There have been five bridges linking Sheppey to the mainland. The first bridge, at Elmley was called Tremsethg. It was built in the time of Edward I but this bridge was washed away by a freak tidal wave. Nothing else is known about this bridge.
The London, Dover and Chatham Railway built the second bridge in July 1860. Standing where the current bridges stand today, it was the first bridge to be built to an Admiralty design with the central span raised between two towers. It was designed for trains and motor vehicles, with animals and pedestrians also being able to use it.
In November 1906 the South Eastern and Chatham Railway replaced the bridge with a “rolling lift” bridge. This bridge was originally worked by hand but was later installed with electricity.
October 1960 saw a brand new bridge, Kingsferry Bridge, being opened. This bridge was able to lift the road and railway line out of the way to let ships through to Ridham Docks - unfortunately as the flow of traffic increased the time taken to lift this bridge to allow ships through began to cause huge traffic jams. This bridge is one of only two remaining in the world of this design.
The last bridge to be built to give easier and quicker access to the mainland for motor vehicles is the Sheppey Crossing, costing £100m. Opened in July 2006, it is 1.27 kilometres long and rises to 34.7 metres at its highest point. The railway line could not cope with the incline of this bridge so the Kingsferry Bridge and Sheppey crossing work together to give access to the island with pedestrians, animals, cyclists and trains using the Kingsferry Bridge while motor vehicles use the new crossing.
A competition was announced to name the new bridge, this was won by lifelong Sheppey resident Mr. Reginald Grimwade. Mr Grimwade was invited to attend the opening ceremony and to be presented with an award by Dr Ladyman, Minister of Transport.
Before the bridge was opened people were invited to walk across it to raise money for local charities. Nearly 3000 took up this chance and raised £28,000.
Hopefully the new high bridge will stop access to the island being prevented as there have been many accidents and breakdowns with the previous bridges that have stopped access to the island. In 1923 and 1936 accidents had caused the current bridge to be non-operational due to damage for over a week, access to and from the island was by motorboat during this time.
During WWI and WWII access to the island was restricted and anyone living in Sheppey had to have a passport that would be shown to the guards on the bridge.