Don Bridge Explosion - 1921


The old bridge over the Don - approximately 1910

The old stone bridge near to St Paul's Church carried the main road between Jarrow and South Shields over the River Don. It also carried two gas mains. The picture above shows the gas pipes running along the eastern side of the bridge. On 21st May 1921 John Ward and Martin Flaherty of 'A' Company (Jarrow) IRA planted an explosive device on or near to one of the gas mains. According to newspaper reports the explosion blew a hole approximately 18 inches in diameter in the lower of the two mains. The area to the north of the bridge is well built-up, with the Bridge Inn, St Paul's Church and the western end of St Paul's Square clearly visible. Anyone placing a bomb on this side would run a high risk of discovery, so it is likely the site of the explosion was on the south side.

Evening Chronicle - May 23rd 1921

The scene in May 2005. Only the bridge itself and St. Paul's Church remain.

The site of the explosion on the south bank

The damage as seen from the other side of the parapet

The gas mains have been removed from the span of the bridge, but the open ends are still visible on each bank. A careful examination of the bridge reveals that the eastern parapet masonry is completely unpatched except for a small area on the southern side, indicated in the above pictures. This exactly corresponds to the course of the former gas mains, and is at an ideal height for someone standing on the bank to place a bomb. I am fairly certain therefore that this is the site of the 1921 explosion.