Brunel Swivel BridgeBrunel's Other Bridge

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Brunel Swivel Bridge Project

Brunel Swivel Bridge
Brunel Swivel Bridge, with the Suspension Bridge in the background

Details of the following will be found below:


The project aim is to conserve BoB in situ as an historic monument, but in working condition to allow occasional use by pedestrians and cyclists as an alternative means of crossing the North Entrance Lock.

The bridge stands on the harbour side alongside a popular walking and cycling route, whilst those afloat see it whenever they pass through the lock. Often seen as “just a rusty bridge” the project intends to re-establish BOB’s status as an important and iconic Brunel Bridge. We wish to:

Conservation Policy

The Bridge is listed Grade 2* and is on English Heritage’s Buildings at Risk Register.

The main structure is constructed of traditional wrought iron, a soft, ductile, fibrous, hand-made material that has not been manufactured for over half a century. As far as is known, no genuine wrought iron is made anywhere in the world, so as wrought ironwork rusts away or is scrapped the extant quantity of the material is gradually diminishing, which adds to its historic importance. As much original material as possible will therefore be retained, areas weakened by corrosion being repaired by welding in new pieces of material. Where larger sections are needed, these will be riveted in place using hot-set rivets. Trial repairs using both these processes have recently been carried out successfully.

The aim of the project is to restore the Bridge to working condition for occasional use under Bristol City Docks Harbour Master's control as a crossing for pedestrians and cyclists over the Entrance Lock. In accordance with good conservation practise, as much extant historic material as possible will be retained, repair being preferable to renewal.The Bridge will be treated as an historic monument and returned to its original 1849 appearance without improvement or upgrading to CE standards. This approach is fully supported by Historic England The Mayor and the Docks operational staff.

The construction and condition of the Bridge have been investigated in detail over the last three years, and a detailed costed programme of repairs has been prepared. These are set out in a report dated August 2015 by conservation-accredited engineers Mann-Williams.

The Project will be delivered by the Avon Industrial Building Trust, a well-established body that has carried out many successful conservation projects in the Bristol area, including the restoration of Midford Aqueduct, a project of similar value to the Brunel Swivel Bridge but greater complexity. The Swivel Bridge Technical team comprises professionals from structural, bridge and marine engineering, an engineering historian and a consultant metalwork conservator. The team, working with the Avon Industrial Buildings Trustees, are confident of delivering a high-quality, fully restored Bridge within budget. The estimated restoration lead-time is one year from receipt of funding.

The Whole Plan

The plan for BoB covers fund raising in addition to a detailed assessment of the bridge’s structural condition using a three stage approach: Stage 1 has seen the preparation, by volunteers with appropriate specialist knowledge, of a preliminary schedule of repair works which will be updated as more information about the nature and condition of the structure comes to light.

This work continued in 2015 and 2016 but the major emphasis will be on fund raising. The BoB website ( ) already includes facilities to make donations but wider publicity is needed.


Brunel Swivel Bridge
Swivel Bridge Leaflet. Leaflet gives information, asks for support and how to make a donation




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

Progress to date

The structure is severely weakened by rust holes the size of footballs and has not been painted for decades. It continues to rust away and will eventually collapse, which may herald the end of this iconic structure.

In August 2013 volunteers carefully chiselled away the rust on the ends of the four main beams that support the 68 Tonne weight of the Bridge deck.

To our horror bucketfulls of rust fell out leaving large holes in key structure. Even the repair plates welded in to strengthen the structure have thinned dramatically and rusted away completely in many places.

Closer inspection reveals extensive loss of metal in these critical areas, making major intervention vital before the structure becomes too weak to move.

For the last three years, dedicated volunteers including many professional engineers have been thoroughly investigating all aspects of the bridge to work out exactly what needs doing to it, and get a good grasp of how much it will cost.

We believe the Avon Industrial Buildings Trust is the only organisation with the ability and will to develop a scheme in the timescale needed to save Brunel’s Swivel Bridge.

This project has been supported by Clifton and Hotwells Improvement Society for many years.

From 2013 Bristol Industrial Archaeological Society, Avon Industrial Buildings Trust and the Hotwells and Cliftonwood Society came to help as well and do some dirty work. The initial refurbishment project is being led by Geoff Wallis of Dorothea Restorations (

Brunel Swivel Bridge
Brunel Swivel Bridge, 1876 replica in foreground
Brunel Swivel Bridge
Brunel Swivel Bridge under the Cumberland Basin
Brunel Swivel Bridge
in original position by Entrance Lock
not a lot of clearance under the Plimsoll Bridge
Brunel Swivel Bridge

CONTRACT WORK undertaken up to March 2016:

Work PHASE B 2015 Preparation and Basic Conservation by Volunteers

Work 2014 Preparation and Basic Conservation by Volunteers

Jacking up the bridge
Jacking Method

We bought two 50 ton jacks in February 2014 to lift the bridge for easier access

Work PHASE A 2013 Preparation and Basic Conservation by Volunteers

It is estimated this will take a work-party of six volunteers 18 days to complete.
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