200 years young: Union Chain Bridge gets a refurb

22/07/2020
Dominic Browne

Leading engineering specialist Spencer Group is set to begin work next month to refurbish and rebuild one of the world’s oldest suspension bridges.

A programme of essential works is planned to preserve the 200-year-old Union Chain Bridge linking England and Scotland, which was the longest wrought iron suspension bridge in the world when it opened in 1820.

The structure has a single span of 449ft (137m) over the River Tweed from Horncliffe in Northumberland to Fishwick in Berwickshire and is credited with being an influence on the design of later famous structures including the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

 

The Union Chain Bridge remains the world’s oldest suspension bridge still carrying traffic and is both a Grade I listed building in England and a Grade A listed building in Scotland.

Hull-based Spencer Group was appointed by Northumberland County Council to dismantle the bridge and carry out a complete refurbishment and rebuild to mark its bicentenary.

All modifications must remain in keeping with the historical significance of the original bridge - for example the works will need to restore, rather than replace, the existing suspension chains and using the same type of stone to repair masonry work on the bridge’s two towers.

Spencer Group managing director Gary Thornton said: 'It’s both a pleasure and a privilege to have been given the responsibility to preserve this precious structure for future generations.

'We will be bringing many years of accumulated knowledge and expertise to this project, from working on iconic bridges across the UK and Europe.'

The project will involve extensive works, including:

  • removing the entire timber bridge deck and laying a new deck, using timber sustainably sourced from managed woodland
  • restoring the chains to their original strength, with links repaired instead of replaced wherever possible. Every link and chain that can be repaired will go back in its original place
  • refurbishing the towers using sandstone from the same nearby quarry as used originally to match the colour and geological characteristics, along with the same type of mortar

Spencer Group will also remodel the English and Scottish approach roads to incorporate parking for visitors to the bridge, which is accessible to both vehicles and pedestrians and is a popular tourist attraction.

Joe DiMauro, off-site project manager for Spencer Group, said: 'The Union Chain Bridge was the first of its kind in the world when it was built and needs to be maintained for perpetuity because it is such an iconic structure.

'It has been in place for 200 years and this work will ensure it will remain for another 200. Our challenge is to make the bridge as good as new, while not changing its appearance and retaining the key original parts, such as the chains and links, that make it unique and of such historical importance.'

The project is expected to take 16 months to complete, with the bridge inaccessible for around a year. During this period, drivers will be redirected by a short diversion.

The Union Chain Bridge is only accessible to one vehicle at a time due to its restricted width and currently has a weight restriction of two tonnes. Following the restoration and rebuild, the weight restriction will be increased to three tonnes.

Amid growing concerns about the condition of the famous structure, a funding bid was submitted to the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) by Northumberland County Council, Scottish Borders Council, Museums Northumberland and community group Friends of the Union Chain Bridge.

The Union Chain Bridge in numbers:

  • 200 years old.
  • 449ft (137m) single span.
  • 444 chain rods.
  • 31 tonnes of wrought iron chains.
  • 800 cast iron chain pins.
  • 170 wrought iron hangers.

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue

Inside

  • The £2.5bn Surrey partnering contract
  • The politics of protest
  • Stoke's roadworks league
View the latest issue


Highways jobs

Assistant Director for Environment

£87,600 - £93,600
To help us achieve our transformation we are introducing an updated business plan, and a revised senior structure with... Wiltshire
Recruiter: Wiltshire Council

Assistant Highway Manager

£35,745 - £43,857 per annum plus £2,000 per annum Market Forces Payment
We are looking for enthusiastic and pro-active individuals to join the service who are articulate communicators and have strong negotiation skills. Hertford, Hertfordshire
Recruiter: Hertfordshire County Council

Highways Locality Manager

£43,857 - £46,845 per annum plus £3,000 Market Forces Supplement per annum
We are looking for an enthusiastic and pro-active individual to join the service who is an articulate communicator and has strong negotiation skills. Hertford, Hertfordshire
Recruiter: Hertfordshire County Council

Senior Drainage Asset Manager

£43,857 - £46,845 per annum plus £2,000 per annum Market Forces Supplement
As Senior Drainage Asset Manager your focus will mainly be on helping develop our emerging Drainage Strategy. Hertford, Hertfordshire
Recruiter: Hertfordshire County Council

Engineer Project Manager, Drainage

£32,234 - £43,857 per annum + £2,000 per annum Market Forces Payment
As an Engineering Project Manager your focus will mainly be on emerging drainage issues as they relate to the Public Highway. Hertford, Hertfordshire
Recruiter: Hertfordshire County Council

Transport Development Officer

£39,880 - £43,857 per annum
A flexible working offer that allows you to have a true work/life balance. Northallerton, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: North Yorkshire County Council

Recycling Manager

£41,952 - £48,663
The position sits within the North London Waste Authority’s (NLWA’s) Strategy and Services team, managing... Camden, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Camden London Borough Council

Traffic Management Officer - Carlisle

£31.346 - £32.234
This role involves working within the traffic team liaising with members of the public and councillors agreeing and... Cumbria
Recruiter: Cumbria County Council

Street Lighting Operatives

£22,183 - £23,080
We are looking for the right candidates to join our team as Street Lighting Operatives. Workington, Cumbria
Recruiter: Cumbria County Council

Senior Engineer Structures - Asset Management & Inspection

£37,890 - £40,876
Join the successful structures team who have won a number of awards. Yate
Recruiter: South Gloucestershire Council

Senior Engineer Structures - Design & Assessment

£37,890 - £40,876
Join the successful structures team who have won a number of awards. Yate
Recruiter: South Gloucestershire Council

Engineer Structures x2 Posts

£33,782 - £36,922
Working in the structures team, you will be a vital team member. Yate
Recruiter: South Gloucestershire Council

Engineering Manager

£46,756 - £54,238 per annum
The Engineering Manager is a key member of the service management team within CATS and plays a... Camden, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Camden London Borough Council

Local Highway Officer

£22,183 - £32,234
The Local Highway Officer role is based in the Highway Service. Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
Recruiter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Environmental Health/Environmental Protection Officer - Noise

£41,607.00 - £44,598.00
This post attracts an essential car user allowance. The post holder is able to take part in the Council's flexible working scheme. Tower Hamlets, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Tower Hamlets London Borough Council

Engineering Manager

£46,756 - £54,238 per annum
The Engineering Team is responsible for the management of the Council’s fleet of vehicles (circa 330), ensuring... Camden, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Camden London Borough Council

Street Care Operative

Grade 3 - Starting at £18,657 per annum, rising to £19,905
The Council’s Street Care service is responsible for the cleanliness of the whole borough and undertake a range of street cleaning and street care ... Chelmsford, Essex
Recruiter: Chelmsford City Council

Neighbourhood Highways Officers (Western Team)

£28,672 - £32,234 per annum
We are seeking to recruit two Neighbourhood Highways Officers, to be based in Okehampton. Devon
Recruiter: Devon County Council

Demand Responsive Transport Officer

£32,234 pa - £34,728 pa
The role sits within the Integrated Transport Unit. Hertfordshire
Recruiter: Hertfordshire County Council

Head of Highways

£68,640 - £76,148 per annum
We are absolutely delighted to announce that Cheshire West and Chester are looking for a Head of Highways. Chester, Cheshire
Recruiter: Cheshire West & Chester

Highways Presents

Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Video