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Brunel's Swing Bridge
The AIBT is working in partnership with the Bristol Industrial Archaeological Society (BIAS), the Clifton and Hotwells Improvement Society (CHIS), and the Hotwells and Cliftonwood Society on the restoration of Brunel's swing bridge. The bridge is a very important historic structure, which is located underneath the Plimsoll Bridge at the entrance to Bristol 's floating harbour. It is disused and in a very poor condition, and in danger of complete collapse. The bridge is listed Grade ll* and is on Historic England's Register of Structures at Risk.
It was Brunel's first large wrought iron opening bridge. It is far older than the Suspension Bridge, and is Bristol's only abandoned Brunel structure. Volunteers have been working to halt the decay for the past three years. This work has been supported by grants from Historic England, BIAS, CHIS, and the Bristol City Council's Neighbourhood Partnership.
The bridge rotates on four fixed wheels running on a solid ring under the bridge. It is turned by twin hydraulic rams located in pits, which are connected to a turning ring under the bridge by a substantial wire cable. The hydraulic rams were fed from a pressure water system located in Underfall Yard. Prior to conversion to hydraulic operation, the bridge was turned by a hand operated crank similar to that used on old railway turntables.
Photo right: Brunel's Swing Bridge with the tower on the Leigh Woods side of the Suspension Bridge in the background. Photo: R Whitworth
NB: There are three names in use for the structure - 'Brunel's Swing Bridge', 'Brunel's Swivel Bridge' and 'Brunel's Other Bridge'.
Key Historical Points
Photo right: Brunel's Swing Bridge on Doors Open Day 2015. Photo: R Whitworth
The AIBT acts as the project's treasurer. It also lets and supervises the contracts as, unlike the other organisations involved, it is a limited company as well as being a registered charity.
The AIBT would like to thank the Bristol Visual and Environmental Group for a donation of £10 000 in memory of Dorothy Brown. Dorothy was for many years an indefatigable champion of the heritage in Bristol and its environs. Many historic buildings owe their continuing existence to the battles she fought for the heritage up to her death. The organisation she founded, the Bristol Visual and Environmental Group, is now being wound up, and our project is very lucky to benefit from the residual funds being distributed from her trust by the surviving trustees.
Donations to the project may be made through the AIBT's BOB page on the Wonderful website.
Work Parties in 2019
This will be an exciting year in which we hope to have the Bridge turning again, 170 years after it was comnpleted to Brunel's innovative design. We plan to work on Saturdays, but there will be extra work-days as necessary to achieve our aim of trial turning in July. We must complete the levelling of the wheels, purchase and install a new steel-ring track, centralize and lower the whole deck-assembly, and strengthen the corroded structure, so plenty of helpers will be needed and all skills welcome, not only engineering!
The proposed dates for work parties in 2019 are as follows:
2019 is the 170th anniversary of the building of the bridge, and this milestone was celebrated on 06, 07 and 08 September. More details can be found on the 170th Anniversary events page of the website.
Photo right: Brunel's Swing Bridge during the 170th birthday celebrations in September 2019. Photo: R Whitworth
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