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.