World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Union Bridge (Tweed)

Article Id: WHEBN0002008706
Reproduction Date:

Title: Union Bridge (Tweed)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Anglo-Scottish border, Suspension bridge, River Tweed, Grade I listed buildings in Northumberland, 1820 in science
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Union Bridge (Tweed)

Union Bridge
Union Bridge
Union Bridge viewed from Scotland
Official name Union Bridge
Other name(s) Chain Bridge
Carries 1 lane of roadway
Crosses River Tweed
Locale Northumberland and Scottish Borders
Maintained by Northumberland County Council
Design Suspension bridge
Width 5.5 metres (18 ft)
Longest span 129 metres (423 ft)
Opened 26 July 1820

The Union Bridge (also Union Chain Suspension Bridge and Union Chain Bridge[1]) is a suspension bridge that spans the River Tweed between Horncliffe, Northumberland, England and Fishwick, Berwickshire, Scotland. It forms one route crossing the Anglo-Scottish border. When it opened in 1820 it was the longest wrought iron suspension bridge in the world with a span of 137 metres (449 ft), and the first vehicular bridge of its type in United Kingdom.

Although work started on the Menai Suspension Bridge first, Union Bridge was completed earlier. Today it is the oldest suspension bridge still carrying road traffic. It lies on Sustrans Route 1 and the Pennine Cycleway.

With the abolition of turnpike tolls in 1883, maintenance of the bridge passed to the Tweed Bridges Trust. When the Trust was wound up, the bridge became the responsibility of Scottish Borders Council and Northumberland County Council and it is now maintained by the County Council.[2] The bridge is a Category A listed building in Scotland[3] and a Grade I listed building in England. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument in both countries.

Before the opening of the Union Bridge, crossing the river at this point involved an 11-mile (18 km) round trip via Berwick-upon-Tweed downstream or a 20-mile (32 km) trip via Coldstream upstream. (Ladykirk and Norham Bridge did not open until 1888.)

Design and construction

The bridge was designed by a Royal Navy officer, Captain Samuel Brown. Brown's first design for the bridge was prepared in 1817, and reviewed by the eminent civil engineer John Rennie. Brown had built an experimental suspension bridge with a span of 110 feet (34 m), which impressed Rennie. Nonetheless, Rennie asked for changes to the design of the stone abutments and towers.

Brown would have been familiar with the fact that a wooden sailing ship is not totally rigid, and designed the bridge on the same basis. Originally the deck was supported by three chains of iron bar links on each side. In 1902 a pair of wire rope cables was added. The decking is of timber and the whole structure is designed to flex slightly under load. Traffic is now limited to one vehicle on the bridge at a time.

The bridge proposal received consent in July 1819, using an Act of Parliament that had been passed in 1802, and construction began on 2 August 1819. It opened on 26 July the following year, with an opening ceremony attended by the celebrated civil engineer Robert Stevenson among others. Captain Brown tested the bridge in a curricle towing twelve carts, before a crowd of about 700 spectators crossed. The final cost was £6,449. Until 1885, tolls were charged for crossing the bridge; the toll cottage, being at the English end, was demolished in 1955.


Temporary replacement hanger.

In addition to the 1902 addition of cables, the bridge has been strengthened and refurbished on many occasions. The bridge deck was substantially renewed in 1871, and again in 1974, with the chains reinforced at intervals throughout its life.

The bridge was closed to motor vehicles for several months during 2007. A newspaper report available online (see external links) indicates that the closure happened shortly before 12 April 2007 and was due to one of the bridge hangers breaking. The affected hanger has temporarily been replaced with threaded bar to allow the bridge to reopen to motor vehicles.

In December 2008 the bridge was closed to traffic as a result of a landslide.[1] In March 2013 it was reported that the bridge was proposed to be closed because of a lack of funds to maintain it.[4] However, in October 2014, it was reported that local enthusiasts and activists had started a campaign to have the bridge fully restored in time for its bicentenary in 2020.[5]


  1. ^ a b "Bridge is closed due to landslide". BBC News. 6 December 2008. Retrieved 26 May 2010. 
  2. ^ Friends of the Union Chain Bridge website - History
  3. ^ "Listed Building Report". 9 June 1971. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  4. ^ "Union Bridge on Border crossing set to close - Scotland -".  
  5. ^ Bid to save Union Chain Bridge for bicentenary - The Scotsman
  • Drewry, Charles Stewart (1832). A Memoir of Suspension Bridges: Comprising The History Of Their Origin And Progress, Section III. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green & Longman. pp. 37–41. Retrieved 13 June 2009. 
  • Miller, G. (2006) "Union Chain Bridge – Linking Engineering", Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Civil Engineering, 159 (2), p. 88–95, doi:10.1680/cien.2006.159.2.88
  • Paxton, R. and Ruddock, T. (1980) A heritage of bridges between Edinburgh, Kelso and Berwick , Edinburgh : Institution of Civil Engineers, Edinburgh and East of Scotland Association, 36 p., No ISBN

External links

  • The website of the Friends of the Union Chain Bridge.
  • Photos of the bridge on BBC Tyne
  • Chain Bridge House page – note their comments about the effects of wind.
  • The Tweed Bridges Trust continues to receive special mention in The Transport Levying Bodies Regulations.
  • Information from the Structural Images of the North East (SINE) project, University of Newcastle upon Tyne.
  • Union Bridge at Structurae
  • Archived photos Articles of interest around Berwick Upon Tweed, including Union Bridge
  • Report of the closure of the bridge shortly before 12 April 2007
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.