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 as the work got underway until the bridge was reopened to the public in June 2008. The next page picks up from the re-opening ceremony onwards.
A kick off meeting was held on 13 July with Dew Construction (Oldham) Ltd, who were the contractor selected during the tender process back in February 2006, before the grant application was submitted. Although Dew were the chosen contractor it was not possible to award a contract to them until after the successful grant application, for obvious reasons.
Left to to right, Cllr. Dave Goddard (Leader of Stockport Council), Ann Hearle, Mark Whittaker, Nicola Marshall (HLF Project Officer) and Peter Clarke celebrate news of the Heritage Lottery Grant
Now that a contract has been placed we would like to take this opportunity to say that we were very impressed with Dew's tender, which, as well as showing an excellent understanding of the technical requirements of the restoration work, demonstrated a strong grasp of the bridge's historical significance and its importance to the local community. Dew Construction have won a string of awards for heritage related project, especially in the canals, waterways and bridges arena, and we hope that they will earn similar accolades for their work on Marple's Iron Bridge.
Following contract award Jim Potts, Dew Construction's Marketing & Submissions Manager, said:
Dew Construction is absolutely delighted to have been awarded the Iron Bridge Project. Having been involved in many similar projects we are aware of the impact that restoration of heritage structures such as Iron Bridge can have on all those involved with the project. Modern society tends to take civil engineering construction projects for granted and the concern shown by the local community for this historic bridge is both significant and highly commendable. We will make every effort to ensure that our contribution adds value, in every possible sense, for many years to come.”
Dew are expected to begin work in Brabyns Park on Monday 20 August, starting with preparatory works to the temporary access route needed to get their plant and equipment to the bridge (there will be no knocking down Scroll Bridge again, which is also expected to be underway in the same timeframe as the Iron Bridge). Following this the bridge is due to be closed during the week after Bank Holiday, and will then remain closed until the restoration works are completed.
The west elevation taken from the side gate to Iron Bridge Cottage before work starts
We will be making regular visits to the site while the restoration is underway to take photos and update this diary. It is also planned to install a web cam so that visitors to the web site can see live snap shots of the work in progress, which is something we're really excited about. So keep coming back to this page and we'll do our best to keep you informed of how things are progressing.
Take 27 Ltd, a company specialising in computer generated imagery (CGI) have been engaged to create a 3D computer model of the Iron Bridge that will be used in the Stockport Story museum display. The model can also be used in many other ways to help people to learn about the bridge and understand how it is constructed.
The development of the model is in the early stages at present but there are already some very interesting images and an animated video clip of the bridge that you can view on-line. Click the image of the bridge or follow this link to see the preview pages that Take 27 have set up and enjoy watching with us as the model is developed further and becomes more refined.
To learn more about Take 27 Ltd and the kind of work they do visit www.take27.co.uk
In partnership with the Iron Bridge Group, an award winning local television / film production company called Fusion Films will produce two unique films to document the restoration and attract prospective visitors to the Iron Bridge site by creating a wider awareness of the project.
Fusion Films site visit. Shot from the north approach at the end of Rollins Lane by Sarah England.
The films will be in the form of a twenty-minute corporate documentary and an original short film drama written especially for the project by local professional scriptwriter Aidan Magrath. Aidan will be giving his services free of charge and Fusion Films have greatly reduced their fees, making a significant contribution to the match funding for the project.
For the documentary Fusion Films are keen to find people with links and connections to the Iron Bridge with interesting memories to share. Maybe you have used the bridge regularly for many years and can recall how it has changed over that time. Maybe you played there during your childhood and can tell some stories about what you got up to, or perhaps you did your courting down by the bridge and have romantic memories of those happy days! Whatever recollections you would be prepared to share we and Fusion Films will be very interested to hear from you.
To learn more about Fusion Films visit their web site at www.fusionfilms.co.uk
Work started on Monday 20 August and a temporary access road has been constructed adjacent to Scroll Bridge to ensure that there is no further damage to the remains of the stone bridge under the roadway. We have been told that work will be underway on reconstructing Scroll Bridge at the same time as the Iron Bridge is being restored but there are no signs of activity yet.
The new approach route through the park avoiding the site of the Scroll Bridge.
The footpath diversion through the horse training area that will go around the site compound has also been prepared. Week 2 will see the site compound established and the bridge closed to public use.
We hope our web cam will be installed by the end of next week, in good time for for the Bailey Bridge coming off during week 3. For good measure Take 27 Ltd have added a 3D digital version of the Bailey Bridge to their GCI preview site but we are looking forward to seeing the real thing for the last time!
On Saturday 25th August Fusion Films were conducting a "Vox Populi" at the bridge. We had to ask what that meant and basically they were filming and interviewing people using the bridge in the park just a few days before its closure and asking them for their views on the restoration project.
We've added Dew Construction's schedule to the links above so you can see how the work is planned to proceed. We've also set up a new photo album in the Virtual Tour ready to start adding photographs of the work in progress. We've kicked this off with a few pictures before work starts, several of which have been provided by Sarah England of Fusion Films.
A view of the east elevation and underside from the north bank by Sarah England.
Manchester Tree Surgeon Dave Myers was one of the very first people to offer us real practical help when our campaign first hit the newspapers, way back in May 2002.
Today Dave was finally able to to honour that pledge and carry out the tree work at the bridge and, even though it turned out to be a much bigger job than expected, Dave has given his services completely free of charge just as he said he would five years ago. We would like to say a very BIG thank you to Dave for the support he has given to the project. We've added a series of pictures of the Myers Tree Care team at work in the photo archive.
The section of the old beech that broke away in winter storms.
The job was larger than expected due to the demise of the huge old beech tree on the bank next to the bridge. This magnificent old tree, which Dave thinks was around 350 years old, was severely damaged in the storms at the beginning of this year and a huge section of it came crashing down. Fortunately it fell in an easterly direction otherwise we would no longer have a bridge to restore.
When the tree was inspected after the storms it was found to be suffering from rot and had to be condemned. Initially the council trimmed it hard back leaving a tall but unsightly trunk, however, we were keen for it not to be left this way as it spoilt the view, rather than enhancing it as before.
So today Dave removed the trunk of this hugely popular tree and cut it off at an angle. The reason for this is we plan to mount our interpretation panel on top of the stump, so that despite its demise the 350 year old beech will still be a key feature in the scene after the Iron Bridge is restored.
Andy Andrzejczuk of ALL NETWORKS has completed the installation of our Iron Bridge webcam just in time for visitors to watch the Bailey Bridge being removed tomorrow. This is going to be a very exciting day for us as the removal of the Bailey Bridge is a hugely symbolic step in the restoration process and an event that we've been working towards for the last six years!
We'd like to thank Andy for working the weekend to get the webcam up and running and also Peter Pearson, owner of Iron Bridge Cottage, for allowing us to use his home and telephone line.
The sun came out to see the project begin in earnest as the Bailey bridge was finally removed 16 years after it was installed as a temporary measure and 6 years after we began our campaign.
The whole process went extremely smoothly and the Bailey bridge was removed in a single controlled lift. It really feels like the work is underway now and it was great to be amongst the first people to walk on the old Georgian bridge since 1991. We've added a good number of pictures to the Photographic Record and we hope some of you were able to watch proceeding on the webcam.
Work will continue this week with the removal of the fill on top of the bridge by hand and next week the bridge should be scaffolded out and encapsulated so that there is no contamination of the watercourse during grit blasting, repairs and painting.
Removal of fill reveals the gas pipe and services
Removal of the fill on top of the bridge was completed towards the end of week 3 and the kerb stones were also removed. As we have explained before, these will not be replaced as they are believed to be later additions that were not part of the original bridge design. This has had the effect of making the bridge look even more slender and elegant than before and also allows the deck level to be reduced to a minimum, enabling the modern parapets that will be installed later to be kept below the stone domes at the abutments.
The bridge looks much more slender after removal of the stone kerbs
During the last week, week 4 of the project, the Bailey bridge foundations were broken out and removed. Disappointingly during this work accidental damage was caused to the iron hand railings on the approaches to the bridge. This first (and hopefully last) negative set back was primarily due to a hidden railway sleeper being disturbed by the JCB, illustrating just how cautiously this kind of work needs to be carried out. All damage will of course be rectified.
This last week also saw the start of scaffolding work to create a working platform under the bridge. By the end of next week the bridge should be fully encapsulated so that the workface is protected from the elements and the environment protected from the restoration works to be carried out.
The scaffolding viewed from the west elevation, as seen by the web cam
Grit blasting and priming of the bridge has progressed well over the last couple of weeks since the encapsulation was completed. Stripping off all that rust and layers of old paint has revealed some interesting details and it's amazing just how crisp and sharp things like the Salford Iron Works lettering actually is. We've taken lots of photos during this process that have been added to the photographic record. One in particular is very interesting, showing the flush bolt heads in the apex panels with the 1813 date cast in to them. The bolts were handmade and each one was pock-marked, probably during trial assembly in the factory, so they could be put back in the same locations during erection.
With the Bailey bridge removed and the scaffolding allowing much closer inspection some unexpected difficulties have also been encountered. This has included the discovery of a cast iron cross member at each abutment that impinges on the intended location of the new hollow box section edge beams. There are also several other awkward lumps of cast iron where the arched ribs are joined in the centre that were not taken into account in the original edge beam design.
There has been some debate about how to overcome these obstacles and a decision that none of the historic fabric of the bridge will be cut has been taken. This means that the design for the edge beams has to be altered to accommodate these unexpected features and that process is still ongoing at present. This is causing delays to the project as it was intended to commence fabrication of the beams on 17th September and this has still not started. Whilst these delays are undesirable it is far more important that we get the design right and do the job properly.
Things are looking better after a coat of primer
The grit blasting work gave rise to an extremely dusty and unpleasant environment that was not suitable for cameras but now that this work has finished All Networks have installed a second webcam for us inside the encapsulation. Neither of the webcams will show a great deal of activity over the next few weeks but once the first edge beam is ready the new camera is ideally positioned to give a great view of this being installed. This will be followed by the diversion of the gas main, which should also make interesting viewing.
Those of you who visit the web site regularly or users of Brabyns Park will know that there has not been much going on down at the bridge since October and that the project has been delayed. We hope to have a new schedule for the work early in the New Year and be in a position to give a clearer idea of when the project will be completed.
As explained in our last entry, we've suffered delays due to problems with the detail design of the modern intervention that will house the diverted gas main and support the new parapet rails. There has been a great deal of work going on behind the scenes to resolve this and it has been a very frustrating time for us. We believe we now have acceptable solutions to issues that have been the subject of extensive debate over the last three months between the engineers and ourselves.
New construction drawings, click image for more details
A set of construction drawings for the modern intervention were issued to the contractor just before Christmas. We expect the work to restart early in the New Year, although this will not be confirmed until we receive the new schedule, which will be published here once available. In the meantime, we have now set up a new page with pdf copies of the main drawings for the modern intervention that have taken so long to finalise. These are updated versions of the drawings that many of you will have seen on our displays at local events. Click to see more details.
We look forward to sharing news on the schedule of work and likely completion date for the project.
There's not much time left to enrol on a short course in the history of the Iron Bridge and Brabyns Estate called "The Story of Brabyns and Iron Bridge’’.
A party of school children from Woodley are educated by Project Manager, Tim Boylan.
As part of the Iron Bridge Restoration Project we are delighted to be able to offer a 6 week course in the history of the Iron Bridge and Brabyns Estate. The course will be held at St Martins Church Hall on Brabyns Brow and will be led by local historian and experienced adult education tutor Judith Wilshaw. Classes will be held between 2.00pm and 4.00pm every Wednesday for six weeks starting on 6th February 2008 and finishing on 12th March 2008.
This non-accredited course would be ideal for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of Brabyns Park. The course will focus on the origins of Brabyns Estate and the significant events and people that have shaped the park throughout time.
This course is subsidised by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Iron Bridge Restoration Project and therefore will be completely free to those taking part.
The response to the Story of Brabyns and Iron Bridge history course run by Judith Wilshaw has been incredibly successful with more than 90 attendees each week. It demonstrates again how interested people are in their local heritage and the huge support for the restoration of the Brabyns iron bridge. At the 5th March session Judith will be joined by our own Peter Clarke and representatives of DEW Construction and Stockport Council for a series of presentations about the restoration project.
We are pleased to report that work on site has restarted following lengthy delays while the design of the modern intervention was finalised. Earlier this month the strengthening works to the central arched rib was carried out. This comprised the bonding of steel plates to the rib to thicken it up and the installation of new diagonal and horizontal bracing at the same locations as the original horizontal ties. The new bracing can be seen below with one of the old connections inset. More photos can be found in our on-line photographic record.
New bracing, old rusted connection inset
Fabrication of the hollow box section beams that will house the re-routed gas main and support the new internal parapets is now underway and installation of the first one is expected in early March. This will be followed by diversion of the gas main by the National Grid and then the second beam can be installed and the rest of the work completed. The main restoration work is currently projected to be completed towards the end of May 2008.
Some bad news is that during the extended period when there was no work on site our web cam inside the encapsulation was stolen. It will be completely useless to the person who took it because it was password protected and it has probably been junked by now. The stolen camera has not yet been replaced but we hope to do so before the gas main diversion begins as this should be a very interesting period with lots of activity in the area covered by the camera.
The bad news is that there have been more delays, this time at the fabricators who are making the hollow box section beams. The first one was expected in early March but will now arrive on Wednesday 2nd April.
The good news is that the new gas main has been installed inside the box section in the works, which should more than recover the time lost at the fabricators as the National Grid were originally intending to install it in-situ. There is still quite a lot of work for National Grid to do as the gas supply has to be rerouted through the new pipe whilst it remains live. This will be done by connecting the new pipe to the existing main at each end before sealing off and removing the old section running across the bridge. This work was always felt to be a high risk for causing delays but hopefully it will all be much simpler with the pipe already inside the hollow box section when it arrives. Famous last words again? We'll soon see.
The other good news is that our second web cam inside the encapsulation (that was stolen) has now been replaced, just in time to witness the new activity on site next week. As always we plan to bring you the latest news and continue adding photos to our on-line record as things (hopefully) pick up again over the next few weeks. The forecast completion date for the works remain the end of May at present but as always this is sensitive to how well things go.
Other news is that the Story of Brabyns and Iron Bridge education course, which finished on 12th March, was an overwhelming success with a fantastic attendance way beyond anyone's expectations. So a very well done to tutor Judith Wilshaw for her efforts. We've added a few photos of Judith and course participants to the photographic record and here she is telling her audience about Wight's Folly in Brabyns Park, with a photo of her as a young girl in the walled garden of Brabyns Park inset:
Judith Wilshaw leads a group of students at Wright's Folly.
The 1st hollow box section beam was installed today and things went pretty smoothly. As explained above, the new pipe that will allow the gas main to be diverted inside the SHS beam was fitted at the fabricators and this has saved a lot of effort that would have been needed to install it after the beam was in position. Now the new pipe has to be tied in to the steel main at both ends and then the old section running across the bridge can be removed. After the steel gas main has gone the second SHS can be installed and then the new deck will be constructed between the two of them.
The SHS containing the new gas main being manoeuvred into final position
The photo above shows the SHS being manoeuvred into final position on the left, whilst on the right you can see the old gas main that is to be removed. There are lots more photos taken today in the photographic record on the Virtual Tour.
Following the hugely popular 'Story of Brabyns Park and Iron Bridge' 6-week education course funded by the Heritage Lottery grant and led by local historian and tutor Judith Wilshaw, we are pleased to announce two new one day courses on the same topic.
These are also funded by the grant and are therefore free of charge to participants:
The first will be on Saturday 17th May at St Martins Church 9.30 – 4.00pm.
There is a second one planned for Saturday 14th June at St Martins Church 9.30 – 4.00pm
Dependant on the success of the first two we may run a further session in July but we will advertise that nearer the time.
The day course is in essence a condensed version of the six week course. There will be presentations in the morning, the opportunity to look around the church at lunch time and then a guided walk into Brabyns Park in the afternoon. We are hoping that this will be more appealing to those that work during the week and do not have the time to commit themselves to the longer course.
Places will be limited to 30 for each session, so booking is essential.
We're pleased to advise that, following yet more delays, the gas main diversion has now been completed. There are more photos in the gallery here. The second steel hollow box section is due on Tuesday 6 May and once it is installed the assembly of the new decking can commence. Don't forget you can watch it on the web cams.
The old gas main is gone at last (refer to previous photo above).
Latest estimate of when the bridge will be reopened is now early June 2008. Plans for a formal re-opening are underway for Sunday 22nd June, the day after Carnival Day.
Good news and bad new time again! The good news is that the second SHS was successfully installed today - go to the photographic record to see the latest images.
The bad news is that it turned out the decking plates were painted on the wrong side and have to be returned to the fabricators to be repainted, costing yet another week or so of delay. This means we are now well into June before the bridge is expected to be open again and things are getting tighter against the date set for a formal re-opening. Keep watching this space.
The deck plates were installed yesterday and repairs to the railings and pointing of the wing walls and abutments are nearing completion. A pristine bridge is beginning to emerge from the scaffold as the restoration reaches another exciting phase. There are lots more pictures in the photographic record.
Decking plates being installed
The first of at least two free one-day education courses run by Judith Wilshaw takes place today at St Martins Church 9.30 – 4.00pm.
Those of you who have got your copy of the Marple Carnival programme will know that a ceremony to formally reopen the Iron Bridge is scheduled for Sunday 22nd June, the day after the Carnival. We plan to publicise this during Carnival Day itself and hope that a big crowd will join us in Brabyns Park to celebrate the completion of the project. Formal invites should be winging their way to all the groups, organisations and individuals who have helped us to raise funds over the last seven years but we also hope that everyone who has sponsored us, written letters of support or signed our petition way back in the early days will come along too.
The ceremony itself is due to begin at 11.30am but the event will get underway from 11am with Marple and Hawk Green Brass Bands providing the very best of musical entertainment in the park. All we need now is for the bridge to be finished in time!
Take 27 Ltd, the company generating the CGI images of the Iron Bridge have released two new draft 3D "animatics" for assessment of timing and camera movement. One depicts the bridge in Georgian times with a horse and carriage crossing it and the other shows the installation of the Bailey Bridge. These are great and we're looking forward to seeing them in their final format.
To take a look go to www.take27.co.uk/ironbridge/ and enter the site to see the examples of the CGI work released to date.
The scaffolding around the iron bridge is due to come down any day now so our web cam that was mounted on the scaffold has been removed and we are back to just the one on the cottage showing the wide angle view. This should see quite a lot of activity as the work draws to a conclusion over the next couple of weeks. Click here to see what's going on right now!
Removal of the scaffolding has commenced this week and should be completed by around Tuesday next week. The installation of the new internal parapet posts has also begun, along with other modern intervention including chicane arrangements to slow down cyclists and horse riders, who should dismount before crossing the bridge. Mounting blocks are currently being constructed that will aid the riders to remount. For up to date photos visit the photographic record.
The restored bridge emerges as the scaffold is dismantled
Although things are a little behind the most recent schedule the contractor is forecasting that the bridge will be reopened to the public on the afternoon of Friday 13th June, providing the weather is kind to us over the coming week!
The Iron Bridge Restoration itself was completed today and the bridge was reopened to the public at around 4.20pm. There are still a number of other tasks to be completed including the commemorative plaque on the tree stump and carving of the stump by chainsaw artist Andrew Frost. Access improvements to the site will also continue and the displays for the Stockport Museum, the model, CGI and video still all have to be completed.
The Iron Bridge is now open to the public again
As already advised, there will be a formal opening ceremony at 11.30am Sunday 22nd June with music from Marple and Hawk Green Bands commencing from 11am. We look forward to seeing you all on Carnival Day in Memorial Park and in Brabyns Park on the 22nd, when the ribbon will be officially cut!
Thanks to Arthur Procter for this picture of us admiring the finished bridge