woolston Floating Bridge 
The Ferry Restaurant is open Wednesday to Saturday 
Lunch 11.30pm - 3pm Dinner 6:30pm - until late & Sundays - Open all day from 12pm