UNION SUSPENSION BRIDGE (THAT PART IN SCOTLAND) (Ref:13645)
This building is in the Scottish Borders Council and the
It is a category A building and was listed on 09/06/1971.
Group Items: N/A,
Group Cat: N/A,
Map Ref: NT 9336 5101.
Captain Samuel Brown, Royal Navy, with advice from John Rennie, 1819-20; improved and strengthened by J A Bean for Tweed Bridge Trustees, 1902-3. Timber carriageway spanning River Tweed suspended from 3 pairs of swept, wrought iron chains of elongated eye bar links. Wrought iron bolt brackets link iron rod suspenders; upper wire cables. Iron railings threaded around suspenders enclosing sides. Channelled pink sandstone, tapering rectangular-plan pylon to W (Scottish) side with keystoned, round-arched opening at centre; mutuled cornice; tall parapet with carved roses and thistles surmounting central block inscribed 'VIS UNITA FORTIOR 1820' to E. Channelled pink sandstone, tapering pylon set into rock face to E (English) side with blocked, pilastered doorway centred at ground framing memorial plaque; mutuled cornice; tall parapet with carved roses and thistles surmounting central block also inscribed 'VIS UNITA FORTIOR 1820'. Rectangular-plan, pink sandstone piers flanking carriageway to W with rubble-coped rubble walls linking pylon to E. Pyramidal-capped, square-plan, pink sandstone piers flanking carriageway to W of E pylon; rubble-coped rubble walls to E.
The Union Suspension Bridge, erected on behalf of the Berwick and North Durham Turnpike Trust and opened 26 July 1820, is the first road suspension bridge in Britain and the oldest still in use as such (2014). For six years it had the longest span in the world, equal to a rope bridge in Tibet, until surpassed by the Menai Bridge.
Spanning the River Tweed (the county and national boundary between Scotland and England), this elegant chain bridge with sweeping chains and monumental pylons remains much as it was when first complete. Technological innovation enabled suspension bridges to span large widths at a fraction of the cost of their masonry equivalents - the Union Bridge being 368ft long, 18ft wide, 27ft above the water and having cost approximately 7500 pounds to erect. Brown's bolt brackets (patented by him in 1817) are used here for the first time. In 1902-3 the upper wire cables were added in case of a failure in the main chains and further suspenders added to the steel reinforcement at the sides of the timber deck. The deck was renewed in 1871 and again in 1974.
Captain Samuel Brown (1776-1851) joined the Royal Navy in 1795. Following the Napoleonic Wars, he formed a partnership with his cousin Samuel Lennox to manufacture anchor cable made from chain for use on naval vessels. Previously cables were made from hemp. His successful designs and the patents he took out on them meant he was soon the Admiralty's sole supplier of chain anchor cables. Beside his work for vessels, Brown also supplied the chainwork for approximately forty piers and suspension bridges. Brighton Chain Pier (1823) is a well-known example of the former and the Union Suspension Bridge being amongst the best examples of the latter. Suspension bridges using chain were known simply as chain bridges until wire cable suspension came in to use circa 1870; from this date this type of bridge is usually referred to as `cable suspension bridge'.
The Union Suspension Bridge tollhouse is situated to the west of the bridge (see separate listing). `Vis Unita Fortior' translates as `United Strength is Stronger'.
`Union Suspension Bridge (That Part In England)' is also listed, Grade I in Horncliffe Parish, Northumberland.
Formerly a scheduled monument. De-scheduled 20 December 1999.
Listed building record and statutory address updated, 2014.
Thomson's Map, 1821 (Evident - Marked 'Union Bridge').
Sharp, Greenwood & Fowler's Map, 1826 (Evident - Marked 'Chain Bridge').
Ordnance Survey (1857) 25 Inch to the Mile: Ordnance Survey, London.
New Statistical Account of Scotland (Completed 1834, Published 1845) pp161-162.
Groome F. H. (1883) Ordnance Gazetteer, p281.
Lady Furness (1971) 'Netherbyres' Proceedings Of The Berwickshire Naturalists' Club, Vol XXXIX, pp14-15.
Hume J.R. (1976) The Industrial Archaeology Of Scotland, Vol 1 pp82-83.
`Captain Sir Samuel Brown Of Netherbyres¿ (1986) Proceedings Of The Berwickshire Naturalists' Club, Vol XLIII, pp73-79.
NMRS Photographic Records.
Cruft K, Dunbar J, Fawcett R (2006) The Buildings Of Scotland ¿ Borders. Yale University Press: London, p739.
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