Chain Bridge built by Eyemouth man

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An article in the Berwickshire News concerned repair work to the Chain Bridge. This historic bridge was designed and built by one of the most famous inhabitants of Berwickshire.

Captain Sir Samuel Brown, KH, FRSE of Netherbyres (1776-1852) was the eldest son of William Brown of Borland, Galloway. He joined the Royal Navy in 1795 and was commissioned in 1800, serving in various ships. As first lieutenant in HMS Phoenix he took part in the capture of the French frigate Didon off Cape Finisterre in 1805. He was promoted Commander in 1811 and retired from the Royal Navy in 1812.

While serving in the navy he carried out tests on wrought iron chain cables, using them as rigging on HMS Penelope in 1806 during a voyage to the West Indies. In 1808 Brown took out patents for twisted open chain links joining shackles and swivels used for the next 100 years.

Following retirement from the navy he set up several companies making chains and anchors. In 1816 the Admiralty standardised the use of chain in place of hemp on all new vessels. His company made chain for the Royal Navy until 1916. There is a famous photograph of Brunel standing in front of the chain produced by Brown on SS Great Eastern.

He took out further patents for chain making in 1816 and wrought iron chain links in 1817. These were suitable for a suspension bridge. Brown built an experimental 32m span test structure in 1813.

In 1818 he prepared drawings for the Union Bridge over the River Tweed and the bridge was completed in 1820, which cost between £7,000 and £8,000 - a quarter of the cost of a masonry bridge. It was the first large vehicular suspension bridge in Britain and remains the earliest surviving carriage suspension bridge in the UK still in vehicular use.

Its length is 110 metres and weight 100 tons. A freestone masonry arch stands on the Scottish side. The platform of the bridge was wood plated iron connected to the principle chains by upright iron rods. There are three sets of iron link chains each side. The bridge was strengthened by J.A. Bean in 1902-3. The span of these chains is 133 metres, Thomas Telford modified his design of the Menia Bridge to incorporate Brown’s ideas.

Brown married Mary Horne, the daughter of an Edinburgh solicitor in 1822. In the 1830s Brown bought Netherbyres in Eyemouth. He demolished the existing house and built the present house c 1836. He sold Netherbyres a few days before his death in 1852.

There is a museum in Brighton commemorating Captain Brown. Sadly in Berwickshire we only have the Union Bridge, or to locals the Chain Bridge.