National Lottery funding helps secure future of historic bridge

Union Chain Bridge

Published: Wednesday, 18th September 2019

The future of the oldest operational suspension bridge in the world has been secured.

The Union Chain Bridge has received £3.14million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to allow a major programme of repairs to get underway early next year.

In addition, the successful bid to The National Lottery Heritage Fund means a comprehensive programme of community engagement and education activities will now get underway designed to celebrate and explore the bridge’s historical and engineering importance, and potentially boost local tourism.

Royal visit

The success was celebrated today with a visit to the bridge by His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester.

Funding bid

The funding bid was put together following serious concerns about the condition of the structure. Along with ourselves, the bid was put together by:

  • Northumberland County Council (NCC)
  • Museums Northumberland
  • community group Friends of the Union Chain Bridge

Both councils have committed match funding totalling £3.4m towards the scheme, with other fundraising activities continuing to be progressed by the Friends of Union Chain Bridge in support of the project.

Development funding bid

Find out about the previous funding bid we submitted.

Pledge you support

Anyone willing to get involved in this exciting project by pledging your support or becoming a volunteer can visit Union Bridge Friends website.

David Renwick, Director, England: North, The National Lottery Heritage Fund

“Not only have National Lottery players secured the future of the iconic structure that is the Union Chain Bridge, but the money they have raised will also strengthen connections between communities in Northumberland and the Scottish Borders.

“We are delighted that through a programme of ambitious activities, our funding will provide exciting opportunities for people to explore the heritage and stories of the Union Chain Bridge, and hopefully inspire a new generation of engineers from communities on both sides of the Bridge.

“It is heartening for us to see that two of the cross-border local authorities involved in Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal – Northumberland County Council and the Scottish Borders Council – working together on this wonderful heritage scheme that will improve transport links and connectivity for the area extending across the Scotland-England border, and in turn we hope to see economic growth of the area increase further.”

Councillor Glen Sanderson, Cabinet Member for Environment and Local Services with NCC

“We are absolutely delighted to have secured this funding after two years of hard work to get to this point.

“We submitted an extremely comprehensive second round submission and we knew we were up against strong competition but were quietly confident of a positive result.

“This bridge is known and loved not just locally, but nationally and internationally and we’ve had support from across the world since we started on this submission.

“The successful bid shows the benefits of close working between ourselves, Museums Northumberland, the Friends of Union Chain Bridge and our colleagues in Scottish Borders Council in creating a unique, exciting and substantial cross-border, cross-council venture.”

Councillor Gordon Edgar, Executive Member for Roads and Infrastructure

“This is a momentous day in the 200 year history of the Union Chain Bridge.

“Not only is the future of the bridge now secured, but our partnership project will now take forward a number of initiatives which will aim to bring numerous culture, heritage and community benefits, and could prove a catalyst for the local tourism industry.

“The support of The National Lottery Heritage Fund has made this possible – without it, we would likely have seen the condition of the bridge decline further.

“We will be reaching out to the local communities and schools as part of the public engagement element of the project in the coming months, which will include volunteer recruitment and a new digital presence.

“In the meantime, we would appeal to anyone interested in supporting this ambitious and exciting project to get in touch with the Friends of the Union Chain Bridge.”

Robert Hunter, Chair of the Friends of the Union Chain Bridge

“We are all thrilled that The National Lottery Heritage Fund has made such a substantial grant to save this much loved and iconic piece of our engineering history.

“When it was completed in 1820, the Union Chain Bridge was the world’s longest suspension bridge and it provided the catalyst for huge innovation in bridge design.

“I was reminded of this at our recent ceremony to mark the bicentenary of the laying of the foundation stone, when we received congratulatory messages from a number of bridges around the world. These included the Clifton and Menai bridges in the UK and the Akashi Bridge in Japan, which is the current the holder of the world’s longest suspension bridge.

“I am enormously grateful to our Friends, NCC, SBC and Museums Northumberland who have worked incredibly hard get to this outcome.

“Together with our other funders we are not only going to restore the bridge but deliver a really exciting project of community events, which will allow all of us to be incredibly proud of this great structure.”

Rowan Brown, Chief Executive of Museums Northumberland

“We’re delighted that working with our local authority partners and the Friends of the Union Chain Bridge we have been able to secure National Lottery support to preserve and celebrate this incredible heritage monument.

“We will use it as the catalyst for embedding science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and heritage skills across our communities on both sides of the border.”

Further Information

Images from today’s Royal visit are available on our Flickr page.

Drone footage of the Union Chain Bridge is available on NCC’s YouTube channel.

About The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. Find out more on the Heritage Fund website.

Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund