Bid to save historic bridge is launched

Heahter Robson of The Honey Farm standing on the Honey Chain Bridge.
Heahter Robson of The Honey Farm standing on the Honey Chain Bridge.

A push for the full restoration of the historic Union Chain Bridge in time for its bicentenary in 2020 has been launched.

More than 70 people attended a meeting in Horncliffe Village Hall on Wednesday to formally launch the Union Chain Bridge Friends, the organisation behind the bid.

The Union Chain Bridge, spanning the Tweed between Horncliffe in England and Fishwick in Scotland, was the first large-scale suspension bridge in the world, so it has great engineering significance, as well as being a magnificent feature and a valuable local transport link.

However, after 200 years of wear and corrosion the old structure urgently needs major restoration. The estimated cost of the work is about £5 m.

The formal launch of the Chain Bridge Friends followed preliminary discussions at Paxton House in June.

The new organisation has already signed up 230 members and started negotiations with Northumberland County Council, Scottish Borders Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland and English Heritage.

Northumberland County Council is the lead authority for the Chain Bridge and responsibility is shared with Scottish Borders Council. James Fell, the heritage manager for Northumberland and Martin Joyce, the capital projects officer for the Scottish Borders attended the meeting.

Mr Fell reported that his council was budgeting up to £500,000 and that both councils had already commissioned consultants to prepare a bid for lottery funding to be lodged in January.

A board of trustees was elected, chaired by Heather Thompson and including representatives from Paxton & Hutton Community Council and Horncliffe Parish Council.

Heather said: “We are looking forward to working with the two local authorities and other agencies to get the Union Chain Bridge properly restored as a major feature of British engineering history; as a potentially valuable tourist attraction; and as an iconic feature of the Union between Scotland and England. We are going to do everything in our power to campaign to achieve that objective for the bicentenary year in 2020”.