Brunel Swivel BridgeBrunel's Other Bridge

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Brunel Swivel Bridge Project 2019

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

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Preparation and Basic Conservation

This will be an exciting year in which we hope to have the Bridge turning again, 170 years after it was comnpleted to Brunel's innovative design. We plan to work on Saturdays, but there will be extra work-days as necessary to achieve our aim of trial turning in July. We must complete the levelling of the wheels, purchase and install a new steel-ring track, centralize and lower the whole deck-assembly, and strengthen the corroded structure, so plenty of helpers will be needed and all skills welcome, not only engineering!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 2019, 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 using a charity website. The main donation link now uses the Wonderful fundraising website:
Brunel Swivel Bridge

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, 24, The Bluebells, Bradley Stoke, Bristol BS32 8BE

Bank details for bank transfer:
Account name: Avon Industrial Buildings Trust
Account address: CAFCASH LTD
Kings Hill
West Malling
Kent ME19 4TA
Sort code: 40-52-40
Account number: 00006720

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

Progress in 2019

We start at 9.30am so do please join us if you can. There is plenty of parking space and basic toilets are available. Please wear stout footwear, and you might like to bring overalls, gloves and something to kneel on. We have gloves, high-vis vest and a helmet you can borrow, and we provide tea and coffee!

Youngsters are welcome provided their guardians are with them full time please.

Please see for future work-dates.

Many events happening in September including Institute of Stuctural Engineers conference onent on 7th and 8th September this year in your diary. Thank you to everyone who has offered to lead an activity, man the exhibitions, cater, steward,

and help set up/break down. More help is needed, so please reply if you have ideas or would like to offer help. Can anyone make an appropiately decorated (big) cake?

  • Photos of Progress Jun 2019
  • May 2019

    Well, I'm delighted to report that Dorothea have made the huge new turntable track and laid it in place on the restored wheels, and the new central bronze collar has been fitted, so we are now ready to lower the Bridge. If you haven't seen how we shift 68 Tonnes, come along and find out. If you have, then we need your help! We also have a clever arrangement for moving the Bridge sideways, so our next work-day will be interesting, nay, exciting.

    It is on Saturday 25th May, starting at 9.30am, and breaking around 2.00pm for a planning meeting for our September 7-8th birthday party. We have lots planned for that event so need YOUR help demonstrating, hosting visitors, stewarding, making/selling refreshments, and lots more.

    On 25th we need 'gardeners' to dispose of the weeds, moss and soil becoming established under the Deck, a job that will become harder once the Bridge has been lowered, so please bring rakes, buckets, trowels etc.

    The door of the little shed needs to be painted, paintwork made good on the wheels, grease to apply, and plenty of other tasks, so there will be something to do whether you are an engineer or not. Also one or two volunteers with smiles and leaflets are needed to talk to visitors and explain what we are doing..

    The new 20mm steel turntable liner-ring is in place and Dorothea Restorations plan to start welding it in place on 22nd July, so the race is on to lower the Bridge onto its ring and get it lined up. The weather was fine on Saturday 25th and ten volunteers helped, so we achieved much, although frustratingly not quite as much as we hoped. Geoff and Julian Beel fitted the new collar around the pintle, and then Ian, Charlie, Julian and Geoff installed rollers and plates under the east end of the Bridge to allow it to move as necessary. They then jacked the tail end up, removed some timbers, and lowered it several inches. Unfortunately the 12 inch square softwood timbers have started to soften after three years and acted like springs, so that when we raised the Bridge to release them, frustratingly they expanded too and were difficult to extract. We are therefore going to hold two more work-days in June to lower the Bridge. I'll send out a separate e-mail, so do please watch out for that, and come and help as we must be ready for our contractors.

    Bob continued his survey work and helped generally, whilst Martin Kay continued painting at high altitude on the little shed, which is now starting to look very neat. John Willis and Maggie S cleared large areas of soil, grass and moss, so those areas are now looking good too. Julian Baldwin kindly videoed, including the new collar fitted in the pit under the turntable, and we welcomed his Video Club colleague Peter Heaven who joined us for the first time. Thank you for joining us Peter, we hope we shall see you again. A big thank you to everyone who helped, especially Charlie who has boundless energy and took a day off in the middle of taking twenty GCSE's. We wish you every success in your exams Charlie.'

    We held a planning meeting for BOB's 170th Birthday party on September 7th and 8th. Thank you to everyone who has offered to help., and if you would like to be involved too, just e-mail me on, or phone me on 0758-4060-806.

    Photos of Progress May 2019

    April 2019

    Our next volunteers' work-day is Saturday 13th April so do please come and join us.

    Our contractor has the new turntable ring ready to fit, so we need to get ready by moving the old wheel, and fitting grease-nipples to the NE wheel's bearings. We need to prepare and fit the new bronze collar, and then start the process of lowering the deck with our two 50 Tonne hydraulic jacks.

    This time of the year means a lot of weed-clearing is needed, so please bring rakes, buckets, trowels etc., and something to kneel on.

    The door of the shed needs to be painted and the site tidied generally. One or two volunteers with smiles and leaflets are needed to talk to visitors and explain what we are doing, so you don't need to be an engineer, just keen to see this amazing structure restored and willing to help.

    We welcomed a new volunteer Heather Gordon who immediately set to work erecting the lifting-gantry with Bob and moved the old, redundant, turntable-wheel out of the way of the Bridge sub-structure ready for it to be lowered. Julian, Geoff and David burrowed under the lowest part of the Bridge and fitted parts of the new bronze collar to hold the Bridge central, which requred them also to jack up the bridge a few centimeters.....quite hard work! We found the collar was slightly under-size, so Julian is kindly machining a bronze make-up piece. John Willis and Heather did great work clearing the whole site of grass and weeds, and it looks better now than it has done for months, well done folks.

    We welcomed Julia Elton of Clevedon Court, Andrew Smith from the I. Struct. E in London, and Richard Harris, Editor of the ICE journal Engineering Heritage and History who were conducted around the site by David Greenfield and Bob Watkins. Richard expects to publish the papers presented at the conference 'Building Bridges with Brunel' on 6th September in the Create Centre. Put the date in your diary!

    March 2019

    Workday Saturday 16th March
    At our first work-day of the year in February we made good progress levelling the the south west wheel, packing up the south east wheel to its correct level, gardening, and painting the hut,(well done Martin!)

    Our next workday is Saturday 16th March so do please come and join us then. Our tasks include levelling the south east wheel and fitting the new central collar after jacking the Bridge with our two 50 Tonne hydraulic jacks.

    Our gardeners need to vanquish the weeds and grass growing under and around the Bridge and clear the slippery moss, so please bring rakes, buckets, trowels etc.

    The fourth wall of the shed needs to be painted and the site tidied generally. One or two volunteers with smiles and leaflets are needed to talk to visitors and explain what we are doing, so you don't need to be an engineer, just keen to see this amazing structure restored and willing to help.

    There is plenty of parking space on site but the bridge leading onto the Island is currently being re-timbered. This is due to be finished by 15th but if the work over-runs you may have park on Brunel Lock Road (max 3 hours meter-parking) or in Underfall Yard Carpark 15 minutes walk away, (free, no time-limit) If you don't have too much to carry you could take the Metrobus to Cumberland Basin stop, just five minutes walk away. As I say, the work should be finished by next Saturday, so check when you arrive.

    'Hurray! Today we passed an important milestone by levelling the last of the four wheels which support the Bridge and allow it to turn. We have been working on this for two years, have replaced one wheel and several bearings, and have had to survey and re-survey the wheels several times. They are all now within 3mm of the same level, so should support the 70 Tonne structure well. AND 25% of our workforce was under 20 so the next generation are already involved! 8 year old Bailey helped operate the chain-hoist, clean a bronze bearing and got involved with the work on the wheels themselves, whilst 15 year old Charlie helped Geoff remove and refit the packings under the four heavy bearing blocks. Bob resurveyed the four wheels with John, our newest recruit, acting as staff-man. David and the lads removed the two caps from the north east bearings and fitted foam rubber seals to ensure that the grease enters the bearings properly, whilst Bob continued surveying outside the Bridge to relate the height of the wheels to the levels established around the structure previously. Maggie heroically spring-cleaned the base of the Bridge which sounds easy but is a tortuous task involving lots of climbing and contortion. Martin, thank you for continuing to paint the shed (nearly finished!) and Anne, thank you for supervising Bailey. You are ALL stars.'

    Please see for future work-dates.

    February 2019

    We met on Saturday 16th February for our first workday this year, and hoped to complete the refurbishment of the turntable wheels.

    On our first workday of 2019 we welcomed two newcomers John Willis and Geoff Harrison. Welcome gentlemen, and thank you for helping on your first visit.

    Thank you too to everyone else who joined us. Martin valiantly cleaned and painted the north wall of shed 149 whilst John and Geoff de-weeded the area around the Bridge. Julian Baldwin valiantly came to help however he could despite nursing an injured shoulder, Julian Beel levelled the turntable's south west wheel whilst Geoff W, Charlie, David and Maggie raised the south east wheel, cleaned rust off the underside of the plummer-blocks with an angle-grinder, -a really messy job. Finally we greased surfaces for protection and re-bedded the bearings on 18mm steel packers to bring this wheel to the same height as the others. Still more to do here as the wheel leans, so come and help us in March. We held a planning meeting for this year's events to celebrate the 170th anniversary of Brunel's Other Bridge.

    Do come and join us on March 16th when we hope to fit the new central collar and start lowering the Bridge. 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 2019

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