This is the Report presented to Friends at the third Annual General Meeting at Hutton Village Hall on the 26th October 2016.

Review of Progress and Achievements for the Period ended 30th September 2016

The Union Chain Bridge repair and restoration project is the joint responsibility of the local authorities on each side of the Bridge – Northumberland County Council (who act as lead authority) and Scottish Borders Council.  They are working in close co-operation with the national government heritage conservation agencies – Historic England and Historic Environment Scotland – towards completion of the works in advance of the Bridge’s bicentenary in July 2020.

The Report to the second Annual Meeting in October 2015 anticipated the early submission of Stage 1 of a two-stage application to the Heritage Lottery Fund to meet the substantial shortfall in contract costs, after allowing for committed financial allocations of £500,000 and £550,000 from Northumberland County and Scottish Borders Councils respectively.  One year on, the Stage 1 bid is yet to be submitted, largely as a result of Historic England’s requirement for a detailed structural analysis before a formal application is made to them for Listed Building Consent; and before the Stage 1 bid is made.  Completion of the analysis to the satisfaction of Historic England will allow that body to support the Heritage Lottery bid, which should considerably improve the bid’s chances of success.  Notwithstanding the delays that have occurred, Northumberland County Council remain confident that the repair and restoration works will be completed comfortably in advance of the bicentenary.

One of the principal reasons for the formation of the Friends body was NCC’s desire to have in place a local community heritage group to assist it in its application to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)  for grant funding towards those parts of the project which would qualify for assistance from that body.

It is a principal function of the Friends to promote and publicise the Bridge’s unique engineering, architectural and historic heritage not only locally but also further afield.  The Friends’ membership register now extends to almost 600 members from throughout the British Isles as well as from Japan and the USA.  To maintain the profile of the Bridge and the restoration project, while awaiting progress with the HLF bid, the Trustees, Friends and supporters have arranged publicity through various media, including television and radio (BBC Music Day; forthcoming Channel 4 River Tweed programme), local and national newspapers, Country Life magazine.  For the third successive year, the Trust participated in Heritage Open Days on the 10th and 11th September with an information stall on the Northumberland side, attracting almost 100 visitors and a number of new members.   Other promotional media include the Trust website at www.unionbridgefriends.co.uk, shortly to be updated, an active facebook page and membership newsletters. Merchandise including Friends’ mugs (including a matching English/Scottish pair), pens, greetings cards and prints of the Bridge, keep the Bridge and the project in the public eye.

Several social, sporting and cultural events have been organised.  A very successful Charity Dinner and Auction was held in Paxton House on the 7th November;  Harris Playfair and Heather Cattenach gave an acclaimed recital in Paxton House on February 26th 2016; and a typically excellent performance by the music department of The Berwickshire High School, promoted on behalf of the Friends by the Hutton and Paxton Community Council, was presented within the school concert hall on February 19th.  As a result of these initiatives, an exciting plan is taking shape to bring together young musicians from both sides of the border with the aim of holding music workshops over an 18-month period, culminating in a performance of the “Union Bridge Orchestra” at Paxton House in July 2020, linked to a short tour of the Scottish Borders and North Northumberland and involving young musicians of senior school and student age.

An historic meeting of the Lord-Lieutenants of Berwickshire and Northumberland (Mrs Jeanna Swan and the Duchess of Northumberland) took place on the Bridge on the 25th May, followed by a well-attended Reception in Paxton House.

An inaugural “Two Nations” Bridge 7k run was organised on the 27th July and attracted well over 100 participants; it is hoped to attract sponsorship to hold a similar event in 2017.

The Horncliffe Hookers arts and crafts group knitted a splendid 6’ model of the Bridge which was exhibited in the Watch Tower Gallery in Berwick, followed by the Chain Bridge Honey Farm and it is expected to be on show in Paxton House until the end of October.








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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; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/captain-samuel-brown-74367

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 unionbridgefriends@gmail.com 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 www.consultrobinson.co.uk 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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