The Union Chain Bridge is open!
The world-famous Union Chain Bridge connecting England and Scotland has re-opened after its painstaking restoration restored it to its original glory.
Restoration of the 202-year-old structure, the oldest vehicle suspension bridge in the world, got underway in October 2020 and 30 months later every single piece has been removed, checked and restored or replaced before being carefully reassembled.
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.
Both councils committed match funding towards the £10m scheme, with other fundraising activities progressed by the Friends of Union Chain Bridge in support of the project.
The restoration, which spanned not only two countries but also a global pandemic and the extremes of the British weather, combined state of the art technical engineering and techniques used in Alpine ski resorts, with traditional workmanship used when the bridge was first built.
And as well as conserving the historic structure, the project team also developed a comprehensive programme of community engagement and education activities throughout the course of the project.
Northumberland County Council Leader Glen Sanderson said: “This is a fabulous moment for everyone involved with this hugely technical project – to finally see this famous structure in all its glory as it was over 200 years ago.
“This bridge stands as a testament to partnership working and shows what can be achieved when everyone is pulling in the same direction. It’s a glorious structure and I’m sure will be a huge draw to tourists as well as providing a much-needed day to day connection for local communities on both sides of the border.”
Councillor John Greenwell, Executive Member for Roads Development & Maintenance at Scottish Borders Council said: “Seeing the Union Chain Bridge link now re-established is an extremely pleasing moment for everyone involved across this project.
“Years of hard work has gone into making the restoration possible from the Friends group which has long campaigned for the bridge’s preservation, to all the funders, and the project team and skilled workers who have undertaken the careful works to dismantle, repair and reinstate this unique crossing.
“It’s a symbolic link between England and Scotland which has now been protected for many generations to come and I am sure all those involved will feel an incredible sense of pride that this day has come.”
Helen Featherstone, Director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “We are thrilled to see that the iconic Union Chain Bridge has reopened thanks to the dedication and hard work of the project team. It is a ground-breaking feat of engineering and the fact that it remains such a significant landmark, and standout tourist attraction after more than 200 years, is a testament to the UK’s remarkable industrial heritage.
“Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, we are very proud to have invested in this fantastic project. The restoration of the bridge has not only improved transport links and connectivity for the area extending across the Scotland-England border, it is also making a positive impact for local communities and visitors to explore the heritage and stories of this wonderful structure, we are excited to see that continue now the bridge has reopened.”
Rowan Brown, Chief Executive of Museums Northumberland, said: “It’s a delight to see the bridge reopening, and our partners’ hard work come to fruition.
“This project has been the catalyst for intergenerational art, archaeological digs, scientific surveys, and Heritage Heroes, celebrating our STEM heritage, past, present, and future. It’s a real source of pride in our community and a wonderful monument to technological endeavour.”
Robbie Hunter from Friends of the Union Chain Bridge said: “It is a fabulous achievement to see the Union Chain Bridge restored in all its glory in what has been a very challenging project both technically but also carrying out the restoration during Covid pandemic.
“We are extremely grateful to all the project partners, contractors, funders and supporters who have made this project an incredible success. Thanks to the restoration this engineering heritage icon will continue to serve the communities for another 200 years and act as a tremendous catalyst for inspiring the engineers of the future.
“The restoration legacy will last for many years and it has been a fascinating privilege to be part of it.”