The Union Chain Bridge

As mentioned in my previous post this was the first major bridge of its kind to be designed for vehicles.

Project 2020 which is community group local to the bridge have produced a leaflet full of interesting facts about the bridge:

The remarkable bridge was built by Captain Samuel Brown RN in 1819-20 to demonstrate patents.  Brown had pioneered the development of wrought iron anchor chains and rigging whilst still in the navy.  On his retirement in 1812, he set up an iron works at Millwall,, London.  In 1816 he registered a patent for the manufacture of chain links.  The following year he filed another patent for ‘improvements in suspension bridges’ which included his flexible chain link design which had been developed from ships’ rigging blocks.

The opportunity to put his theories into practice came in 1819 when the Berwick and North Durham Turnpike Trustees commissioned Captain Brown to build the Union Chain Bridge.  The bridge took less than a year to build and, with a record-breaking span of 137m/449ft, cost just £7,700, significantly cheaper and quicker than constructing a traditional stone bridge.

The bridge was opened with much ceremony on  26th July 1820.  Captain Brown demonstrated its strength by driving across a curricle, followed by 12 loaded carts, estimated to weigh 20 tons!  These were followed by 600 spectators eager to cross to the other side.  The event was witnessed by leading Scottish engineer Robert Stevenson and soon the bridge attracted visitors from all over Europe.  Leading French engineer Charles Navier, accompanied by eighteen year old Isambard Brunel travelled here in April 1823 to study this remarkable structure.  Isambard’s father Marc, the famous engineer, visited two weeks later.

Maintenance was paid for by the revenue from tolls.  The Toll Keeper’s Cottage was originally built into the red sandstone cliffs on the English side.  Around the 1900s a family of five lived in the two rooms.  The cottage was demolished in  1955, a commemorative plaque marks where it stood.

14 Comments CherryPie on Jan 3rd 2012

14 Responses to “Architecture 100 :: 1 – The Union Chain Bridge”

  1. It looks like a beautiful bridge Cherry, I would love to take it to pass the river beneath.

  2. Ginnie says:

    Our little Granny Towanda (car) would LOVE crossing that bridge, Cherry. Then we’d get out and go back on foot. :)

  3. Excellent! I look forward to the next 99!

  4. This reminded me of Cavenagh Bridge in Singapore.

  5. Mickie Brown says:

    Very interesting bridge. I love your portrait pics–you look quite warm in your furry hooded coat. The post of the castle (it looks more like a lovely “gingerbread” cottage to me) is great — what a wonderful structure. Hope your New Year is off to a great start. Mickie ;)

  6. Andrew says:

    This is sure to be a good series with all the material you must have stored away from your travels.