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Community unites for golden year of bridge
Buy this photo » Sue Frizzell, centre, and Lord Mayor Alan Armitage join residents for the ringing of a bell for a minute’s silence to remember people who have died at the spot since Donnington Bridge was built 50 years ago
SAMBA drums and whistles accompanied residents of an Oxford estate as they marked the 50th anniversary of one of the area’s most recognisable landmarks.
Donnington Bridge was the first new road bridge to be built over the River Thames in centuries, aimed at easing traffic congestion in the city centre.
Hundreds of residents gathered at Donnington Community Centre in Townsend Square on Saturday and marched to the bridge.
Traffic came to a standstill as Sue Frizzell, chairman of the Donnington Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, cut a ribbon across the road to open the bridge again for the community.
There was music from Larkrise Primary School’s samba band while the Pete Fryer Band played at the community centre, where there was an exhibition of images from the bridge over the years.
A cake was cut, and a wreath cast into the river to commemorate the eight people who had died at the spot since the bridge was constructed.
Ms Frizzell, said: “There is a fantastic sense of community, all different ages and everyone from the local primary school to Donnington Community Centre have been involved.”
The family of Cowley’s Hussain Mohammed, who died aged 15 in May after jumping into the river on a hot summer’s day, left messages on a memorial wall beneath the bridge.
Father Anwar Khan said: “He is truly missed. We appreciate what the community has done. When we were invited to the anniversary we thought we could come and put some flowers here.”
In the 1920s residents had to cross the river on a ferry and before 1962 Donnington Bridge was a wooden footbridge and the road a lane.
The new bridge was officially opened by Lord Hailsham on October 22, 1962.
Elise Benjamin, city council member for Iffley Fields, said: “We are calling this event a commemoration because there are very mixed feelings about the bridge.
“We know there are problems with traffic and the bridge physically divides the community – but it is also an opportunity to bring residents together.
“The mood is positive, friendly and happy.”
Lord Mayor of Oxford Alan Armitage took the journey across the river by boat to remember the bridge’s history.
He said: “Seeing communities coming together like this, whatever the occasion, is always good. I am sure we will all remember today for whatever reason, good or bad.”
Long-standing resident Cecily Kirtland, 69, from Swinburne Road, said: “It has caused such a huge change in this particular area, but I think this event is wonderful, a lot of hard work has gone into it.”