Doubts over lifespan of Berwick Old Bridge

Fears have been raised about the deteriorating condition of Berwick's 17th century Old Bridge spanning the River Tweed.

Thursday, 10th March 2016, 8:30 am
Berwick's Old Bridge

Repairs are being planned by Northumberland County Council in 2017/18, although the exact nature of the works required has not yet been identified.

A council spokesman said: “Berwick Old Bridge is earmarked for work as part of the £6.7 million Government Challenge Funding we received, which involves 130 bridge masonry arches being repaired across the county.

“The work in Berwick is likely to be in the 17/18 financial year but the level of work needed is still to be identified. We will be liaising closely with the town council before any work takes place.”

Town councillors had expressed their concerns after viewing photographs of crumbling stonework taken by local resident Michael Stewart.

Councillor Karin Graham said the pictures indicated that a survey needed to be undertaken as soon as possible.

“It’s desperate for pointing and there seem to be other serious issues,” she said. “It seems pretty weak in parts and that concerns me.”

Councillor Gregah Roughead raised similar concerns last year.

“The new photographs show it is significantly worse, especially on the piers facing the new bridge,” he said.

Fears were expressed that the bridge was being neglected but Mayor Hazel Bettison said the county council had a duty of care to look after the Grade I listed structure.

It was also agreed to express its concerns to English Heritage.

Nevertheless, town councillors recognised that its days carrying traffic could be numbered.

Councillor Ivor Dixon said: “I don’t know if it’s a good idea or not but a lot of people feel the time is right to pedestrianise it.

“I worry about how busy the main bridge would be, especially in the summer, if the Old Bridge did close to traffic.

“At least at the moment traffic can get down Bridge Street and out of Berwick that way.”

The sandstone bridge was built between 1611 and 1624 in the reign of King James I.

It currently has one-way traffic and a weight restriction which prohibits heavy lorries to alleviate some of the stress.

Short-term stabilisation works were carried out on large cracks which appeared in 2011. A team of specialists plastered a lime mortar product into the holes.

Councillor David Blackburn said: “We are concerned about our bridge. Eventually that bridge will have to be closed to traffic and if they do that they will have to think seriously about what to do.”