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Brunel Swivel Bridge News


The latest edition of our newsletter is now avaialable to download


The latest edition of our newsletter is now avaialable to download here

NEWS RELEASE January 2024

Dates for this year's volunteer work days have just been announced. Everyone welcome

February 24th
March 16th
April 20th
May 18th
June 15th
July 13th
August 17th
September 21st
October 26th

NEWS RELEASE December 2023

The Mann Williams team, working with Bridge Engineers Cass Hayward, are using Bob Watkins’s excellent drawings to create a mathematical model of the Bridge which will calculate its strength and vibration modes. The Bridge is a very complex structure, so the model will be verified by ingenious vibration testing. A 70 Kg agitator shakes the Bridge, setting up vibrations in the ironwork in the longitudinal, transverse and vertical directions. Once the modelling is complete repairs will be added and calculations carried out to show which repairs are structurally essential, which can be regarded as less critical, and the structure’s ultimate load-bearing capacity on completion. You can see a short video here

NEWS RELEASE November 2023

The SS Great Britain no longer plans to seek planning consent to relocate the Swivel Bridge.
Please click for a copy of the newsflash. Thank you everyone who signed Bristol City's e-Petition against relocation.

NEWS RELEASE October 2023

The latest edition of our newsletter is now avaialable to download here

NEWS RELEASE September 2023

The latest edition of our newsletter is now avaialable to download here

NEWS RELEASE August 2023

New animation created by Paco Lluna and his colleagues at Balfour Beatty show in 3D how the bridge operated. Click the picture to see the full video.
3D animation

The latest edition of our newsletter is now avaialable to download here


The SS Great Britain Trust Plan to Move Brunel's Swivel Bridge to the Albion Dockyard

Please sign our petition by clicking on the link below

Don't Move Brunel's Swivel Bridge

Find out why we oppose the move here

NEWS RELEASE January 2022

Bristol Western Harbour Heritage Assets
Bristol Western Harbour Heritage Assets
In 2021 a Bristol Civic Society working group was set up to identify heritage assets in the Western Harbour development area.Members: Geoff Wallis. Pauline Mousley. Julian Baldwin, and John Willis.
The information is presented on a web site which provides a location map, asset images, alternative names, history summary. and links to other information for each asset. The assets are indexed by name, alias, and map location.
There is a lot of useful information on the site but it is a work in progress. The group is currently reviewing and summarising the source documents and anticipate completing the web site later this year.

NEWS RELEASE 17th December 2021

The BOB Christmas Newsletter has been published with details of a grant and provisional work party days. Download it here

NEWS RELEASE 12th May 2021

It's been almost 10 months since we were able to work on ther bridge, but now as Covid restictions begin to be eased we can now restart our working parties. The first will be on Saturday May 29th. We will be on site to paint out graffiti,repair the damaged protective roof, remove vegetation and tidy up the site

No experience is necessary but we'd love for you to join us from 0930.

NEWS RELEASE 2nd September 2020

Geoff Wallis has been interviewed by Alice Hall of Bradley Stoke Community radio for 'Backtracker'.
Backtracker is on 5.00-6.00pm on Saturdays and on Thursday at 10.00am on FM103.4.
For their schedule see Bradley Stoke Radio schedules
All their past programmes can be heard free as podcasts on Anchor FM backtracker programmes

NEWS RELEASE 20th August 2020

BOB awakes with a celebration!

Our next event will be on Saturday 29th and it will be a very special occassion.

We'll work from 10.00am to lunchtime and then have a low-key, socially-distanced celebration at 2pm to recognize the contribution Maggie Shapland and Mike have made to the BOB project.

Maggie and Mike were amongst the founders of the BOB project in 2013. They designed, had made and erected the two boards on the sides of the Bridge and organized the popular display boards on stands nearby. Mike loaned an essential air compressor to help remove rust and had the two steel covers made for the restored timber stops, which he installed. They publicized BOB in BIAS and encouraged members to get involved practically. Maggie set up and maintained our volunteers' database and log of attendees, and the BOB website. Maggie inputted masses of photos and information to the web-site which has promoted the project wonderfully. She has recently handed this over to Dominic Hewitt so now is the appropriate time to say a big 'THANK YOU Maggie'.

We want to pay tribute to Maggie's commitment to the Project. In addition to the above, Maggie is the person who was always found under the Bridge in the 'difficult' areas, clearing up, weeding, even laying flat raking out under the four big wheels, for which she brought along a special long-handled spoon-like implement. Maggie always took on the jobs that really needed doing, not just the easy ones.

So, come and join us for the work-party at 10am or the celebration at 2pm. Our 10am work will be preparing the site for Doors Open Day in September, removing vegetation and sweeping up, so please bring your own gardening tools, gloves, stout shoes/boots, and something to kneel on. We'll provide high-viz vests and helmets. We hope to have time to check the alignment of the tail-wheels following our trial move earlier this year, and do some work in the pits. It is possible we may also be able to rotate the deck a little.

For the celebration please bring a packed lunch and cup for drinks which we'll supply, wear a face-mask and keep 2m away from others. We'll provide hand gel which you should use on arrival and departure, and if you share tools. If you would like to wear a face-mask all the time, please do so. It help reduce the risk of transmission, and don't worry, no one will comment.

The BOB display boards and a few artefacts will be on show, and If you would like to bring along other display boards, items of interest, models, etc, please do.
Youngsters are very welcome, but do need to be supervised by a parent or adult guardian at all times.

NEWS RELEASE 4th July 2020

We hope to be able to run working parties again starting in August. Details here

NEWS RELEASE 22nd September 2019

Good news after five years work! On Saturday 21st September our team of volunteers moved the Bridge, not far, but enough to prove that the work to the turntable and wheels supporting the Bridge has been successful. What a great way to celebrate BOB's 170th Anniversary !

The metal structure of the deck is not in a condition in which it can be swung across the working water-way, and we have been careful to keep it away from the edge of the Dock during trials. However, we now have an idea of the loads required to rotate the structure, information which was needed to refine the design of the new drive equipment that will eventually be required to rotate it.
Brunel Swivel Bridge

Securing the future of Brunel's swing bridge

On 10 September 2019 a new collaboration between the AIBT and SS Great Britain Trust was announced, see Securing the future of Brunel's swing bridge. Together we shall look at the longer-term future of the Swivel Bridge in the context of the Western Harbour scheme and a possible resiting to Albion Dockyard. So, exciting times, do 'watch this space' ...and of course this our website.

Birthday Celebration

BOB's 170th BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION Sat 7th- Sun 8th September 2019 10.00 am -4.00 pm BRUNEL SWIVEL BRIDGE, CUMBERLAND BASIN, Bristol BS1 6XS

Brunel Swivel Bridge
The Swivel Bridge surrounded by water when viewed from the Plimsoll Bridge
Brunel Swivel Bridge
At least we know the drain holes are working and where they are! The Bridge gets a wash in the 1st February 2014 floods

Funding News will be found on the year's Project pages



JUST PRESS THE BUTTON. EVERY LITTLE HELPS. AND PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD AROUND TOO. 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 woking in June 2019

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

Historic England Heritage at Risk Register 2016

AIBT, the lead charity for BOB was featured on the front cover of this years Register for their work on Brandy Bottom.
Register 2016

HE risk register

Alf Perry

Alf Perry
Alf died peacefully on Wednesday evening, 2nd November 2016 after a cardiac arrest on Friday. He did not regain consciousness and suffered no distress. The family were all with him.

Alf left an enormous legacy of achievements in the historic harbour and wider afield. However he had not finished this work; and with his usual farsighted vision, he was still working towards improving and enhancing harbour facilities.

He was involved with the restoration of the Brunel Swivel Bridge (known as BOB, Brunel's other bridge), which lies disused under the Plimsoll Bridge. It has proved a difficult project, and a major scheme failed about 8 years ago. So a small group of us has been working to develop a new project, and Alf has been a key player in this.

Alf was a valued member of our Technical Team from an early stage in the project, providing encouragement from his vast knowledge and experience. He provided useful technical information about the historic hardware surviving in the City Docks, and about other bridges in the UK and abroad. Geoff Wallis describes Alf as 'a thoroughly reliable structural engineer of vast experience, particularly in relation to bridges of all types. He made quick and wise decisions if he had sufficient information, and if not he would ask the right questions, judging the validity of answers carefully. He was a gentleman at all times, and had a great sense of humour.'

However it was his experience of recent regeneration and conservation projects that was also invaluable to us. He was a true expert, and shared his wisdom and expertise with modesty and a light touch.

Alf gave valuable advice on how to develop a scheme that would be attractive to the Heritage Lottery Fund, and helped fill in the necessary forms. He and I had just finalised an initial application form to the Heritage Lottery Fund, and when I got their positive response last week, my first thought was to phone Alf to tell him.

He brought valuable experience of fund-raising and provided the names of useful contacts in many local organizations. He was a skilled 'politician' and was using his experience and networks to engage representatives of the city council in the bridge project. We will feel his absence terribly.

Michael Bussell wrote "I'd known him for quite a while, firstly when we both worked at Ove Arup & Partners, and later after he had set up his own consultancy. We shared a practical interest in 19th century engineering: we were in the Arup team that bid for (and did some) work on the SS Great Britain and its dock a while back, while more recently I was a sounding board for his thoughts on the scheme to repair / restore the splendid Victoria Bridge in Bath, and the Bristol Underfall Yard development plan. He also served of course as a Trustee of the Clifton Suspension Bridge - the third trustee I have known, after my Bristol Civil Engineering 'pedagogues' Professor Pugsley and Stuart Cullimore. And I believe he was involved with the Swivel Bridge.

"I heard the news via Arups. I shall miss his creative thinking and our lively discussions.

He was not a member of BIAS, but he contributed much to the understanding and conservation of engineering landmarks in the Bristol region.

Coop Community Fund

Publicity 2016

Sept 11th SUN 10am – 4pm
Brunel Swivel Bridge
Doors Open Day

130 visitors came to see conservation work taking place on Brunel's wrought iron opening bridge and view the test plates that were hot riveted on site. Unfortunately the location was wrongly given on the leaflet so many people told us they had great difficulty in finding it. 25 booked for a guided walk from ss Great Britain at 2pm. We received many positive comments about our work. Donations very encouraging, as was the feedback from visitors.

August 2016:
Brunel Swivel Bridge
Ian displayed his wonderful 9' model of the bridge up at the Model Engineers Show in Thornbury for three days. It raised the profile of the bridge

June 2016: Brunel's Other Bridge an article written by the Bristol Magazine
23 feb: Bristol Post BOB Mentioned in article about Bristol's Bridges and refers to our website. "Lies disused on Cumberland Basin. It was designed in 1849 by Brunel to carry traffic over the new South Entrance Lock ('Brunel's Lock') in the Cumberland Basin. Brunel himself was closely involved in its design and construction. It was decommissioned in 1968 after the construction of the Plimsoll Bridge, and volunteers are now working to preserve it."
January: Bristol City Council has recently produced "Our Inherited City - Bristol Heritage Framework 2015 - 2018" which proposes establishing a community based heritage forum in Bristol. Report (on Page 42 of this 76 page document the Swivel Bridge is featured as good showcase project of how a local group, Historic England and the Council have worked together)

Publicity 2015

12 September: A good stream of visitors all day and the total head count was 222 (compared to 158 in 2014) and many signed support sheets.
8 September: Doors open day on 12 september. Guided walk from SS Great Britain was oversubscribed, but the volunteers are there all day from 10-4. Bristol Post gave us a plug.
bristol post
5 August: Maggie Shapland and Geoff Wallis were winner and runner up in a Brunel photographic competition in the over 14 class (other classes were under 14 and hobbyist). The competition was to celebrate the life of Brunel by photographing one of Brunel's seven sites in Bristol.

The winning images were displayed at Redgrave Theatre during all showings of ‘The Engineer's Corset’ and on the Clifton Suspension Bridge website. This was in association with the Clifton Suspension Bridge Visitor Centre to mark the 150th Anniversary of the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

The Engineer's Corset is a new play about one of Bristol's most famous engineers - Isambard Kingdom Brunel! It plays at the Redgrave Theatre from Wednesday 5th – Saturday 8th August.

The Engineer's Corset is based on a true life event in the Brunel household. When Isambard swallows a coin, after playing a familiar game with his children, his wife Mary waits anxiously as her husband's life hangs in the balance. Victorian England is revisited while Brunel, on his death-bed, designs a swinging frame to help release the obstinate coin. It is a true story; one that will remind you of Brunel's genius while also revealing some little known local history. With a cast made up entirely from the local community this is a play for Bristol about Bristol to celebrate Bristol's heritage. Presented by Louise Matthews Productions Ltd, Janet Goddard and Chantry Dance Company.

Brunel Swivel Bridge Brunel Swivel Bridge
Brunel Swivel Bridge
The winners standing by their photographs. Warwick Hulme owner of City Sightseeing Bristol on the right
Brunel Swivel Bridge
Geoff standing by his photograph

July 8: There was a Mayoral visit to Cabot, Clifton and Clifton East Neighbourhood Partnership area accompanied by our 4 Councillors, and the chairman. The route included a trip to the swivel bridge. Mary, Mike and Martyn were there to discuss the project with them and funding opportunities. All the issues raised with the Mayor are being collated and an action plan devised to follow up on those issues
Brunel Swivel Bridge

June 4 2015: Maggie talks about the project on Lawrence Hill Radio Show BCfm (Bristol's first community radio Station). Thursday 4 june 10am (on the silver sound 1 hour slot). Will be available to listen to for 3 months. For music interludes they had "bridge over troubled water" and another "bridge" tune
May 2015: The Institute of Historic Building Conservation published an article by Geoff Wallis about progress and challenges of the project. The journal featured Working with Metal projects.
swivel bridge swivel bridge
swivel bridge swivel bridge

January 2015: B24/7 magazine
Bristol Post 13 January 2015
swivel bridge

Being Brunel. Notes from a Civil Engineer Saving Brunel's Other Bridge
Made in Bristol TV channel 9 December 2015

Exhibition moving to the Create Centre

From 16 February to April, the exhibition can be found in the Create Centre in Smeaton Road BS1 6XN
swivel bridge

Senior Create officer Michelle Scoplin and Create officer Phil Tomlinson checking the display. It may well be able to stay after April.
Mon to Fri 9 – 5


5 January to 15 February 2015

There will be an exhibition about the Swivel Bridge in the foyer of the Central Library, College Green with photos through the ages, drawings, work progress, and giving an opportunity for fund raising for our next stage

swivel bridge

IStructE Tuesday Group Evening Talk on Brunel's Other Bridge

swivel bridge

Tuesday 28th October 2014
Pugsley Lecture Theatre | Queens Building | University of Bristol
1800 for 1830 - Refreshments and food provided

Recollections of George Waite I Eng.

Brunel Swivel Bridge

On the 18th of October 2014 at a Brunel's Swing Bridge work day, we were privileged to hear George Waite talk about his memories of rivetting, and boiler making, and point out features of the Bridge rivetting.

Interview on Made in Bristol

swivel bridge

Mary being interviews by Rachel, Mike Taylor in the background prompting

13 October 2014: Rachael Clarke, a video journalist for Made in Bristol TV - the new channel that launched this month wanted to cover our campaign to raise money and ask for help for Brunel's Other Bridge. It is a great opportunity to share the campaign on local television.
She interviewed Mary Stacey as our representative to tell the people of Bristol about it. It was shown at 6pm and 9pm and will also be shown at the weekend at 6pm. They have noted down to do a follow up on our campaign as they think it will be great to see the progress. If we have any extra information or anything that will be happening with the future of the bridge we have agreed to get in touch.
Rachel will repackage it the interview when she gets a chance so we can put it on our website.

Interview on Radio Bristol

10 October 2014: Mary Stacey was interviewed on Radio Bristol by Nigel Dando just before 8am this morning.
BBC news: Brunel's other bridge in Bristol may be repaired as £1m appeal launched

Mary said how important the bridge is, how we want it to be valued as an integral part of the Brunel legacy in Bristol, how neglected it has been, thanks to EH for the current funding, support from BCC, wonderful volunteers, we need £1m!!!
It was broadcast from the Bridge itself, competing with road noise but it was clear and concise. The website showed an immediate increase in hits. Lets hope the benefactor(s) come forward.

Doors Open Day Saturday 13 September 2014

Participating in Bristol Doors Open Day on Saturday 13 September 10-4 for the first time for many years. Bristol Doors Open Day is a once-a-year chance to look behind closed doors and discover the city's hidden treasures. You can explore fascinating buildings, join guided tours and enjoy a range of events and activities – all free for the day. With over 60 venues taking part this year – the event's 21st birthday – join us for a fantastic celebration of Bristol's history, architecture and culture.

Contact if you wish to join a Guided walk at 14:00 from SS Great Britain to the Swivel Bridge with Mr Brunel

Swivel Bridge Plans

18 August 2014: Bob Watkins who is a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers has produced some wonderful plans and elevations which aid our understanding. These are now on this website.

Planning Application

Application No.14/03711/CPLB
Date Received 23 July 2014
Date Registered 5 August 2014 Granted
Type of Application Cert of Lawfulness - proposed - LBC
Site Address Brunel Swing/Swivel Bridge Merchants Road Hotwells Bristol

Proposal Application for a Certificate of Proposed Development (Listed Building) - proposed works to give greater protection to the structure and prepare for future works to restore the bridge.
Applicant Avon Industrial Building Trust Ltd
Case Officer Guy Bentham-Hill Tel No. 0117 9222345

Thursday 27th February 2014

BIAS talk at Keynsham British Legion, Charlton Road, Keynsham BS31 2JA.
David Greenfield talked about the new research into the history and heritage, and Geoff Wallis about recent aspects and refurbishment of the Brunel Swivel Bridge.

Saturday 15 February 2014

Used our two 50 ton hydraulic jacks, one bought by BIAS, the other by CHIS to jack up sections of the bridge
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