Historic England grants £250,000 to cross-border bridge repair scheme

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Historic England has awarded £250,000 towards the restoration of the world’s oldest operational vehicular suspension bridge.

Spanning the River Tweed near Berwick, the Union Chain Bridge was built in 1820 and was a major transport link between England and Scotland for two centuries.

Designed by Royal Navy Captain Samuel Brown, the timber bridge deck is suspended by wrought iron chains.

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In Scotland, these pass over a masonry pylon and are anchored to the ground, while on the English side the chains are fixed into the rock face.

Union Chain Bridge.Union Chain Bridge.
Union Chain Bridge.

The grant from Historic England to Northumberland County Council will fund essential repairs to the anchoring mechanisms and masonry attached to the rock face at the English end of the Grade I-listed bridge.

These repairs to the Union Chain Bridge are part of a £10.5m project to regenerate the entire structure.

Funding of £3.14m was secured from The National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2019 and has been supplemented by support from Northumberland County Council, Scottish Borders Council, Museums Northumberland and community group Friends of the Union Chain Bridge.

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In addition to the grant funding, Historic England is contributing to a range of cross-border community development and education activities, celebrating the historical significance and engineering importance of the bridge.

Charles Smith, acting regional director for Historic England in the North East and Yorkshire, said: “The Union Chain Bridge is one of the most majestic and historically important bridges in the North East and Scotland.

"We are proud to be playing a key role in this cross-border restoration project, which will hopefully help secure the bridge’s future for the next 200 years.”

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Cllr Glen Sanderson, cabinet member for environment and local services at Northumberland County Council, added: “We’re delighted by this fantastic contribution from Historic England.

“This bridge means so much to so many people and it’s all down to generous awards such as this we are able to start work on what will be a hugely complex but inspirational restoration scheme.”

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