IT WAS one of the most controversial builds in Oxford over the past century.

But love it or hate it, Donnington Bridge will officially celebrate its 50th birthday later this year.

And to mark the occasion, residents plan to stage an exhibition of photographs and hold a 1960s party in its honour.

Iffley Fields city councillor David Williams said: “The exhibition is going to be called A Bridge over Troubled Waters and we think that’s quite apt.

“Some people think it was a great thing connecting two parts of the city.

“But others think it’s the worst thing to have ever happened. Donnington was a closed estate before the bridge opened but now it has traffic through it every day.”

Work on the bridge connecting South and East Oxford started in October 1960 – the first new road bridge across the Thames in Oxford for centuries.

It was built as a solution for traffic issues in the city centre, with drivers getting from Iffley Road to Abingdon Road previously being forced to use Magdalen Bridge, which was seeing 35,000 vehicles pass over it each day.

The location, Weirs Lane, had been the site of a footbridge which was demolished shortly after work began. A large oak tree was also felled to make way for the new bridge.

Weirs Lane resident Pamela Foynes, 68, said: “People remember decorating that tree at Christmas and dancing around it at New Year. People used to hire punts from Weirs Lane and to build the road and bridge, the majority of people had their front gardens cut in half.

“But the city needed it, it was good for the people working at the Cowley car factory.

“The only thing is that we just keep getting more and more traffic, especially since they closed the city centre to traffic.”

Building work hit a few snags along the way, including gale-force winds, and the winter of 1961 being so cold that ice on the bridge had to be smashed using a heavy weight tied to a crane.

Against all the odds, the bridge opened on schedule on October 22, 1962.

Crowds lined the roads to see it officially opened by the then Leader of the House of Lords, Lord Hailsham.

The celebration in October is being organised by the Donnington Tenants’ and Residents’ group.

Details will be released at a later date.