Stonemasons brought in to help repair oldest suspension bridge in the world still open to traffic
A North East firm has been appointed to carry out stone restoration work as part of a £10.5million scheme to repair and restore a bridge which links Scotland and England.
Classic Masonry, based in North Shields is working on the 200-year-old Union Chain Bridge, the oldest suspension bridge in the world that is open to traffic.
It is working on behalf of Northumberland County Council and main contractor Spencer Group, who are currently dismantling the bridge so that its individual elements can be inspected, repaired or where necessary replaced, before being painstakingly reconstructed again.
A key part of the scheme entails installing new anchorage points for the steel chains so that the structural integrity of the bridge can be assured for the next 120 years.
Classic Masonry will take apart sections of masonry and also replace defective stone found to the north and south towers of the bridge to enable the new chain anchorages to be installed which will allow them to rebuild the stonework afterwards.
Its high-profile work in the past has included restoration of the High Level Bridge in Newcastle and the Shaken Bridge in North Yorkshire.
Mike Moody, managing director at Classic Masonry, said: “This is a wonderful scheme to be part of and we are absolutely delighted to be working with Northumberland County Council and Spencer Group on such an historic and interesting project - and one that will keep the bridge in use for generations to come.
“As part of the conservation requirements for the work the source of the original stone has been identified and by taking samples from the bridge we have been fortunate to locate a nearby quarry that still has usable stone reserves so that any new masonry will be a perfect match.”
Work has already begun, and Mike and his team will be taking the masonry down piece by piece starting from the Scottish side of the River Tweed.
The bridge will be reconstructed with all of the parts going back in exactly the same location, this is the same for the stone towers, where the masonry will be reinstated in the same place as it was originally.
Classic Masonry is due to complete its role on the project by July.