Lottery Bid Submitted

The second stage of the Project Partners’ bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF)  for a grant towards the cost of completely restoring the Union Bridge was submitted at the end of May and a decision is expected to be made in September.  This is an exciting but anxious time for everyone concerned, not only with the preparation of the bid, but for the future of this iconic example of engineering innovation.  The Partners’ (Northumberland County Council, Scottish Borders Council, the Woodhorn Charitable Trust and the Friends) first stage bid attracted a grant of £360,000 to enable them to work up the bid for the second and crucial stage.

Unique Cross-Border Co-operation

The restoration project is unique in several ways.  As the Union Bridge spans the England/ Scotland border, it is owned by English and Scottish local authorities (Northumberland County Council and Scottish Borders Council) and the responsibility for its maintenance is shared between the two, although for practical purposes, Northumberland County Council carries out most of the maintenance work on behalf of both authorities. Planning consents for the restoration works had to be obtained in England and Scotland and English Heritage and Historic Scotland have been closely involved in all aspects of the restoration plans.  As the River Tweed is tidal under the Bridge (and as far inland as Norham) the maritime agencies of both countries have had an input and as the Lower Tweed Estuary is not only a Site of Special Scientific Interest  but also a Special Area of Conservation, both Natural England and  SEPA, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency,  have been involved in the planning stages.  We also understand that this is the first cross-border project to be considered by the NLHF or its predecessor, the Heritage Lottery Fund.

See our April 2019 Newsletter for a fascinating guide to the proposed restoration works.

Foundation Stone Bicentenary

On July 26th 1819, exactly one year to the day before the Bridge was officially opened, William Molle, the Chairman of the Berwick and North Durham Turnpike Trustees, who had obtained Parliamentary approval for the construction of the Bridge, laid its foundation stone somewhere in the immediate vicinity of the Bridge. We are unsure exactly where the stone was laid because, as Gordon Miller tells us in his book Samuel Brown and Union Chain Bridge, it is now lost and there is no clear guidance as to where the ceremony took place.  However, the Friends are arranging to mark the bicentenary of the laying of the foundation stone by unveiling their own stone on the 26th July 2019, exactly two hundred years after the first stone was laid. Because it is hoped that restoration works will start early next year, the new stone will not be placed in a permanent position but will – we hope! – be safely stored until completion of the works so that, unlike its predecessor, it will remind future generations of the Bridge’s heritage and of the laying of the first stone for many years to come.  The Friends are very grateful to their corporate sponsors, Hutton Stone Ltd for their generous assistance in providing  the new stone and for fitting it into their tight production schedule.

The ceremony will take place at the Bridge on Friday July 26th 2019 at 11.30am


Heritage Open Days

Again this year, the Friends will participate in the Berwick area Heritage Open Days scheme by setting up an information stall at the English side of the Bridge on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th July, from 11am to 3pm.  Visitors to the Bridge will be able to obtain first-hand information on the restoration proposals and  there will be a range of Bridge-related merchandise on sale in aid of Friends’ funds.


The 2019 Two Nations Run and Family Fun Run

The fourth annual Two Nations Run, organised by the Friends, and crossing the Bridge twice over its 7km course, will take place this year on Sunday July 28th at 11am.   Organised with the kind support of The Paxton Trust and Norham Running Club, the 7km (approx.) run starts at Paxton House car park at 11am and follows a varied course along the riverside, country lanes and farmland on both sides of the Tweed, through England and Scotland and crosses the Bridge on its outward and return legs.  A shorter 1.8km (approx.) run starts a few minutes later and follows a delightful route through the woods and glades of the Paxton estate – it’s an ideal fun run for all the family. In a beautiful setting and within 50metres of the Paxton House Stables Tea Room – what could be a better way to spend a summer Sunday morning!  Registration is from 10am.  Also see the Two Nations Run page on this website.







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114 runners of all ages took part in the first cross-country runs organised by the Friends of the Union Chain Bridge attracted 116 entries, when they were held at Paxton House on Wednesday July 27th. The main run, a challenging 7K “Two Nations” run which started at Paxton and crossed the Union Bridge into England for a varied 5K route before returning across the Bridge to finish at Paxton House, attracted a strong field of 50 senior runners from throughout north Northumberland and the Borders. First home, in an excellent time of 28min 13 sec, was Andrew Brown of Norham Running Club, closely followed by Graham Simpson (28.22) and David Arnold (29.32).

UCB run


In the second run, 64 runners of all ages followed a 1.8K route through Paxton Estate paths and tracks. First home was William Darling of Horncliffe, in a time of 8min 11sec, followed by Gregor Collins (8.51) and Ben Reynolds (9.01).

A full set of results in listed below.

UCB Run 2016 results 7K

UCB Run 2016 1.8K results

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Flying Scotsman Vintage Car Rally to cross the Union Chain Bridge

945x350_cropOn Saturday 16th April the 8th Flying Scotsman Vintage Car Rally will be making its way north through the Coast and Castle route of Northumberland. This is a “must see” event for any classic car enthusiast as 114 beautiful machines, many from the 1920s and ‘30s, power their way over the Union Chain Bridge before a pit stop at Paxton House.
They will be arriving at Paxton House over the course of the afternoon between approximately 12.30pm and 3pm and members of the public are invited to see the cars there. While there, why not make a day of it and enjoy all that Paxton House has to offer? (For safety reasons, we encourage people not to watch from the roadside.)
The Flying Scotsman is the original and the best event designed exclusively for vintage cars. Over three days the rally journeys from Belvoir Castle in the East Midlands winding its way north to Gleneagles.
For more information please visit the Endurance Rally Association website.

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Captain Samuel Brown comes to Paxton House

The only known portrait of Captain Samuel Brown has recently been lent by Brighton and Hove Museum and Art Gallery to Paxton House and now hangs in the Entrance Hall near to the Alexander Naysmith painting of the Union Chain Bridge.

British (English) School; Captain Samuel Brown; Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries;

British (English) School; Captain Samuel Brown; Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries;

Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries have the painting in their collection because of the Royal Suspension Chain Pier that can be seen in the background to the right of Captain Brown. This was the first of Brighton’s piers and was built in 1823, three years after the Union Chain Bridge was opened and two years after the similar Trinity Chain Pier at Leith. Before it became the booming seaside pleasure resort we still know today, it was one of many ports trading with Europe. The Chain Pier was built to enable ships from Dieppe to load and unload cargoes. It’s demise started with the coming of the railways in 1841 and the building of the much larger West Pier in 1866. It was abandoned and swept away in a storm in 1896.
Royal Suspension Chain Pier, 1823

Royal Suspension Chain Pier, built 1823

The portrait can be viewed as part of the excellent Paxton House tours.

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New MPs visit Union Chain Bridge

MPs on bridge

Our new MPs have visited the Union Chain Bridge during their summer recess. Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Calum Kerr were both highly supportive of the proposed restoration of the bridge and expressed their interest in seeing the cross-border project unfold.

Pictured Left to right: Alex McGregor (Friends of the UCB Trustee and Paxton, Hutton and Fishwick Community Councillor), Tommy Cockburn (Friends of the UCB Trustee and Horncliffe Parish Councillor), Heather Thompson (Friends of the UCB Chairman), Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed and Calum Kerr MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk.

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Spring Up-date

Friends of the Union Chain Bridge Spring Up-Date

Dear Friend,

Welcome to our Spring Up-date. Those of you who are following the progress of the project in the local news will be aware that Scottish Borders Council has pledged £550,000 to the refurbishment of the bridge, which, with Northumberland County Council’s allocation of £500,000, means the project has £1m behind it so far.

Extraordinary General Meeting

Overwhelming support was given at an Extraordinary General Meeting held at Paxton Village Hall in January for the conversion of the Friends of the Union Chain Bridge from an Unincorporated Organisation to a Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Our application for charitable status is currently in the hands of The Charity Commission and we await our official charity number. Thank you to those of you who were able to come along to that meeting.


In February the Trustees were invited to view the ‘Project Enquiry Form’, which is a short, 1,000 word application to the Heritage Lottery Fund prepared by Consult Robinson and commissioned by Northumberland County Council. This outlined the project based on a capital works including repairs to the deck, parapets, hangers, chains, traffic calming and masonry and also community heritage including education, interpretation, marketing, celebration and co-ordination. It was expected that this application would be made in February and would be based on an engineering report which gave the costs as £4.7 million. However NCC has postponed making the application in order to review those figures based on a second engineering report which they should receive in April.

Meeting with Historic Scotland

In March the Trustees initiated a meeting with Historic Scotland and here follows a report on that meeting from John Home Robertson:

“Heather, John, Ted and Stephen met David Fleetwood of the Scottish Government Historic Environment Department and Andrew Martindale and Thomas Knowles of Historic Scotland on the bridge on 5th March, following correspondence between John and Fiona Hyslop MSP, the Scottish Culture Minister.

They explained that Historic Scotland can pay grants of up to 25% of eligible repair and restoration costs up to £500k. Since this is a cross-border structure, they would have to ensure that their money is spent on the Scottish part of the bridge, but they saw no difficulty in satisfying that requirement, and they can pay the grant through either Northumberland County Council or Scottish Borders Council.

Obviously they could not prejudge an application for funding, but they clearly fully appreciate the historic importance of the bridge, and they seemed enthusiastic about the prospect of collaborating with partners on both sides of the border – they suggested an early meeting with both local authorities, their counterparts at English Heritage and the Friends of the Union Chain Bridge.

Altogether an extremely positive and constructive meeting, let’s hope that English Heritage will match the £500k that could be available from Historic Scotland.”

Corporate and General Membership

We have drawn up plans to launch Corporate Membership and forms will be available soon. We hope that if companies take up the opportunity to become corporate members their businesses can be advertised on promotional materials and on our website. Please email for more information.

We will be asking regular members to renew their membership on 1st October 2015, so if you became a member last summer you will benefit from a few extra months’ membership and unfortunately if you became a member in late autumn or winter you might lose out on a couple of months’ membership, so we are sorry about this. Those who have become members should have received a car sticker, postcard and leaflet. If anyone has not received these please let us know and we’ll get them to you.

Berwickshire Naturalists Talk

Looking ahead, Professor Roland Paxton – who is one of our patrons – has accepted an invitation from the Berwickshire Naturalists’ Club to give a talk about the bridge in Hutton Village Hall on 20 May at 2pm. Those who are not members of the Berwickshire Naturalists are welcome to attend as guests and are asked to pay £2 per head.

Future Fundraising

We hope to hold a fundraising ceilidh early in the autumn with music provided by the Small Hall Band. This will be held at one of the village halls. There will be more information closer to the time so keep your eye on the local press.

Best wishes,



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Major news from Scottish Borders Council

Early indications show Scottish Borders Council will be putting £500,000 towards the bridge restoration:

Only £3m to go!

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Union Chain Bridge Restoration Project – The Story So Far…

Here is a re-cap for anyone who has recently joined the group or anyone who is interested in the Union Chain Bridge:

Northumberland County Council and Scottish Borders Council aim to restore the bridge in time for its bicentenary in 2020.

NCC has put aside £500,000 for the restoration. Scottish Borders Council will discuss its contribution at a meeting on 12th February 2015.

Consultants appointed jointly by NCC and SBC will place a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund. They are Carol and Frank Robinson from Consult Robinson. Please see for more information.

The UCB Friends group currently has 295 members, which is a great demonstration of support for the restoration of the bridge. The group aims to become a CIO (Charitable Incorporated Organisation) in the New Year.

Aside from this the Friends have made a visit to the Middlsbrough Transporter Bridge to learn how its restoration was carried out. Here follows a report from Ted Cawthorn:

‘On the 28th November, Trustees John Home Robertson and Edward Cawthorn, together with James Fell, the County Council’s Heritage Officer and Frank Robinson, the Heritage Lottery Fund bid consultant appointed by the County Council, visited the Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge where they were briefed by the Middlesbrough Council team  responsible for the Council’s successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid towards the restoration and refurbishment of the 100 year old iconic structure and winding machinery, and its development as a heritage feature. The Transporter Bridge, which dominates the Middlesbrough skyline, was opened on the 17th October 1911 and is the longest transporter bridge in the world, with a total length of 259 metres and a maximum height from the river of 69 metres.

The Middlesbrough officers gave an interesting, detailed and cautionary account of their experiences with their bid and the processes involved in establishing the principle of eligibility for HLF assistance and were happy to be associated with the Union Bridge bid and to maintain a continuing relationship with the Friends.’

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Union Chain Bridge welcomes Japanese visitor.

Professor Hiroshi Isohata has visited the bridge with Professor Roland Paxton. Professor Isohata teaches engineering at the College of Industrial Technology at Nihon University. He kindly became a member of the Friends group while he was here. He was met by Gordon Miller who spent a considerable amount of time explaining the history of the bridge and showing him photographs of his own study. Then Professor Isohata inspected the bridge himself, noting the replacement temporary hangers. He was very impressed with the bridge and will use it as a case study in his lectures. He said the oldest suspension bridge in Japan was 100 years old. He personally worked on the Akashi Straits bridge, which has the longest central span of any suspension bridge in the world.

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First AGM

The Friends of the Union Chain Bridge held their first AGM on Wednesday 15th October. It was a very well attended evening with lots of existing Friends and new Friends coming along to remind the council of our desire to have the bridge restored in time for its 200th birthday in 2020. We were told by James Fell, Northumberland County Council that work would start by January 2018 at the latest. Thank you to everyone who came along!

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