Hull firm removes the decking of historic Union Chain Bridge that links Scotland with England

Hull-based Spencer Group is transforming one of the world’s oldest suspension bridges.

Spencer has removed the entire timber decking of the 200-year-old Union Chain Bridge, which links England and Scotland, as part of essential work to preserve the structure.

The bridge, which has a single span of 449ft crossing the River Tweed, was the longest wrought iron suspension bridge in the world when it opened in 1820.

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Spencer has now removed the 700 square metres of timber bridge decking using an overhead cable crane and access platform, meaning it did not have to work from beneath the bridge on the River Tweed. Had it done so, the project would have been delayed by recent high tides.

The Union Chain Bridge.

Credited with being a catalyst for bridge innovation, the Union Chain Bridge is a Grade I listed structure in England and a Grade A listed structure in Scotland and, before these works, remained the world’s oldest suspension bridge still carrying traffic.

Spencer Group has been appointed by Northumberland County Council to dismantle the bridge and carry out a complete refurbishment and rebuild.

Joe DiMauro, Project Manager for Spencer Group, said: “The development of systems to enable our operatives to work above the bridge, rather than below it from the water, was a key feature of our submission in the tender process.

“It has proved to have been an excellent move, as we would otherwise have now been behind schedule due to the recent high tides.”

The entire deck of the bridge has been removed.

A key element of the project is a commitment to ensure all modifications are in keeping with the historical significance of the bridge, including restoring, rather than replacing, the suspension chains where possible.

The old decking will be replaced using timber sustainably sourced from managed woodland while the existing masonry towers are being restored using sandstone from the same Hutton Quarry as used originally.

Having removed all of the decking, Spencer Group engineers are now using access cradles to begin to remove the 800 cast iron chain pins, 444 chain rods and 170 wrought iron hangers, as well as the 31 tonnes of wrought iron suspension chains.

Robert Hunter, Chair of the Friends of the Union Chain Bridge group, which formed in 2014 and has more than 700 members, said: “The bridge hasn’t been seen like this before, certainly not in living memory, and it’s a quite remarkable sight."