26th July 1820

The Union Bridge joins Scotland and England

Upon its opening, the 137m Union Bridge, which crosses the River Tweed at Horncliffe, was the longest wrought iron suspension bridge in the world. Its position means it spans the border between Scotland and England.

Prior to its opening, anyone who wanted to cross the river at that point would have to use the ford, but this became impassable at high water, when the only alternative was to travel north-east to Berwick upon Tweed, over five miles away, or 10 miles south-west to Coldstream.

Construction begins

Construction began at the start of August 1819 and, on the 12th, the Inverness Courier covered the laying of the foundation stone in front of “a vast concourse of people from both sides of the Tweed, who were anxious to behold the commencement of this interesting work. A bottle, with the coins of this present reign… was deposited in the stone.” The coins were accompanied by an inscribed copper plate describing the laying of the foundation stone. The Inverness Courier continued, “the usual ceremonies having taken place, the bridge was named ‘The Union Bridge’ in commemoration of the union between the two kingdoms, which it is calculated to cement by its utility.”

The bridge took less than a year to complete, with workers being on site for only half of that time.

Official opening of the Union Bridge

On 31 July 1820, the Caledonian Mercury printed a report of the official opening during which, “precisely at half-past twelve o’clock, Captain Brown, the inventor, crossed and re-crossed the bridge in a curricle, followed by a vast number of loaded carts amidst the loud cheers of the multitudes assembled… and the strength and fitness of this elegant structure being thus ascertained, the barriers were removed and the public permitted to pass.”

Budget bridge

It was a remarkable structure for its time, with the Caledonian Mercury explaining that “this bridge is only to cost £5000; a stone bridge at the same place would have cost upwards of £20,000, and it possesses this superiority over a stone bridge, that, having no pillars or support in the middle of the water, it will not be liable to be swept away by floods. It is obvious therefore that bridges of this nature will become general throughout the island…”

Indeed, the bridge was so remarkable that even the Royal Cornwall Gazette of 19 August reported on “this curious and elegant structure, the first of the kind in the island”.



Other events that occured in July

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