Border crossing cut for first time on centuries

An historic link between England and Scotland has been cut for the first time in centuries as work on the Union Chain Bridge progresses.

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 11:21 am
Works are ongoing at the Union Chain Bridge.
Works are ongoing at the Union Chain Bridge.

Built in 1820 by Captain Samuel Brown, the bridge, which spans the River Tweed to join Horncliffe in Northumberland and Fishwick in the Borders, is the oldest operational chain suspension bridge still carrying vehicles in the world.

But the connection between England and Scotland has now been severed as works continue on its multimillion pound rennovation.

Following concerns about its condition, funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Northumberland and Scottish Borders councils, and community group Friends of the Union Chain Bridge, allowed full restoration of the bridge to get underway last October.

Work has now started on the final stage of its removal – to take down the 2,000 metres of chains which supported the deck.

The painstaking work to refurbish the bridge will then begin, with its re-opening due early next year.

Heather Thompson, who lives near the bridge on the north side, said: “We’ve watched with interest from the Scottish side as we can walk along from Paxton.

“It feels very momentous, given that we hoped for this restoration for so long and it will be strange when the bridge is gone.”

Across the border, Tommy Cockburn, who has lived in Horncliffe all his life, said: “As a child growing up in the village we took for granted the peace and quiet of living on the banks of the river Tweed.

“The bridge has been a hidden gem and adds a spectacular view to our countryside. The past 12 months have been a strange and difficult time.

“Our bridge has gone now as the restoration project has begun and it is such a miss not being there. The views are not the same and our nearest link to Scotland has gone.”

Gordon Edgar, executive member for Infrastructure, Travel and Transport and Scottish Borders Council, added: “In many respects, this stage of the project really marks a new beginning for this incredibly important structure and for the communities linked by it.

“It’s a historic moment in the life of this 201-year-old bridge. I’d like to pay tribute to all those involved in bringing this project to fruition.”