Over a year ago, we reported how Northumberland’s Union Chain Bridge was due to close for repairs worth £360k. That closure in January and the grant permitting it took place thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Reopening towards the end of February, enthusiasts and managers of the historic bridge’s structure knew that was not the end of the matter. The bridge required much more work. Now, thanks to a much larger grant, further upgrades will take place next year. The Victorian bridge spanning the River Tweed, linking Scotland and England, has a secure future.
What Next for Northumberland’s Union Chain Bridge?
With over £3m from the HLF, £3.4m from Scottish Borders Council & Northumberland County Council, and charitable funds from Friends of Union Chain Bridge, major repairs will get underway from early 2020. In recent years, the bridge permitted the passing over of just one vehicle at a time.
Why is Northumberland’s Chain Bridge called a Chain Bridge? When built in the 1820s to suspension bridge technology, it actually used chains. Those chains were eventually replaced with high tensile cables for greater strength in carrying motor vehicles. At the time of construction, it carried nothing heavier than horses and carriages.
Many locals on both sides of the border feel that the lack of permissible two-way traffic has strangled the local economy. Larger vehicles choose to drive farther along the river to find another bridge, bypassing the area entirely. Not only is Northumberland’s Union Chain Bridge a historic icon, it’s also an economic necessity. Locals expect the bridge will become a major tourist destination, drawing people from across the country to marvel at the architecture and surrounding countryside. To that end, the bridge managers will use some of the funds for local outreach to school groups and local tourism.