In July 2007 the Iron Bridge Restoration Project was awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £427,700 towards the restoration of the historic Georgian cast iron bridge in Brabyns Park.
This page tracks progress and news of the finishing touches following the bridge being reopened to the public on Friday 13th June 2008 until installation of the listening post in October 2012.
Some were saying that the sun shone on the righteous and maybe that was why we had an unexpected but welcome break in the clouds and rain for long enough to celebrate the formal reopening of the iron bridge today.
Marple and Hawk Green Bands entertaining the large crowd at the Opening Ceremony.
Marple and Hawk Green Bands played a great selection of "bridge" tunes as a large crowd gathered to witness the formal proceedings. These were begun by Project Manager Tim Boylan, resplendent in a very sharp suit. Stockport Mayor Councillor Pam King then spoke about the importance of heritage in the borough and Cllr. Shan Alexander, Executive Member for Leisure, gave a potted history of the project. Our own Peter Clarke then gave thanks to the many individuals and organisations who have helped us over the past seven years. Peter was followed by Roger Preece, Curate of All Saints' Church, who impressed us with his knowledge of the links between Nathaniel Wright and the church before blessing the bridge. It was then left to Ann Hearle, who has been our greatest supporter for many years, flanked by the pair of us, to cut the ribbon.
Peter Clarke, Stockport Mayor Pam King, Ann Hearle, Mark Whittaker and Cllr Shan Alexander celebrate the cutting of the ribbon. For more photos of the day visit the photographic record.
It was great to see the large crowds putting the bridge to test and we've certainly never seen so many people on it at once before. The day was topped off by learning that our float won a prize in the carnival yesterday (or, as Bill Ardern put it, they had a cup left over) and then we made the BBC Regional News this evening.
All in all a very good day and thank you to everyone who came along to share it with us.
This weekend presented the first opportunity to get out and take a photo of the new bronze commemorative plaque that has been installed on the tree stump carved by chainsaw artist Andrew Frost. Andrew had been having problems finishing his part of the work due to the continual bad weather but finally managed to have it ready for the plaque to be fitted just over a week ago. He still has further work to do to finish the stump off but the fitting of the plaque, which was supplied by Leander Architectural based in Dove Holes, is now complete. It's brilliant to see our Marple Website logo cast in bronze alongside Marple Local History Society, the council and the Heritage Lottery Fund!
Visitors to the park inspect the new bronze plaque explaining the project.
Nathaniel Wright purchased the Brabyns Estate in 1800. Wright was a wealthy coalminer who owned pits at Poynton and was a contemporary of Samuel Oldknow. Oldknow considered using cast iron for the construction of Bottoms Bridge near to his Mellor Mill around the time Wright moved to Marple but chose the reliability of stone over this modern and relatively untried method. Cast iron was also considered for the Marple Aqueduct but designer Benjamin Outram opted for an all-stone construction too. So it was that Wright became possibly the first in the Northwest to use this modern material for a bridge when he decided that he needed access to his estate over the River Goyt from the direction of what is now Compstall.
At the turn of the 19th century the Salford Iron Works was a substantial Iron Foundry operated by James Bateman and William Sherratt. Their association with Wright began when they supplied him with a pumping engine for one of his coalmines in 1795. Sherratt was an engineer of considerable repute and it is easy to imagine him telling his friend Wright that he could build him a bridge of iron that would impress his peers. In 1813 he did just that when he constructed the slender and elegant cast iron carriage bridge with a personalised ‘W’ motif for Wright on his Brabyns estate. Despite sharing some similarities in design with several other cast iron bridges of the time this is the only one of its kind known to have been built by the Salford Iron Works.
Today the Brabyns Iron Bridge is a listed structure of national importance. As the only know surviving cast iron bridge of its kind in the Northwest it is now a unique example and is of particular importance because it has remained intact since its original construction without alteration or significant loss of fabric. The bridge survived in daily use with minimal maintenance until 1990, when a structural survey determined that it was at risk. In 1991 a Bailey bridge was erected across it as a temporary measure, allowing it to remain intact until the funds could be found to conduct proper repairs.
In 2001 a campaign for the bridge’s restoration was begun by the Marple Website, who were joined by Marple Local History Society in 2002. Later that year a partnership was formed with Stockport Council to find ways to fund its restoration. In 2003 the group made a successful application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a Project Planning Grant. After considerable delays, not least due to the discovery of a six-inch gas main that had been installed across the bridge in the 1980s, a scheme for the restoration was finalised in 2006. A second Heritage Lottery Grant was awarded in 2007 and, with match funding raised with the help and support of the local community, the bridge’s future was secured. Restoration work was completed in 2008, in good time for the bridge’s Bicentennial anniversary in 2013.
We are delighted to be the first to announce that, as part of the ongoing Iron Bridge Restoration Project, a brand new "Brabyns Park Discovery Trail" booklet will be available free of charge at a variety of outlets across the borough within the next week or so.
Local people be warned though, there have only been 1,000 copies printed and we think this brilliant new guide is destined to become a collectors' item in record time!
The original Brabyns Park Discovery Trail booklet was written and produced by second year pupils at Marple Ridge College. One or two copies of the old booklet are still available in the Heritage section of Marple Library. The new version has been updated and rewritten by Jo Wright of Spot-On Interpretation with the help of local historian Judith Wilshaw and Mark Whittaker of the Marple Website. Its production was funded by the HLF as part of the Iron Bridge Restoration Project.
Although based on the same trail as the original booklet the new version is not just a copy and has developed into something quite different. The booklet allows you to delve into the history of the park and discover its wildlife and natural features whilst enjoying a stroll through woodland, parkland and alongside the canal and riverbank.
It includes three pages of excellent colour illustrations by Jo Wright to help you identify the wildflowers, butterflies, trees and birds of Brabyns Park and features Monty the Mallard, who offers ideas for things to do along the way to keep any younger members of your group amused.
Once the booklets have been distributed they will be available at the Tourist Information Centre / Museum (Stockport Town Centre); facility park / information centres at Etherow Country Park, Bramhall Park, Chadkirk, Bruntwood, Torkington, Vernon, Reddish Vale and Brabyns Park (at the Recreation Centre); 19 libraries including Central, Bramhall, Bredbury, Brinnington, Cheadle, Cheadle Hulme, Dialstone, Edgeley, Great Moor, Hazel Grove, Heald Green, Heatons, High Lane, Marple and Reddish. The Home Library Service, the Mobile Library and Surestart Storybus will also have copies. In addition, the Friends of Brabyns Park will also have some, as will the Ring o' Bells pub, and 150 copies will be distributed with School Packs to Ludworth, Brabyns, St Marys & Mellor schools.
We've asked for Marple Library to receive extra copies but as you can see from the above they will be distributed pretty thinly and are not likely to be available for very long. So all you folks who have followed the Iron Bridge Restoration Project have been warned, get you hands on a copy fast!
Once again we've very pleased to be the first to tell you about something new coming to Brabyns Park. The design of an interpretative panel explaining the history and attractions of the park through the last owner of the Brabyns Estate, Fanny Marion Hudson OBE, has been completed and installation is expected very soon. The panel will be sited opposite the entrance to the main car park, looking out across the open space of the park, roughly in the direction of the Iron Bridge.
The area has been prepared already and is just waiting for the panel to arrive but we can give you a sneak preview with the picture and words below. The panel is another new facet of the Iron Bridge Restoration Project and has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Grant. Design is by Jo Wright of Spot-On Interpretation, and it complements the new Discovery Trail booklet.
My name is Fanny Marion Hudson and I lived here when this area was a private estate. My father was a captain in the British Army and I was born in Peshawar, India, in 1851. My father was killed in action and when my mother died, I went to live with my grandmother Ann Hudson and my aunt Maria Anne. We moved to Brabyns Hall in 1868. I was very happy here and lived at the hall until my death, aged 90. Things have changed quite a lot since my time, but there are still some features that survive from the past... I do hope that you enjoy discovering some of the history of Brabyns Park on your visit. Please come again soon! Fanny Marion Hudson (1851 - 1941)
The hall was a very grand old place and we lived in great style. It was built in the 1740s for Dr. Henry Brabin, a local surgeon. It faced down the valley and across rolling pastures. The beautiful lily pond in its rear garden was created by my great great uncle. During the First World War the hall served as an Auxiliary Hospital and Convalescent Home for injured soldiers and I acted as matron.
My family loved animals, especially dogs. They are all are buried here, along with one of our more unusual pets!
Salford Iron Works built this cast iron bridge for my great great uncle Nathaniel Wright in 1813. It was his son John who bequeathed the hall and estate to my grandmother. People must have been very impressed by the bridge at the time because it was one of only a few in the whole country! The nearby stone bridge was also built for Nathaniel in 1804. Known as the Scroll Bridge, its name comes from the beautiful scrolled ends to its parapets.
In the early 1800s, Nathaniel had plans to build a water-powered mill here. I think he may have been inspired by Samuel Oldknow’s mill near Mellor. He had to halt the work after realising that the entire estate would need to be flooded to provide enough reserve of water!
The canal and Marple’s flight of 16 locks were constructed between 1794 and 1804. They were built to transport limestone from Dove Holes, near Buxton. I loved to walk the dogs along the towpath and watch the canal boats pass through the locks.
This impressive aqueduct was built in 1800 and was designed by Benjamin Outram, the engineer who worked on the Peak Forest Canal. It is located just outside our former estate. I heard that when it was completed, people came from all over the country to see it.
Use this link to learn more about the Park, the Iron Bridge and the people involved in its construction.
The Brabyns Park Discovery Trail can now be downloaded from The Marple Website.
The Unilever Dragonfly Awards 2008 web site says that they've spent months looking for the Northwest’s best green volunteers – groups and individuals who’ve shown exceptional commitment, worked with their community, and delivered an innovative or exciting project in their area.
The judges had £6,000 worth of prize money to hand out, helping volunteers fund new and ongoing projects that support the aims of the Mersey Basin Campaign; improved water quality, waterside regeneration and community engagement. All nominees for the Unilever Dragonfly Awards must be based in the Mersey / Ribble catchment areas.
The awards were made for three categories: Young people, Individual and Group. Category winners each receive a trophy and £1,000 towards their work. As well as the category winners, the judges selected an overall winner to receive a unique trophy and a cheque for £2,500.
We are flattered to report that The Marple Website has been selected as overall winner of the 2008 Unilever Dragonfly Awards for our part in the Iron Bridge Restoration Project. Here we are receiving the trophy down at the bridge a couple of weeks ago from Mary Lee of the Mersey Basin Campaign.
"Men in Black" - Mary Lee, Mark Whittaker & Peter Clarke
We're delighted that our efforts to restore the bridge have been recognised by this award and we're looking forward to spending our £2,500 prize on something that will help to improve Brabyns Park even more. We have some ideas about what we want to do with the money and we'll announce the details here when they are firmed up. We plan to display the glass trophy you can see in the photo at the Ring o' Bells, so everyone who helped us can see it when they call in for a pint!
We were very pleased to receive the following report from Mary Lee of the Mersey Basin Campaign. (that's Mary pictured with us a little further up the page.)
What do central Salford and leafy suburban Stockport have in common? Year 5 pupils from Ludworth Primary School in Stockport and The Friars Primary School in Salford turned ‘detective’ recently to find out just that. The answer turned out to be the recently restored Iron Bridge in Marple, a grade II listed historic structure that was manufactured in 1813 at the Salford Iron Works.
The children turned ‘bridge detectives’ to seek out clues from the bridge in order to discover its secrets and history. Using the design of the bridge as inspiration the children then created fantastic art work using only natural materials. The bridge spans the picturesque River Goyt and the children carried out experiments to see just how clean the river really is. Exciting finds such as Bullhead fish and Mayfly nymphs were viewed close-up under a powerful video microscope.
The week was rounded off by a boat trip along the river Irwell which runs close by the former site of the Salford Iron Works. The children imagined what life was like during the 1800’s, and in the heyday of Salford Quays. They learned of the re-birth and clean-up of the area in the last 25 years.
This unique, weeklong, ‘twinning’ project was masterminded by the Mersey Basin Campaign in partnership with the Longdendale Environmental Education Centre (a partnership between United Utilities and the Peak District National Park Authority) and Stockport council as part of the Marple Iron Bridge project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the council.
Here are photographs of some of the children who took part admiring the bronze plaque and discovering the cleanliness of the River Goyt near to the Iron Bridge:
Left to right: Jordan M, Sam P, Jack T, Oliver E, Ben R from Ludworth Primary School in Marple Bridge. Ka Ki Chen; Zoe B, Carol B, and Fatimah A from The Friars Primary School in Salford
We can now report that the new Brabyns display panel is installed in the park. It's been there for a week or two now but yesterday was the first opportunity to take a photograph. It's in a great position with a commanding view of the whole park and seating to enjoy it. You can read the content of the panel a little further down this page under our 22 March 2009 "sneak preview".
We are pleased to make available for viewing by our visitors the Iron Bridge Project Documentary film created by Fusion Films. The film is 12 minutes long and charts the project from our early days of campaigning to the opening ceremony in June last year. Fusion Films and local scriptwriter and actor Aidan Magrath have significantly contributed towards the overall match funding of the project by providing their services at greatly reduced cost, or free of charge. We would like to extent our thanks to Fusion and Aidan for their help and support. In due course there will also be a short drama about the characters involved in the building of the bridge in 1813 and we are looking forward to being able to add this for your enjoyment too.
Both drama and documentary will become part of the Iron Bridge Project displays at the Stockport Story Museum in Staircase House and will be included in an education pack to be distributed to local schools.
It's been some time since there was any news on the Iron Bridge Restoration Project but at last we can report that long-planned improvements to the viewing platform near the bridge will commence on 7 November 2011.
A design for the improvements was agreed way back in September 2009 but finding the funds to implement the works has been a problem because it was never in the original budget for the project. This is because the opportunity for a viewing platform only surfaced following the unfortunate demise of the large beech tree near to the bridge.
The total cost of the improvement works is £16,391 and it is largely being funded by the reallocation of money in the original budget for the proposed short drama film by Fusion Films. This ran into difficulties with escalating costs and it was eventually agreed with the HLF to cancel it and divert the funds of £12,491 to the Viewing Platform. The balance is being made up from the 2008 Unilever Dragonfly Award of £2,500 given to us by the Mersey Basin Trust (see further down the page) £250 contributed by Marple Civic Society and £1,143 being contributed directly by Stockport Council.
Here's an image of the platform design. To see the full details click the image below, or follow this link.
Work on the improved Viewing Platform is well underway, with the retaining wall almost completed and ready for concrete to be pumped in and hold everything together. Work on the foundations and decking is expected to take around another week, followed by installation of the railings. For more images visit the Virtual Tour using the links above.
The Iron bridge Viewing Platform is now complete except for the railings, which should be fitted early next week.
Viewing Platform Railings installed on Friday 2 December 2011. Still awaiting final paint and scaffold removal.
First opportunity to photograph the completed viewing platform was yesterday - doesn't it look great!
For more images see the Virtual Tour.
The final outstanding task on the Iron Bridge Restoration Project is to install a listening post at the bridge. This will be an audio device powered by hand-wind with a recording of basically the same information that is written on the bronze plaque. The main purpose of the post is to give people who may be unable to read or gain access the plaque an alternative way of obtaining information about the bridge, but of course it's something that can be enjoyed by anyone who is able to hear too.
It's taken a long time to find someone who could help us to produce a good quality sound recording for the device free of charge but thanks to the voice of Elizabeth Galloway and the technical skills of John Woodruff, both from the Carver Theatre Group, we now have exactly what we were hoping for. The next step is to install the listening post at the bridge but in the meantime you can hear the recording on-line by clicking the link:
This is an MP3 file of 4.41MB that should play automatically on most computers.
A very big thank you to Elizabeth and John from the Carver Theatre for the brilliant job they have done for us.
The listening post has now been installed at the Iron Bridge. Here's a photograph of it and for more details check out the update below and the copy of the sound recording that it contains.