In December 2005 the Iron Bridge Restoration Project set up an on-line consultation and questionnaire in order to demonstrate the level of public support for their plans to submit an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a grant towards the cost of restoring the Iron Bridge in Brabyns Park.
The consultation took place on the Marple Website between Tuesday 27th December 2005 and Friday 17th March 2006, during which time exactly 100 responses were received via the Internet. In addition to the on-line forms submitted, a local organisation - The Marple Afternoon Townswomen Guild - requested a manual version of the questionnaire because a number of their members who do not have Internet access wished to take part. 27 full replies were received in the manual format as a result of this request, making a total of 127 responses that form the basis of this report.
Scenic view from Rollins Lane before the Bailey Bridge was erected, taken in the late 1980s.
The questionnaire comprised of five questions with multiple-choice answers plus the facility to make 'free form' comments if desired. With the on-line form a full name and valid email address were requested and on the manual form participants were asked to provide their name and address.
All of the on-line responses received have been included in the results and analysis, even though two of them did not provide proper names. As these were the only negative replies received the omission of names was not deemed sufficient reason to exclude them. One manually completed form has been omitted because all of the questions were not answered and the name provided was illegible. Copies of all forms are available for inspection.
A full tabulation of the responses has been prepared and a series of pie-chart graphs have been produced to illustrate the overall results of the consultation.
"Thank you to everyone who replied to our consultation questionnaire. It will be a big help in demonstrating local support for the project. We were especially pleased with the positive and knowledgeable comments many of you made and these are all included at the bottom of the page. This is a simplified version of the report that has been submitted to the HLF as part of the Access Plan:"
The following questions were asked. The multiple-choice answers that were available for selection are listed below with the number of responses received for each:
|Completed forms Received:
Online 100 78.7%
Manual 27 21.3%
|Q1. How important do you think it is that the bridge is restored to its former glory?
Very important 103 81.1%
Important 22 17.3%
Not very important 2 1.6%
|Q2. How important do you think it is that the bridge's place in our local heritage is preserved and understood by the people who use it?
Very important 104 81.9%
Important 21 16.5%
Not very important 2 1.6%
|Q3. Where do you live?
In Marple 100 78.7%
In the Stockport area 16 12.6%
Outside of Stockport 11 8.7%
|Q4. How often would you say you use or visit the bridge?
Regularly (once a week or more) 25 19.7%
Occasionally (once a month or more) 49 38.6%
Infrequently (less than once a month) 46 36.2%
Never 7 5.5%
|Q5. Are you supportive of the Iron Bridge Restoration project applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the money needed to complete the restoration?
Very supportive 121 95.3%
Supportive 4 3.1%
Not supportive 2 1.6%
A total of 127 people gave full responses, 78.7% on-line and 21.3% manually.
91.3% of those who responded live within the Stockport area and 78.7% within Marple itself. The remaining 8.7% live outside of Stockport and include three ex-patriots now living overseas.
19.7% of the people who responded to the questionnaire use the bridge regularly, once a week or more, 38.6% use it occasionally, once a month or more, and 36.2% use it infrequently, less then once a month. Only 5.5%, or 7 out of 127 people, said that they never use the bridge, 4 of these living outside of Stockport and 3 living in Marple.
98.4% of people responded positively to question 1, with 81.1% feeling it was very important and 17.3% important that the bridge is restored to its former glory. Only 1.6% (2 people) felt this was not important.
98.4% of people also responded positively to question 2, with 81.9% saying it is very important and 16.5% important that the bridge's place in our local heritage is preserved and understood by the people who use it. 1.6% (2 people) also felt that this was not important.
95.3%, an overwhelming proportion, were very supportive of the project applying to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the money to complete the restoration, with a further 3.1% also supportive of this. Once again, only 2 people out of 127, or 1.6%, were not supportive.
With over 98% of the people who completed the questionnaire responding positively the consultation has demonstrated that the Iron Bridge is highly valued by the local community and has reconfirmed the significant level of support for the project that was apparent when the campaign for its restoration was begun.
A beautiful autumn scene at the Iron Bridge in Brabyns Park taken in 1978.
When added to the petition of over 2,000 signatures and more than 120 letters written to the Council in support of the early campaign, and with the match funding raised locally, it is clear that the Iron Bridge Restoration Project is truly a community driven project.
The detailed comments received are included in full below. These were overwhelmingly supportive and positive, with only one negative comment. Many of the responses demonstrate a good understanding of the bridge's heritage and emphasise the affection that it is held in by the local community.
"I would like to see the Iron Bridge put back to how it was originally constructed. And would be pleased to see the temporary Bailey bridge removed - the wood walkway can be very slippy in bad weather for walkers and cyclists."
"It is vitally important that this historic bridge is returned to its former glory."
"This is an important structure, not just locally but because of its historic significance. It also adds considerably to the local history of the area, and is a very attractive structure, which provides interest to the park."
"I think it vitally important that one of the few remaining items of our local heritage is maintained and protected for future generations."
"These buildings / bridges, are part of our heritage and should be looked after. We had the greatest industrial inventors in the world, how else can we remember them or in fact teach our children about our history."
"Supporting this local community project would be a good use for Heritage Lottery funds as it enhances the local area and will increase access to local history to many people visiting and living in Marple."
"It is years since I have seen or crossed the bridge as I now live in Australia. I would like to see it restored as it is a part of history and it would be a sad day to see it gone forever."
"The responsibility to preserve the positive aspects of our heritage must remain of paramount importance on behalf of both future generations, and for those who find inspiration from an understanding of our past."
"It is of great appeal to young and old alike and a rare piece of our local heritage we want to preserve for future generations."
"Will the restored bridge be usable by horses? If not, why not and if it will, will the work include a safe surface for horses."
"Keep on going."
"Good for Marple and the people of Marple. Good for all people, British and tourists interested in history. Good for local economy."
"The Iron Bridge is an almost unique structure and should be preserved as such. My ancestors have walked over this bridge and I expect my grandchildren and future generations to be able to do the same."
"Marple has lost a great many features due to misguided planning. It would be a tragedy if this bridge fell down due to poor or neglected maintenance. Would the question ever arise if this structure had been in London/ Home counties?"
"It is vitally important that this bridge is restored to its former glory. In its present sad state it does nothing to enhance the area. When it is fully restored it will form a grand entrance to the park, which is sadly lacking at the moment. So much of Marple's heritage has been lost and the Iron Bridge Restoration Project team should be commended for seeking to halt the decline of another landmark in the area."
"This bridge provides a necessary link between the Middlewood Way and Etherow Country Park and should be restored to its original form adding to other historical sites such as Chadkirk Chapel."
"We in Marple have lost many things to do with our past, and it is about time we started to save them, so lets start with the Iron Bridge. We have already lost Marple Hall, The Jolly Sailor just to name a few. SAVE THE IRON BRIDGE"
"This is a very important project for the area and is on a significant walking route linking to the canal and Middlewood Way. Hopefully, the restoration will lead to other conservation projects and bring greater recognition to what is a fascinating and beautiful area of Stockport (including the Marple bridge and Mellor areas)."
"T'Iron Bridge is a wonderful piece of history for Marple, Stockport, Manchester and England! It should be restored indeed! Well done t'all the restorers who work on the bridge project!"
"It seems to be taking for ever everyone seems to be losing will with the project and no one can see any progress and if you have to put a safety fence around the new bridge it wont be put back to its former glory I know its important to our heritage what's the point if its not back to how its should be all or nothing."
"I believe that the bridge is an important link to the history of the area and should be preserved for future generations. It is important not only in the context of local history but also from the industrial heritage aspect."
"The iron bridge is a valuable resource in the expanding conservation area. You don't get a second chance to keep history!"
"Important piece of Marple history well worth preserving."
"I understand that one of the problems is that a gas main runs across the bridge. Did the Gas Company seek permission to run their pipe across it in the first place? If not, then it is their responsibility to find a solution. If they were given permission then the responsibility is that of the body who gave the permission."
"We must save what we can from now on too many heritage buildings and such are being pulled down for redevelopment today."
"Brabyns park is a jewel for Marple and keeping it well maintained allows for enjoyment of visitors and residents."
"This bridge is a unique part of our heritage and not to save it would be a crime."
"We have lost to much of our heritage in the past to let the Iron Bridge..."
"Trying to explain the wonders of the bridge and how fantastic it must have looked to my children is impossible with it looking the way it does now. Something has to be done down there and restoration is a better option than rebuilding. Will definitely encourage more people down to that end of the park."
"So much of Marple's heritage has been lost it is vital that the bridge is saved. The bridge is of national importance."
"This project has the full support of New Mills, Marple and District Rotary Club and we would be delighted to see a fully restored bridge, which would enhance a very popular park and tourist attraction."
"Part of Marple's heritage and irreplaceable. As important to Marple as the Millennium Walkway is to the residents of New Mills."
"This is part of the local heritage of this area and should be restored to its former glory."
"A very worthy project."
"We take this bridge for granted. But what a loss it would be to the community if ever it were to be put out of use, for whatever reason. Keep up the good work."
"This restoration is long overdue; it has been an eyesore for many years. Mark and Peter are doing sterling work to put it back to how I remember it, unique, elegant and beautiful."
"I feel that in an increasingly insular society projects such as this are essential to bring communities together. Not only are they vitally important in preserving our local heritage but they give children and adults of all ages the opportunity to co-operate, develop skills and support each other in something other than self interest."
"I have lived in Marple for the past fifty years and I honestly don't think I have ever seen the bridge, but it is another historic part of Marple and should be preserved like the canal and locks."
"This bridge, built in 1813, is one of the very early iron bridges having been constructed about 10 years after Abraham Darby's first iron bridge. This makes it important in the history of iron bridges in general. It is also a major part of Marple's heritage having been built when the town was expanding rapidly with the industrial revolution. Brabyn's Park is one of the old estates of Marple dating from the mid 1700s and is now one of the main recreational areas in the town used by walkers, dog walkers and sports groups. The restoration of this bridge will not only create a tourist attraction but preserve a show piece of the engineering skills of our ancestors."
"Although I now live in Cyprus I spent 30 years in Marple involving myself in community affairs. You have my whole-hearted support for your highly worthy project."
"This bridge is a unique feature of Marple and should certainly be restored. A historic bridge in a countryside location."
"The bridge not only provides a vital "Green Link" connecting the community of Marple with Etherow Country Park but also enables it to engage with its past. The latter is particularly important since Marple has lost many of its heritage landmarks over the last 40 years."
"The bridge is an important feature in Marple's history and it is vital that such landmarks are maintained. At a national level there are few examples of this type of engineering and those that remain should be taken care of. As it is, the bridge is being left to gradually decline and we feel that something special is being lost. We also feel the restoration of the bridge would encourage more people (both local and less so) to visit the park and walk a little further."
"It's what I used to use to walk and cycle over all those years ago before it was topped off. Even then I thought what a beautiful bridge."
"The work of volunteers and local groups is often the only way to ensure the protection and improvement of many valuable historic assets that would otherwise be lost to the community."
"It would be wonderful to see the iron bridge fully restored. This is a great piece of our local history and a great piece of design."
"As one of the earliest iron carriage bridges, this bridge should be restored to its former glory. The insensitive superstructure should be removed."
"Just shut up about the bridge it's a waste of government money."
"Just hope it works."
"We need to preserve our heritage no matter how small and return it to its former glory. I enjoy the countryside (member of Marple Ramblers) and at the moment the bridge is a bit of an eyesore and has been for as long as I can remember. I wholeheartedly support the bridge's restoration, miniature of the one at Iron Bridge."
"In the past, so much of Marple has been needlessly destroyed - old houses pulled down etc. So now let us preserve this bridge for the sake of generations to come."
"It would be a great shame to allow this bit of the local heritage to 'die'. The bridge is also very useful!"
"I feel there is a great need to keep the heritage of our area in good repair, the ironbridge is a feature of Brabyns park and is well known by a great many people. It is used by schools and cub groups etc. as part of teaching the history of our area."
"It is part of Marple, it is very important that it stays."
"I think it is important to preserve as much of our heritage as possible."
"It is good to know that there are caring folk who wish to preserve our heritage."
"Could there be more publicity in the local papers?"
"I live in London now, but grew up in Marple Bridge and Marple, and still think of the bridge when I'm thinking back to the past. So much of Marple's heritage has been thoughtlessly lost, making it even more important to preserve and restore this rare, beautiful and elegant piece of our history."
"I am delighted that progress is being made on this project. The poor bridge suffered from far too many years of total neglect, and I feel that before long it would have decayed beyond repair, which, bearing in mind the social and historical importance of the Miss Hudson's estate to our area, would have been nothing short of tragic. I feel personally grateful to all who have worked so hard towards this restoration."
"It is important that historic constructions of this type are restored and maintained, not only for the present generation but future generations."