Contractor appointed to restore Union Chain Bridge

Work on the restoration of a 200-year-old bridge linking Scotland and England is set to begin next month after the appointment of the main works contractor.

Spencer Group will carry out a major programme of repairs on the Union Chain Bridge over the River Tweed.

Coronavirus restrictions meant the main works contract has been delayed but with restrictions now being relaxed, Spencer Group can now start on site in August, with social distancing and additional hygiene measures being followed by the contractor and project team. 

A successful £3.14 million bid to The National Lottery Heritage Fund September 2019 included a comprehensive programme of community engagement and education activities which will also take place to celebrate and explore the bridge’s historical and engineering importance, and aims to boost local tourism along the River Tweed corridor.

The funding bid was put together by Northumberland County Council, Scottish Borders Council, Museums Northumberland and community group Friends of the Union Chain Bridge, following serious concerns about the condition of the famous structure.

Both councils have committed match funding totalling £5.7m towards the £10.5m project, with other fundraising activities continuing to be progressed by the Friends of Union Chain Bridge.

Gary Thornton, managing director of Spencer Group, said: “We’re delighted and honoured to have been selected to carry out such an important project and to have been given the responsibility to restore this precious structure for future generations.

“We appreciate fully the historical significance of the Union Chain Bridge and will be dedicated to giving it a new lease of life, while being meticulous in our work to retain its heritage.”

Northumberland County Councillor Glen Sanderson said: “This is a truly great project which must be the largest and most ambitious cross border and cross council joint endeavour ever. 

“It’s particularly good to be working with the Friends group along with other organisations for whose support and expertise we are most grateful.”

Scottish Borders Councillor Gordon Edgar said: “This is another hugely positive step forward for such an important project.

“We’re now looking forward to work starting as the next chapter in the Union Chain Bridge’s unique history gets underway.”

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

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