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Mon June 27 2022

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Union Chain Bridge reassembly begins

17 Feb The nations of England and Scotland have been re-connected over a stretch of the Tweed as the Union Chain Bridge starts to go back up.

Suspension chains are strung back out
Suspension chains are strung back out

The 201-year-old suspension bridge between Horncliffe in Northumberland and Fishwick in Berwickshire is being thoroughly refurbished, stripped out and put back together afresh.

Spencer Group has been appointed by Northumberland County Council to dismantle the bridge and carry out a complete £10.5m refurbishment and rebuild.

After a lengthy process of dismantling, inspection and repair, work is now under way on the re-erection of the main suspension chains.

Putting the chains back up is slow work. In total there are 2,000 metres 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.

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

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How the bridge looked before the refurbishment began
How the bridge looked before the refurbishment began

Restoration of the structure began in October 2020 and Spencer team spent last autumn inspecting, repairing and refurbishing all the components that made up the bridge after it was dismantled.

It is expected that the reconstruction and restoration works will continue for several months, with the 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 fulfil its main purpose and everyone involved with the project is delighted to see the bridge once again taking shape.”

 Scottish Borders councillor Gordon Edgar said: “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.”

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