Union Chain Bridge’s £5m restoration

The Union Chain Bridge at Horncliffe is the oldest vehicular suspension bridge in the world.
The Union Chain Bridge at Horncliffe is the oldest vehicular suspension bridge in the world.

Momentum is building for the Union Chain Bridge at Horncliffe to be fully restored by its 200th anniversary in 2020.

Northumberland County Council and Scottish Borders Council are joint proprietors of the bridge, one of the region’s most historic engineering landmarks, and they have each committed £550,000 towards the £5.06 million cost of refurbishing the bridge.

Michael Cook

Michael Cook

The Friends of the Union Chain Bridge are applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help finance the project and the outcome will be known by the late summer. The Heritage Lottery Fund have indicated support for the project due to its substantial heritage value, its international significance and the educational opportunities that can be achieved through a potential project.

The current project estimate is £5.643m to deliver refurbishment of the bridge (£5.06 million) and the Heritage Lottery Fund requirements for culture/heritage and education (£490,000), and £84,000 development costs.

Spence and Dower, conservation architects, have been appointed to ensure all plans and designs meet listed building requirements and to ensure the unique character of the bridge is preserved for future generations.

The bridge was an engineering wonder when it was completed in 1820, being the longest suspension bridge in the world, and it holds the title to this day as the oldest vehicular suspension bridge in the world.

Scottish Borders Council’s executive agreed this week that a report should be presented to council prior to submission of the Stage 2 Heritage lottery Fund in May 2018, to approve final budgets and the delivery programme.

East Berwickshire Councillor Michael Cook said: “Alongside our friends and neighbours at Northumberland County Council, Scottish Borders Council is committed to supporting the Union Chain Bridge project.

“The bridge is important on a practical level in linking families, friends, and neighbours across the Tweed, and is symbolically significant as a reflection of our shared culture and history.

“The Friends of the Union Chain Bridge have done an excellent job in galvanising support and enhancing the project’s prospects of success.”

Robert Hunter, chairman of the Friends of the Union Chain Bridge added: “At last we are building up momentum for the restoration of the bridge in time for its 200th anniversary.

“If we are successful in obtaining HLF funding this will be one of the most important restoration projects in the region, preserving a unique piece of our engineering heritage and providing impetus for developing a tremendous educational and tourist asset, as well as keeping us connected with our friends both sides of the Tweed.”

Councillor Ian Swithenbank, cabinet member for local services at Northumberland County Council, said: “The Union Chain Bridge is an iconic structure, both in terms of its engineering significance and its role in connecting the two communities either side of the Tweed.

“It is right we do everything we can to conserve the bridge for future generations and to ensure it continues to serve those who live on both sides of the border.”

The refurbishment of the bridge includes: strengthening of anchorages; replacement of deck timbers; replacement of coupling links; replacing hangers; repairs to masonry; re-painting; alterations to handrail (to improve safety); car parking at either end; site interpretation and signage; community event programme; research; education workshops; interpretative leaflet and website.