This was the first major bridge of its kind to be designed for vehicles.  It is also the oldest surviving iron suspension bridge in Europe.  When the bridge was built in 1820 it was the longest iron suspension bridge in the world.

Prior to the building of the bridge, those wishing to cross the River Tweed between Horncliffe on the English side and Paxton on the Scottish side would have to negotiate the New Water Ford.  This could be quite dangerous, especially if there had been a flood or it was high tide.  As industrialisation took hold there was a growing demand to transport coal and lime from north Northumberland into Berwickshire which made it necessary to bridge the river.

The bridge was designed by Captain Samuel Brown, he used a revolutionary technique to suspend the deck using iron bars instead of cables.

A Grand Opening

We take easy transport for granted, but in 1820 a round trip to the other side could take days.   So the opening of the bridge was cause for a celebration.

On the big day, an excited audience gathered, cramming the river banks on both sides.  Captain Brown raced across the bridge first in an open topped carriage, cheering and waving.  He was followed by a dozen heavily laden carts to prove the strength of the bridge.

With the bridge tested to their satisfaction, hundreds of spectators flooded through the toll gates, marvelling at their new crossing.*

It is still possible for vehicles to cross the bridge, but only one vehicle at a time is allowed.

Towards Scotland

Towards England


The Patented Chain Links

*Information taken from a plaque by the bridge.

12 Comments CherryPie on Aug 25th 2011

12 Responses to “The Union Chain Bridge”

  1. JD says:

    You do get about Cherie, don’t you! :)

  2. I had not heard of this bridge before Thanks for sharing

    • CherryPie says:

      It was an unexpected surprise for me. I wanted to get some honey from the honey farm which is on the English side of the bridge. I got there just before it opened and Mr C had spotted a road sign and suggested we investigate whilst we waited for the shop to open.

      It was well worth the investigation. I have another post on the bridge coming up soon.

  3. Ginnie says:

    I love history and trivia like this, Cherry. Just think: that was almost 200 years ago!

  4. Claire says:

    This is so interesting I had never heard of it. I am a bridgeophile so this is one to add to my list at least the knowledge of it even if I never get there.

  5. Chrissy says:

    There is something about bridges that hold a real fascination :)

  6. J_on_tour says:

    It is interesting to hear old stories of how they tested a bridge out. I suppose in a sense we give these ideas a fleeting thought these days when we cross over a brand new bridge. This post reminds me of a few similar locations that I have tried to photograph on recent occasions … nice work. I do like the appropriate name and I must seek it out sometime.