Union Chain Bridge restoration honoured

Published: 10th July 2023

The world-famous Union Chain Bridge connecting England and Scotland has been recognised by some of the world’s leading engineering organisations.

Bridge recognised with international award 

Restoration of the 202-year-old structure, the oldest vehicle suspension bridge in the world was completed in April after every single piece was removed, checked and restored or replaced before being carefully reassembled.

Now, a delegation of leading engineers from around the world have visited the bridge to help unveil a special plaque on the Scottish side of the structure, celebrating the bridge as an ‘International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark’.

The sponsors of the prestigious award are the Institution of Civil Engineers (UK) (ICE), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the Japanese Society of Civil Engineers, together with the Patron of Friends of the Union Chain Bridge, Professor Dr Roland Paxton.

Other engineering landmarks that have previously received the honour include the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia and the Eiffel Tower.  

The plaque was originally to have been unveiled in July 2020, to coincide with the bridge’s 200th birthday, but the global pandemic put paid to any such events.

Restoration details 

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.

The ambitious funding bid was put together by ourselves, Northumberland County Council, Museums Northumberland and community group Friends of the Union Chain Bridge, following serious concerns about the long-term future of the world-famous structure.

Both councils committed match funding towards the scheme, with other fundraising activities progressed by the Friends of Union Chain Bridge in support of the project.

The restoration, which spanned not only two countries but also a global pandemic and the extremes of the British weather, combined state of the art technical engineering and techniques used in Alpine ski resorts, with traditional workmanship used when the bridge was first built.

And as well as conserving the historic structure, the project team also developed a comprehensive programme of community engagement and education activities throughout the course of the project. 

Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive at The National Lottery Heritage Fund:

“The Union Chain Bridge is a testament to the UK’s remarkable industrial heritage, and it is fantastic that after more than 200 years this amazing structure, which connects Scotland and England, and has a shared heritage significance for both countries, is now being celebrated internationally.

“We are thrilled that the Heritage Fund, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, was able to support the painstaking and innovative restoration project to secure the bridge’s future ensuring it is valued, cared for and sustained for everyone’s future.

“We are also delighted that our funding also supported an exciting programme of community engagement and education activities, that we hope to see inspire the next generation of engineering enthusiasts to continue to build on this fascinating heritage.”

Northumberland County Council Leader Glen Sanderson:

"It is always a pleasure to return to the bridge and we’re delighted to have guests from around the world at the unveiling of this beautiful plaque, which quite rightly underlines its importance.”

Councillor John Greenwell, Executive Member for Roads Development & Maintenance at Scottish Borders Council:

“The Union Chain Bridge is a symbolic link between England and Scotland and as the world’s oldest vehicle suspension bridge has a global significance.

“This award is very welcome indeed in recognising its historical significance and the feats of engineering that have made this restoration possible.”

Martha Andrews, from Friends of the Union Chain Bridge:

‘We are delighted that the bridge, which is so greatly valued by our members, has been awarded such an important accolade.”