Brunel Swivel BridgeBrunel's Other Bridge

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Brunel Swivel Bridge Project 2017

Brunel Swivel Bridge
Investigative work on the rotation of the bridge 2017

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Preparation and Basic Conservation

The aim of the 2017 investigative work on the rotation of the bridge is to enable us to establish the following: These are essential investigative works that will significantly improve our understanding of the bridge in operation, the forces required to move it, and hence facilitate the design of the future drive-system, all of which will be required at HLF Stage 1.

Thus, the focus of the work in Phase 1 is to do the minimum amount of work to get the bridge into a condition in which it can turn a few times. Phase 1 comprises repairing the four support-wheels and the track supporting the bridge atop them, followed by lowering of the bridge and carrying out manual turning trials using hoists and load cells indicating the forces being applied.

The work-content will comprise the following and will be carried out by a combination of volunteers and specialist contractors during the period February to September 2017.

It is a concern that any hours we spend can not be counted as match funding until lottery funding has been granted. Work is limited since we are not allowed to start restoration work til we get our funding, so any work has to be investigative.

Volunteers still have useful work to do including clearing rust from inside the holed parts, inspecting interiors, measuring plate-thickness, fitting the timber stops, gardening, refitting the ram that was removed, clearing silt from pits, painting, etc.

Likely dates of work for 2017 (We will working 'one day per month' normally on SATURDAYS rather than a whole weekend):

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.

Contact Geoff Wallis ( if you wish to help. We need to have an idea of numbers.

Overall Details of work


As you know, the Bridge is listed Grade 2* and is on Historic England (formerly English Heritage) Buildings at Risk Register. Whilst their funding is severely restricted, HE have been supportive in providing modest grants to carry out trials and erect a temporary roof, which were completed by Bristol City and Avon Industrial Buildings Trust with volunteer help last year.

EH/HE were impressed with the Mann Williams (MW) report that resulted from the grant-funded work that we managed on behalf of the council in 2015 and suggested that we discuss an application for further investigative work on critical areas identified in the report as part of this year's Heritage at Risk programme. They also suggested that we might request further assistance in other areas via their consultancy budget and service.

Contracts will be let by the Avon Industrial Buildings Trust and supervised by their Technical team, comprising Bob Watkins and Geoff Wallis.

We are delighted to see work by the professionals starting on site and want to thank Bristol City Council, English Heritage, the local amenity societies, our faithful hard-working volunteers, and huge number of supporters for getting the Project this far.

The big challenge lays ahead in securing major funding. We have a well-specified and costed scheme for repair which will form a sound basis for fund-raising.

You can make a donation by

The main donation link is:

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

or you can send a cheque payable to
Avon Industrial Buildings Trust to:
The Treasurer, Thatched Wells, Duckhole, Thornbury, BS35 1LD.

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

Progress in 2017

April 2017

Our next work day is next Saturday, 22nd April so do please come and join us. We plan to: Today it was a lovely sunny day. We had two new people from Cliftonwood counting passers by and then Maggie took over. Mostly local people.
Bob, Martyn, Geoff, and David erected a scaffolding gantry, and lifted the north-west turntable wheel to meeasure it properly and then replaced it.

Photos of Progress in April 2017

March 2017

We meet at 10.00 am next Saturday 18th March at 'Brunel's Other Bridge to continue the following tasks: Today we made good progress in overcast windy conditions. Survey-supremo Sal carefully recorded numbers of passers, but not I think, our local saxophonist who entertained us just before the survey started.

Bob, Martyn, Geoff, Matt and David erected a scaffolding gantry, hoisted out the south-west turntable wheel and mounted it on a special steel trestle Geoff had made previously. Then came the challenge of getting it off the Bridge. It weighs 300Kg which is far too heavy to carry, so short scaffold tubes were used as rollers to propel it along a Youngman's board to the tail of the Bridge. The ancient Egyptians would have been proud of us!. The board was specially tested by several of the stouter members of the gang bouncing in the middle, which confirmed that a mid-span support would be needed for the long run from the Bridge down to Geoff's waiting car.

Loading the car involved juggling the cast iron turntable wheel off its rollers and onto the long board running into the back of the car, supported by a scaffold trestle to prevent it bending. When all was ready it was an easy task to wriggle the enormous casting down and into the car, although the suspension groaned somewhat!

The whole operation was photographed by Rebecca for her photo-blog, watch this space for its address. Bob continued his accurate measuring of the components, and shortly will complete the drawings needed for our machinist to make new parts.

At lunch time Maggie arrived with a throaty roar in her Moss motor (...errr., the car engine roared, not Maggie) and used her time usefully taking more photos and 'gardening' with Sal.

So, we now have the first major item off site and shortly start making new bearings. Exciting!

Photos of Progress in March 2017

February 2017

Our 2017 season of monthly volunteer work starts starts Saturday, 25th February, when we plan to: Our first volunteer day of the new year was 25th Feb, a month earlier than last year as we have so much to do.

Sal gallantly volunteered for doggie-doo-ty clearing up what inconsiderate owners allow their dogs to doo in our place of work. Thanks Sal, you are a star! Sal then carried out a survey of the cyclists and pedestrians passing across the Island, and had some interesting conversations. These statistics are needed to inform our plans for the Bridge by indicating the level of use it might get when restored, and we plan to continue the surveys each month, or more often if volunteers are forth-coming.

Angelo and Reece 'gardened', removing vegetation that had established itself around the site, and they continued faithfully when the rain started. Well done chaps.

Meanwhile, safe under our protective temporary roof Bob, Geoff, Ian, David and newcomer Matt removed rust from the turntable track and lifted off the heavy caps on the bearings of the wheels that the Bridge rotates on. We cleaned off old grease and checked the condition of the shafts that support the Bridge's 70 Tonnes. We decided two were too corroded for use and planned how to machine away the rust and fit new bearings.

We have been unsure how the four support wheels are fixed to their shaft but after much searching found a 'secret key' securing each, fitted in its hole so perfectly that they could hardly be seen! The engineers of 1849 did a spectacularly accurate job!

We were delighted to receive several visitors, including Warren Marsh from the Bristol Visual and Amenity Group, and Flavia De Luca with a lovely group of post-grads from the Department of Civil Engineering at Bristol University. Lets hope the forthcoming proposals for student projects find willing takers.

Photos of Progress in February 2017

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

Photos of Progress in 2017

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