Brunel Swivel BridgeBrunel's Other Bridge

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Brunel Swivel Bridge Project 2015

Brunel Swivel Bridge
Rust on the turntable
Brunel Swivel Bridge
Rust on the base of the bridge
Brunel Swivel Bridge
Completed test patch

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Work PHASE B Preparation and Basic Conservation by Volunteers

Likely dates of work for 2015: Sounds like fun? No experience needed, all equipment provided, and you'll get really involved in helping to save Brunel's Other Bridge. We need your help.

We need to have an idea of numbers.

Details of work


You can make a donation using a charity website. The main donation link now uses the Wonderful fundraising website:
Brunel Swivel Bridge

mydonate will stop working in June 2019

We have created a project on to help us fund raise for our HLF bid

or you can send a cheque payable to
Avon Industrial Buildings Trust to:
The Treasurer, >24, The Bluebells, Bradley Stoke, Bristol BS32 8BE

Leaflet giving information, asking for support and how to make a donation

Progress in 2015

Look at the reports page to see the summaries of the results of inspections of the bridge. Updated 11 January 2016

October 2015

We were hoping to: Our volunteers got well contorted this weekend. Sal, Ian and Reece tucked themselves under the Bridge and excavated around the giant cast iron base that the structure rests on. They found lots of concrete on stony fill revealing that the Bridge was set on a bed of stones, ash and clinker and surrounded with concrete to stabilise it.

Mike delved down a meter below ground to clear the pits housing the huge timber stops that prevented the bridge over-running. He then installed two giant timbers prepared by Graham who came down specially from Birmingham with his car loaded to the gunwales with two enormous 12 x 12 inch baulks! Thanks Graham, and we hope your back is soon better.

Meanwhile Geoff cut the raking end of the 12 x 12 inch timber prop for the stop......mostly by hand-saw! (Yes, honestly)

Maggie photographed, manned our exhibition stand, fielded questions from our numerous visitors and captured their e-mail addresses as supporters, whilst also doing 'gardening' with Ros to clear weeds, moss etc.

Bob and Martyn's long-running and detailed survey of the condition of plate-work was finished on Sunday. They couldn't put off any longer the uncomfortable task of laying on their back and peering up under the side beams, hammering the plates to check for holes. Geoff removed three welded-on patch-repair plates revealing more holes and allowed the thickness of surviving platework to be measured. Bob now has some 'winter-work' at home to complete the CAD drawings.

Finally, as a treat on Sunday afternoon our happy group gathered under the temporary roof which was transformed into a little cinema. Sal showed us an eight minute video called 'Triangulation', produced by Ruben Knutsen, commissioned for the Brunel 200 celebration in 2006, in which local celebrity Tony Bailey performed a contemporary dance on the Swivel Bridge before the timber deck was removed. what an interesting and fitting conclusion to our 2015 season of voluntary work!

If you wish you had joined in our fun, its not too late as we start up again in March next year, so please check out our web-site for monthly work-dates and come and join us.

Have a good Christmas.
Photos of Progress Oct 2015

September 2015

Doors Open Day A good stream of visitors all day and the total head count was 222 (compared to 158 in 2014) and many signed support sheets. At least 2 people had driven over the bridge during the 1960s though neither ever took any photos of it. Mike Bone had 16 people for the walk (some who had booked did not turn up, which was annoying because many people had been told it was fully booked) and they all listened to David Greenfield before looking more closely at the bridge. It was a lovely sunny day. Historic Structures Engineers 26 engineers from all over the country came to Bristol for 4 days and went to see Clifton Suspension Bridge, Clifton Rocks Railway, the docks, Brunel Institute, the Brabazon Hangar, Victoria Bridge in Bath, Brunel's GWR bridge over tha Avon near Netham, Clifton Cathedral, dined at Clevedon Court and then spent Sunday morning at our swivel bridge on a lovely sunny day
Photos of Progress September 2015

July 2015

We were hoping to: This weekend we had good attendance on both days and achieved much. Graham L motored down from Birmingham and was already hard at work cutting the mortice in the new timber stop when the rest of us arrived at 10.00 on Saturday. Later he cut the huge 12 x 12 inch timber off to length with a hand-saw and a little help from his friends! The stop is now ready for erection at a future work-day.

Bob, Martyn, Sharon and Yasin completed the plate-work survey, and then we all focussed on excavating the tail-wheel track to see if we could establish how it is supported. A drawing shows timber beams and piles, so that is what we expected, but as we dug down all we found was concrete, and more concrete. We did, however also find a stone-capped drain running towards the line of another known drain, but its purpose remains a mystery.

The Bridge is Grade 2* listed so archaeological work must be supervised by a qualified archaeologist. Volunteer Mike Chapman therefore joined us, which was very much appreciated Mike.

We established that the built-up ground under the track is clay, probably dumped there during the excavation of the present Entrance Lock, covered by a layer of late Victorian fill, which included broken pottery and a clay-pipe fragment. The track itself rests on a mass concrete beam at least 4ft deep and a similar width. We tried to cut into this to seek hidden timber beams, but were defeated by amazingly hard concrete, so we photographed and measured everything, back-filled the excavation and tamped the ground flat.

Our thanks to Julian B who videoed both days operations, and interviewed our tech team member Bob W.
Photos of Progress July 2015

May 2015

On Saturday/Sunday we were hoping we to: We finished constructing the roof on Saturday, so the heavily-corroded central support structure and turntable mechanisms are now reasonably well protected. Thanks are due to Historic England (formerly English Heritage) for a grant to cover materials, and thanks too to the many volunteers who built it. It was Mike B, Mike T, Maggie, Ian and Graham who finished off the roof whilst Graham Laucht came all the way from Birmingham to help out, preparing drawings of the timber stop and dismantling it.

On Sunday Mike B then marked out and started cutting joints in the large timbers needed for a replacement stop, whilst Geoff started removing the patch-plates that have been welded over areas of rust on the deck-ribs. These add little strength, and trap water, making rusting of the original plates worse. Julian was on hand to video each operation, and we look forward to seeing his 'first cut' in the future.'
Photos of Progress May 2015

April 2015

On Saturday five of our volunteers attended the South West and Wales Regional Industrial Archaeology Conference in Tiverton, Devon, and manned our BOB display stand. There was plenty of interest in our display, and the 20 minute lectures given by David Greenfield and Geoff Wallis on the history, importance, and plans to restore the Bridge.

On Sunday we welcomed two new volunteers Katarina and Reece. Bob's team continued the condition survey of the rusted plate-work whilst Geoff's team erected the timber frame of the eastern half of the roof to protect the vulnerable turntable structure. This will be completed in May.

Photos of Progress in April 2015

The beams were erected but the roof will have to be completed in May

March 2015

The highest priorities for Saturday and Sunday are:
  1. Erect the temporary roof.
  2. Bob's survey work.
  3. Complete the interpretation boards
  4. Prepare drawings for a new timber stop to replace the decayed existing one. We can start preparing the timber for this too.
  5. Start removing welded-on steel patches.
We had three aims for this month's volunteer work days, all needing fine weather. With an enthusiastic band of workers and warm, sunny condition we had two amazingly productive days, completed all we wanted to and enjoyed ourselves into the bargain.

Bob and four new engineering volunteers continued with the condition survey, this time focusing on the numerous transverse beams that run across the Bridge, whilst Mike B and Maggie erected our two smart new interpretive boards. People were stopping and reading them as soon as they were finished, and they proved very popular.

Maggie, two Mikes, Graham and Geoff focused on erecting the first 3m long section of the felt-clad roof to protect the highly-stressed wrought iron girders that support the entire structure. They are severely corroded and the new roof will buy us time whilst we seek funding to restore the Bridge fully. The roof is strongly constructed of 150 x 50 timbers with a plywood and glued felt covering, all tied down with steel cables to prevent the whole lot blowing away in a high wind. Meanwhile our wonderful volunteer Julian from the Bristol Film and Video Society recorded our progress.

Photos of Progress in March 2015

At our next volunteer work-days we plan to build the second half of the roof so why not join us? See for details.

February 2015

6th February: The Brunel Swivel Bridge hydraulic cylinder and ram came back to their pit after being removed in December to undergo investigation. The ram had to be rotated on site to get it to fit its slide-rails.

10th February: Ram Plans added. Surveys also updated

16th February: The exhibition that was set up in the foyer of Bristol Central Library, College Green will be moved to the Create Centre in Smeaton Road BS1 6XN until 13 April. Do come and visit Mon-Fri 9-5. 21/22nd February: Work weekend. The highest priorities for Saturday and Sunday are:

  1. Excavating the buried beam-end adjacent the south east turntable wheel, inspecting two timbers and re-filling the hole.
  2. Bob's survey work, not sure how far he has got with this.
  3. Deciding where the two display boards will go, excavating the footings, buying dry-mix concrete and casting the plinths. When cured we can erect the steel pillars and then the boards.
  4. Starting work on the temporary roof.

20/21 February:'Earlier this month all the materials for the new protective roof arrived and were stored in Building 148, the little shed to the south of the Bridge, courtesy of the Dock Engineer. Thank you Kevin.

On Saturday the high Spring Tide was at 11.7m so we started work with the water lapping our toes. We were joined by our new volunteer Duncan who came all the way from Bath by train to join us on Saturday. He marked out and cut all twelve joists ready for erection, whilst Maggie cleared drains, Bob and Martyn moved stacks of heavy timber baulks to allow the air to circulate around them and slow the onset of decay. They then carried on with plate thickness measurements using our new ultrasonic thickness-measurer, although the sophisticated kit was fooled by slag inclusions in the old wrought iron plates which gave false readings.

Mike and Graham excavated the ground to the south east of the turntable in an attempt to locate the opposite end of the timber beam we had discovered buried to the north west last year, but only found very hard concrete, extending for over 70cm around the outside of the turntable bed. As the high tide rose and fell it was clear water soaked in and out of the ground as if through a big sponge, yet the cast iron bed of the Bridge seems quite stable under its 70T load. The concrete we have now found on two sides of the structure may be the reason for its stability.

On Sunday we cemented in the steel lecturn for one of our two new interpretive boards and relocated a life-bouy a couple of metres to make way for the second board before rain stopped play.

Photos of Progress in February 2015

January 2015

5th January: The exhibition was set up in the foyer of Bristol Central Library, College Green. This will run from 5 January to 15 February

9th January: Maggie, Mike, Geoff, Bob and Martyn fixed long boards to allow safer access to the deck of the Bridge. Julian Baldwin from the Bristol Film and Video Society (BFVS) came to film the project because they considered that this restoration was of sufficient importance in terms of local engineering history to warrant being filmed during its progress to produce an enduring record of the project.

11th January: Bob, John Cook, and Tom Aylott braved the cold weather on Sunday to survey, with Julian Baldwin from BFVS in attendance to record the scene. Surveying the structure is another vital task which will allow detailed planning of the restoration works.

12th January: Repair-plates going in on the bottom triangular section of the south side-beam. The four bolts are special high-strength friction-grip bolts put in with a pneumatic gun that tightens them by means of a spigot on the end that breaks off when the bolt is tight enough. They are very effective, and we are condidering using them where we can't get in to rivet.
One of Dorothea's staff in protective gear spot-blasted the underside prior to painting. He was using a hard grit called aluminium oxide which scours away the rust but not the wrought iron. So,the repairs substantially finished this week, weather-permitting, and a small proportion of the Bridge has already been blast-cleaned and painted! .

17th January: Mike Bone, Geoff Wallis and Maggie showed Underfall Yard's new Community, Learning and Volunteers Manager Sarah the features of the bridge today. Very icy, but our new boards worked very well. We warmed up in the cafe, and then went a walkabout around the immediate area.

19 January: Closing up the trial holes. New rivets being replaced in small sections of the bridge which were removed to check the structural condition.

Photos of Progress in 2015

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