Brunel Swivel BridgeBrunel's Other Bridge

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Brunel Swivel Bridge Project 2018

Brunel Swivel Bridge
Investigative work on the rotation of the bridge 2018

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Preparation and Basic Conservation

Our aim this year is to complete the repair of the turntable mechanism to a condition in which it can again turn for trial-turning to be carried out. Our planned work is: This is an ambitious target for 2018, so we need lots of help! Engineering experience is not essential as there is a wide range of tasks to carry out.

The track is an enormous wrought iron forging (about 14 ft diameter) probably made by rolling to a circle which must have been joined by fire-welding, ie, both ends being heated to bright-white heat and hammered together. Excitingly we believe we have located the joint, evidenced by diagonal lines in the working face. The forging is a complicated shape, remarkably accurate and a real tribute to the craftsmen who made it in 1849. We couldn't match this quality of manual forging nowadays.
It is an amazing example of heavy forge-work which should be preserved for future generations.

We plan to work one day per month, with extra days as necessary to maintain progress. We meet on the third or fourth Saturday in each month, as follows:

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 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 2018

April 2018

We meet again next Saturday 21 April to continue our work on the Bridge, as follows: As always we meet at 10.00am at the Bridge. There is plenty of parking space and basic toilets are available. Please wear stout footwear, and if wrestling with the wheel or bearings you might like to bring overalls, gloves and something to kneel on. We have gloves, high-vis vest and a helmet you can borrow.

Youngsters are welcome provided their guardians are in attendance full time please.

Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday 21st April.

March 2018

Sat 31 March. Our next workday is nearly upon us, and there's lots to do: The weather forecast for our 'Soggy Saturday' workday was not promising, but our volunteers were undeterred by drizzle and their enthusiasm was not dampened. We were very pleased to be able to shelter under our hut. It kept us dry and out of the wind. We swiftly completed our main tasks in just four hours, at which point the weather improved! . Bob, David, Martyn and Ian wrestled the 300 Kg. north east wheel from its bearings, wriggled it sideways from under the turntable, hoisted it up, and trundled it along the Youngmans boards Egyptian-pyramid style using rollers and slaves. (Actually, no slaves !). Then David did sterling work de-rusting the wheel with our new needle-gun before it was loaded to Geoff's groaning estate. It will now be delivered to Croft Engineering in Fishponds for skimming.

Meanwhile, Maggie, Julian Beel and Geoff persuaded the bronzes out of their housings on the south east wheel's bearing blocks so that they can be cleaned and dressed to fit the skimmed wheel-shaft. Julian Baldwin was on hand to video this stage of the work. By the way, Julian recently entered his video of the manufacture of the new NW wheel into an international competition and did well, so congratulations Julian.

Finally, Ian Kerr unveiled his Meccano and polystyrene model of the 'setting gear' which sets the Bridge deck at the correct level on the north bank of the Entrance Lock. (See this months photo). Ian has made and exhibited a giant Meccano model of the Swivel Bridge, so the setting gear completes the model.

We should have two wheels ready to re-fit next workday, so do come and join us on 21st April.
Photos of Progress in March 2018

February 2018

Our first workday of 2018 is on Saturday 17th Feb. when we have lots of interesting tasks to carry out. As always we meet at 10.00am at the Bridge. Plenty of parking space and basic toilets are available. Please wear stout footwear, and if wrestling with the wheel you might like to bring overalls, gloves and something to kneel on. Also, it can be chilly next to the river in February so please wrap up well. We have gloves, high-vis vest and a helmet you can borrow.

Bob W, David F, Maggie S, Geoff W and new expert volunteer Julian Beel enjoyed working together in lovely February sun, videoed by our professional-standard media-man Julian.
Our first aim was to install the newly machined 300 Kg.wheel delivered to site in Geoff's long-suffering down-at-the rear estate car. We did this with ease, using our shiny new steel gantry which sits over each wheel-position and provides a 'sky hook' for us to hoist from.
Our new young volunteer Bradley helped operate the chain hoist, spread grease on the bearings for protection and other tasks, supervised by mum Anne. Thank you guys, your help was appreciated. You'll make a great engineer one day Bradley!

We then turned our attention to the south east wheel which wasn't so easy to extract as the headroom is lower. We had to do a 'fox-trot' move by lifting the wheel, rotating it laterally, moving it sideways, and then lifting it out. Fortunately there was about 10mm to spare, but it was fiddly working under the bridge.
We have become experts now at moving the wheels along the deck on their frames using rollers, and can even go up and down a step.

Bob, David and Geoff had a think about how to strengthen the severely corroded beams that carry the weight of the deck above the turntable.
We decided that a series of oak 'pit-props' was the best solution, tightened by folding wedges. Finally we laid down under the structure, and brainstormed a way of centralizing the deck using new bronze bearing blocks, so now we have lots of work to get on with this year. Come and help us!'

Photos of Progress in February 2018

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 2018

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