The European tradition of lovers attaching padlocks to bridges as a proclamation of their devotion is gaining momentum in Chester.
And the practice, which has led to 70 ‘love locks’ being attached to the Queen’s Park Suspension Bridge, inspired an award-winning photographer to create a short film.
Ian Southerin’s Searching For Something I Do Not Know was filmed in Chester during July’s Northgate Street Festival and is set to the poem of the same name by US poet Garrett Beget.
Earlier this week, we uploaded a link to the film on the Chester Chronicle website to help us track down the lovers behind such a public display of affection.
The two-minute film was an immediate internet success with 4,500 hits at the time of going to press.
The vice dean of Chester Cathedral Canon Peter Howell-Jones noticed the love-locks on a recent walk across the bridge.
He said: “I changed my mind from starting my journey to finishing it.
“At first, I was quite shocked to see all the locks and wondered whether they were another act of vandalism.
“When I got to the middle, I stopped and began to read them. I thought it was quite profound that people were expressing their love for one another in a public way.
“In a world where there is so much aggression and hatred it is quite reassuring to know that people are prepared to express their love in this way.
“It is a very eco-friendly form of grafitti – or is it public art?”
A Facebook fan was concerned about the safety of the locks.
Sam Jones posted: "Aren’t suspension bridges finely engineered for them to work safely? How many locks will be too many I wonder?"
The local authority is well aware of the presence of the padlocks on the Chester bridge and has been monitoring the situation from a safety point of view.
Cheshire West and Chester Council spokesman Ian Callister said: “The number of love locks on the suspension bridge has doubled to around 70 in a short space of time.
“In other European countries, the craze has led to a genuine safety threat to the load-bearing capacity of the bridges and consequently we shall be monitoring the situation.”
The origins of love-locks can be traced back before the First World War to a bridge in Serbia. The tradition has been growing in popularity over the last two decades in Italy and France and locks adorn the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.
A couple from Chester were so inspired by the Chronicle ’s online story about love locks on the bridge that they have decided to join the craze.
Alyson, 51, and Matthew, 28, Johnston are originally from Haywood but now live in Chester. They met in 2004 and they married a year later.
They spent a lot of their time in Chester during that first year
Alyson said: “In 2010 we split for a whole year but kept in touch and never divorced then exactly a year to the day, New Years Eve 2011, we were reunited and renewed our vows on our wedding anniversary in 2012.
“We are now stronger than ever and wanted to get a love lock as down by the river is a special place for us.”
Saving the date
The earliest love lock that The Chronicle has traced is from two years ago.
Peter and Sue Burns were married in 2011 and the engraved lock was given as a gift from friends Paul Baker and Hazel Donohue on their wedding day.
Peter is a manager for Airbus and Sue works for Sainsbury’s credit cards. They were both born in Chester and met eight years ago in Temple Bar on Frodsham Street.
Peter had just been to see Chester FC play and Sue was out with friends.
They got engaged on the same day, October 22, a year later and married at St James’s Church in Christleton Church on October 22, 2011.
Couple span the love gap
Verity Howard and Daryl Cross placed a love lock on the bridge after a romantic proposal earlier this month.
The couple have been together for five years.
They had gone for a picnic and went for a walk over the bridge when Verity saw an engraved padlock saying ‘engaged here’- and then Daryl proposed.
Verity said: “He told me after he proposed that he’d had the ring for about three weeks in the draw by the side of the bed.
“We both work shifts so it’s hard for us to plan. We ending up going for a picnic in the park as we both had a day off and I think he saw it as his chance to pop the question.
“I think it's a lovely idea and it's somewhere we can come back to in years to come and remember the memories created.”
Verity and Daryl hope to get married in early 2015 and Verity says they will definitely be doing so in the city.
She said: “It is such a beautiful city, full of character. We both have years of memories together in Chester and with all of our friends and family we want to be able to share and create more good times.”