Link between England and Scotland cut for first time in 200 years as bridge restoration work hits milestone

A physical connection between England and Scotland has been cut for the first time in 200 years as a £10.5m bridge restoration project reaches a symbolic stage.

By Ian Smith
Thursday, 11th March 2021, 12:10 pm

Full restoration of the Union Chain Bridge began last October and now work is starting on the final stage of its removal – to take down the main chains of the bridge which supported the deck.

The 12 chains, which in total are around 2,000 metres long, will be taken down over the course of six weeks, leaving nothing but the River Tweed separating the two countries.

The painstaking work to refurbish the bridge will then begin as it slowly starts to take shape again. It’s due to re-open early next year.

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The Union Chain Bridge spanning the border between England and Scotland.

The removal of the last section of bridge is an emotional milestone for those who live nearby.

Heather Thompson, who lives near the bridge on the north side, said: “We've watched with interest from the Scottish side as we can walk along from Paxton House.

“It feels very momentous, given that we hoped for this restoration for so long and it will be strange when the bridge is gone.”

Tommy Cockburn, who lives in Horncliffe on the English side, added: “The bridge has been a hidden gem and adds a spectacular view to our countryside. The past 12 months have been a strange and difficult time.

The decking has been removed from the Union Chain Bridge, pictured from the English side. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

“Our bridge has gone now as the restoration project has begun and it is such a miss not being there. The views are not the same and our nearest link to Scotland has gone.”

Built in 1820 by Captain Samuel Brown, the Union Chain Bridge is the oldest operational chain suspension bridge in the world still carrying vehicles.

Cllr Glen Sanderson, leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “This is a truly historic stage of the project – the first time in more than 200 years there’s been no crossing between the two countries at this point.

“But while there may be no physical connection the bond between the communities on both sides of the river remains as strong as ever and it won’t be long before we start to rebuild this great link that connects England and Scotland.”

The Union Chain Bridge viewed from the Scottish side. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

The project team are recruiting archival research volunteers to help uncover the untold stories of the bridge. Visit

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Pictured on the bridge before Covid 19 restrictions are Carol Whinnom, Museums Northumberland; Cllr Gordon Edgar, Scottish Borders Council; Glen Smithson, Spencer Group; Cllr Glen Sanderson, Northumberland County Council; and Robbie Hunter, Friends of Union Chain Bridge.