Historic engineering treasure to be revamped following years of neglect

A UNIQUE remnant of Scotland’s industrial past is set to be fully revamped and repaired following a campaign by locals.

The Category A listed Victoria Swing Bridge, a Leith landmark constructed between 1871 and 1874, remains the largest counterweighted swing bridge in Scotland

Forth Ports, which owns the Port of Leith estate, has now announced plans to repair the structure to conserve it for future generations and create a “useable space for the local community” as part of a six-figure investment.

Discussions are also ongoing about revamping a nearby cast-iron bridge off Dock Place, outside the popular Teuchters Landing pub, which stands as one of the earliest surviving examples of its kind in the UK.

It comes after both bridges were placed on a list of historic structures under threat following years of neglect.

HeraldScotland: Victoria Swing Bridge's current conditionVictoria Swing Bridge’s current condition

Forth Ports said it plans to fully refurbish the northern and southern walkways of the Victoria Swing Bridge, re-deck the central carriage way, replace the decked turning circle areas and repair and repaint the bridge’s metalwork.

The first phase – refurbishing the north and south pedestrian walkways – is expected to be undertaken this year, with the remaining work anticipated in 2022.

Pedestrian access to the bridge for the local community will be maintained for the duration of the works.

Charles Hammond, group chief executive at Forth Ports, said: “The Victoria Swing Bridge is a well kent sight in Leith and it is an important and rare surviving example of our heritage.

“The plans we have submitted to the council have been well thought through and will ensure that the repairs are appropriate for the conservation of this important landmark.

“We want to also create a useable space for the local community and we hope that once the bridge has been restored, people will be able to enjoy this historic space.”

The Victoria Swing Bridge was designed by Alexander Rendel and opened in 1874 to provide an efficient road and railway route for the port following the completion of Albert Dock in 1869.

The bridge was originally B listed but was upgraded to an A listing in 2014.

It is constructed of riveted wrought iron, timber and steel and originally carried a double rail track along its central deck, providing access for both trains and road vehicles, and features pedestrian walkways on either side.

The bridge is considered an “important and rare example” of its kind, with the Historic Environment Scotland website noting: “Swing bridges present tangible evidence of the rapidly expanding industrial landscape of mid to late 19th century Scotland, a period when maritime, canal and dockland commercial enterprises were at their height.

“Swing bridges are a rare building type in Scotland.”

It was refurbished in 2000 but is now in a visibly poor condition, with gaps, patches and plant growth.

The bridge was moved to the Buildings at Risk Register last year, with HES stating: “The longer it remains unused the worse it will become.”

A second swing bridge nearby, which connects Dock Place and Rennie’s Isle, was also moved to the list of structures under threat.

It is considered an “exceptionally rare” remnant of early dock developments in Leith, at the time the most advanced port in Scotland, and was operated manually by hand winches and capstans to either side.

Its dilapidated condition led to it being entirely fenced off.

Both bridges have Category A listed status, meaning they are considered “outstanding examples of a particular period, style or building type”.

Campaign group SOS Leith had lobbied for the bridges to be placed on HES’s Buildings at Risk Register, a comprehensive database of architecturally or historically important structures considered under threat.

The group’s Ian Anderson previously told The Herald the Victoria Swing Bridge is “iconic”, while the other is “an engineering treasure”. 

He added: “They are part of our history. It’s very important to us.”

Asked about the second structure, a spokeswoman for Forth Ports said: “We are hoping to reopen the Rennie’s Isle bridge at Teuchters Landing and we are in active discussions with the owners of the Teuchters Landing bar with a view to repairing and opening the bridge for the use of the bar and the community.

“We will keep the community updated on this as this project progresses.”

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992