Historic figure overseeing final stages of bridge work
A stunning sculpture of the man who designed the famous Union Chain Bridge over 200 years ago is now overseeing the final stages of work on the project.
The life-size model of Captain Samuel Brown, cast in bronze and sat on a block of Hutton sandstone, has taken up residence on the English side of the bridge as painting and handrail work is finalised.
Captain Samuel Brown was a British Royal Navy officer who designed innovative cables for ships made from iron chains.
His factories making these chains were so successful that he became the sole supplier of iron chains to the Navy for a century. He applied his new ideas to civil engineering and, in 1818-19, proposed a suspension bridge design over the River Tweed, which included the use of another of his innovations: wrought-iron eye-bar chains and links.
Brown’s design was chosen and the bridge opened on 26th July 1820, after taking less than a year to build.
The pioneering suspension engineering meant that the total cost of the build was £7,700 – about one third of the cost of a stone bridge and four times longer than would have been practicable as a single span in stone.
Thomas Telford used Brown’s ideas for his famous Menai Straits Bridge and Brown’s design influenced the likes of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, designer of the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Brown’s patented iron chain link designs were soon taken up for bridges the world over.
Over 200 years later, and following completion of the restoration, the bridge will be reopened to pedestrians, cyclists and cars, with a separate celebration event also planned in the summer to showcase the whole project, covering both the refurbishment works and all of the community engagement and education activities.
Northumberland County Council Cabinet Member for Local Services John Riddle said: “The sculpture of Captain Brown looks fantastic and it seems quite apt he is watching over the final stages of this fantastic bridge he designed over 200 years ago.
“I’m sure he would have been fascinated by some of the techniques and equipment being used today as we near completion of this very technical but hugely rewarding project.”
Councillor John Greenwell, Scottish Borders Council’s Executive Member for Roads Development and Maintenance, said: “Recognising Captain Brown and his incredible work at the conclusion of this project is very fitting.
“Thanks to the refurbishment work this sculpture will hopefully overlook the bridge and all those it will carry for centuries to come.”
Robbie Hunter from the Friends of the Union Chain Bridge group said: “The erection of the statue of Captain Brown marks the near completion of the restoration of the Union Chain Bridge. It is highly appropriate to remember this pioneering engineer in such a way."
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.
Helen Featherstone, Director England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “As we get closer to the reopening of the feat of engineering that is the Union Chain Bridge, it is apt that the sculpture of Captain Brown is being installed to celebrate the brilliance of his design for the structure.
“Along with the fantastic STEM activities that have been able to support as part of the project, the new sculpture is sure to serve as inspiration for the next generation of engineers.”
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.