Countries connected again as bridge rebuild starts 



The nations of England and Scotland are once again connected over a stretch of the Tweed as the Union Chain Bridge starts to go back up.

After a lengthy process to dismantle the crossing point, inspect, repair, refurbish and replace the bridge’s components, work is now underway on the re-erection of the main suspension chains.

Putting the chains back up is painstaking work. In total there are 1.1/4 miles of steel and the first chain was hauled out over a three-day period to re-connect the two countries at this point.

The coming weeks will see the erection of the remaining 11 chains before work starts on re-installing the deck hangers before starting to rebuild the bridge deck.

Restoration of the 201-year-old structure, the oldest vehicle suspension bridge in the world, got underway in October 2020 and teams of engineers spent last autumn inspecting, repairing and refurbishing all the components that made up the bridge after it was dismantled.

It is anticipated that the reconstruction and restoration works will continue for several months, with the famous bridge reopening for use in late Spring 2022.

Northumberland County Council Cabinet Member for Local Services John Riddle said: “This is yet another milestone and a very welcome one – to finally see this famous structure start to be put back together.

“We’ve worked hard to retain as many of the original parts as is possible while also ensuring the bridge is able to fulfill its main purpose and everyone involved with the project is delighted to see the bridge once again taking shape.”

Councillor Gordon Edgar, Scottish Borders Council’s Executive Member for Infrastructure, Travel and Transport, said: “It is fantastic to see the project reach this stage and the bridge be pieced back to together.

“The restoration of the Union Chain Bridge is a hugely important project, reinstating a key crossing point between the Scottish Borders and Northumberland and protecting this historic structure for many, many years to come.”

Rowan Brown, Chief Executive of Museums Northumberland, added: “'It's wonderful to see the return of this internationally-renowned engineering monument.

“We're grateful to our partners for their agility and commitment, and wish to encourage audiences at home and abroad to marvel at their progress by watching our drone updates online.”

The structure which is a key transport link between Scotland and England and received £3.14million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund in September 2019.

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

The ambitious funding bid was put together by Northumberland County Council, Scottish Borders Council, Museums Northumberland and community group Friends of the Union Chain Bridge, following serious concerns about the condition of the world-famous structure.

Both councils committed match funding totalling £5.7m towards the £10.5m scheme, with other fundraising activities continuing to be progressed by the Friends of Union Chain Bridge in support of the project.

As well as conserving the historic structure, the project team has also developed a comprehensive programme of community engagement and education activities.