At the end of July 2001 we announced our intention to campaign for the restoration of the Iron Bridge in Brabyns Park. These pages formed a campaign diary and kept visitors informed of progress, or lack of it! The diary was split into sections for each year of the campaign, as it had become rather large.
Originally entries were displayed in reverse chronological order, with the latest at the top of the page to make them easier to find during the live campaign. When migrating here entries were switched to cronological order to make it easier to follow the timeline of events from start to finish.
The text is as written at the time and has only been edited where links etc. no longer work.
Feeling that some action should take place before the iron bridge collapses into the Goyt, Marple Website approached local Councillor Martin Candler to ascertain the situation with regard to the Iron Bridge. We were told that the hold ups were purely of a financial nature and that as soon as the money became available, work would begin. Unable to obtain an answer as to what the actual cost of repairs would be, we requested that investigations be put in motion to find out, as, if necessary, we would make enquiries regarding public or private grants which may be available to help towards the cost of renovation. Councillor Candler said that he would be happy to do that.
We received a copy of a letter from John Davies, Project Officer (Conservation), to Councillor Candler. The letter indicated that investigations were underway involving specialist contractors to establish the extent and cost of repairs with a view to obtaining funding via the Heritage Lottery Fund.
This movement was, from experience, a lot quicker than we expected and our thanks go to Councillor Candler for his involvement so far.
The following article was published in the September issue of the Community News:
The text of the article said:
"Campaigners are fighting to save the historic Iron Bridge at Brabyns Park, which has rusted and corroded after what is believed to be years of neglect.
The bridge, which was built in 1813 by Salford Iron Works, is now in a very poor state and has a bailey bridge across it to make it safe for the passage of horses and pedestrians.
Two Marple residents, Mark Whittaker and Peter Clarke, have approached Stockport Council with a view to having the bridge restored to its former glory.
"It is tragic to see a local landmark fall into this condition and we are pressing for its renovation", said Peter.
They are also urging the Council to look into the rebuilding of a nearby stone bridge, dated 1804, which was allegedly demolished by council contractors when they were getting cranes and trucks to the Iron Bridge in 1991 for the installation of the bailey bridge.
The stone bridge crossed a drainage ditch in Brabyns Park and formed part of the carriage drive from the park to Compstall. It was in classic style with ornamental scrollwork at the ends and the stone from it was believed to have been stored in council depots after its demolition.
"Both these bridges were listed structures and as such they should be rebuilt and cared for as part of our heritage," said Mark.
"The council is apparently looking into costing the repair of both bridges and a figure of £100,000 has been quoted so far, but we will wait and see what happens. It may also be possible to consider Heritage Lottery Funding for a grant for the work but as yet it is very early days," said Mark.
A spokesperson for Stockport Council said "The council would like to see the iron bridge restored and is currently looking into the cost of funding such a project. There is also the possibility of looking for outside funding, possibly from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other sources."
We were contacted by a local lady called Judith Chantler after her husband spotted our interest in the Iron Bridge whilst he was working abroad in Denmark. We discovered that Judith has been campaigning for the Iron Bridge to be repaired since September 2000 and after limited success early on, has begun to make some headway earlier this year.
This explains why we received such a quick response following our own initial enquiries in June. Obviously investigations by the council were already underway as a result of Judith's efforts.
Judith has given us copies of all her correspondence and we have agreed to keep in close contact and share any new information we receive.
The photo opposite shows Judith's sons with their grandma on the Iron Bridge approximately 19 to 20 years ago and, judging by appearances, it hasn't been painted since.
We wrote to Councillor Candler requesting an update on progress made since John Davies' letter of 19th July and also advised him that we had begun campaigning on the web site and in the Community News.
The MCC wrote to Mr. Craig Ainsworth, East Area Committee Manager, declaring their support for the campaign and asking him to inform them how progress could be made on the issue. The MCC have said they will pass on any reply they receive to their letter.
Councillor Candler phoned Peter earlier in the week to say that someone from SMBC would be in touch soon and we were contacted by Jenny Waller of the Land Services, Community Services Division. Jenny advised us that a report of the work required to restore the bridge and the associated costs was expected to be with the Head of Land Services, Community Services very soon.
We also discussed with Jenny the possibility that the work may need to supported by grants from organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, if it was decided that the Council could not afford to carry out the repairs. We agreed to investigate HLF grants and how we may be able to help in this respect.
After researching the funding of projects such as this by Heritage Lottery Fund grants, using the HLF's own web site at http://www.hlf.org.uk, we compiled a 15 page document detailing the relevant information about the HLF and how their grant scheme works. This document was sent to Jenny Waller, accompanied by a letter explaining what we considered to be the most important issues.
We were advised by Jenny Waller that the Head of Land Services, Community Services Division has been consulted about the repairs to the bridge. A further report is now to be prepared for submission to the Council's Executive Member for Heritage, hopefully this side of Christmas. Following this a decision will be made by the Council on how they wish to proceed. How long before this decision is made is not yet clear but we will pursue it again early in the New Year.
We also learnt that after Christmas, "due to re-organisation to improve delivery service", Jenny will be moving on to another area and a new staff member will be dealing with this project.
We were disappointed to discover that Jenny would not be responsible for this issue any longer as she has been helpful and enthusiastic in all our dealings. However, we thank Jenny for her contribution and look forward to establishing communication with her replacement in the New Year.
As a parting shot we have asked Jenny to respond to the following queries before she hands this matter over:
Who is the Executive Member for Heritage, and how he/she can be contacted?
To confirm that the report has been submitted to the Executive Member (hopefully before Christmas).
If the report is a document that is available to the public, can we have a copy?
When the Executive Member makes a decision, is it made public and if so, how?
We have learnt from Jenny that the Executive Member for Leisure and Culture (which will include Heritage) is Councillor Ingrid Shaw. Councillor Shaw will receive the report, possibly before Christmas but more than likely after. The report will be in the form of a briefing document drawing the Members' attention to the situation and asking them to decide if they would like the project taking forward. The decision will apparently be notified to the public after it has been made.
We learnt just before the Christmas break that the member of staff preparing the report for submission to the Executive Member for Leisure and Culture had to take compassionate leave and therefore the report was unlikely to be submitted before the New Year.
In order to introduce the web site campaign to Councillor Shaw and to try and discover more about the report and the procedures that would deal with it, we sent an e-mail to her address identified on the Stockport MBC web site.
Being concerned that Councillor Shaw may not receive the e-mail message sent on 26 December, we sent a hard copy with an accompanying letter to alleviate this risk.
Whilst visiting Marple Library Mark spotted Councillor Martin Candler holding surgery and had a quick word to see if he was aware of any new developments. The Councillor had not heard anything new but when informed about the report we believe is to be submitted to Councillor Shaw he suggested we write to Ged Lucas, Head of Stockport Community Services Division, asking to be advised on its current status.
Councillor Candler's advice is appreciated and will be followed, watch this space for further updates.
Following Councillor Candler's advice on Saturday, we e-mailed Ged Lucas, Head of Community Services Division, to enquire about the status of the report to the Executive Member - Councillor Ingrid Shaw. We copied this e-mail to Cllr's Candler and Shaw to keep them informed of our actions.
We received an acknowledgement to our message from Ged Lucas, advising that he had spoken to Cllr. Shaw about the matter and had asked Norman Hudson, Head of Parks and Recreation, to give us a full reply, hopefully within a week or so. We thank Mr. Lucas for his timely response and look forward to receiving Mr. Hudson's more detailed one in the near future.
At this stage we have no acknowledgement to our correspondence with Cllr. Shaw.
We received the promised letter from Norman Hudson, Head of Land Services. Click here to see it. This advised us that a project plan was being prepared and would eventually be placed on a service programme. We felt this letter was helpful and encouraging but not very informative regarding the timescales involved.
After an unfortunate delay due to problems with the web site during February 2002, we eventually replied to Norman Hudson, Head of Land Services, asking for more information about the likely timescales associated with the activities identified in his letter of 1st February 2002. We copied this to Councillors Candler and Shaw, Ged Lucas, MCC, the Local History Society and Marple Civic Society to keep them informed of the current situation.
A good week for the campaign and we seem to be making some real progress. We were contacted by Jenny from SMBC and a meeting has been arranged for 12th April to discuss the current status and possible ways forward. At the same time The Stockport Times approached us about doing a piece on the Iron Bridge campaign in the paper. The article written, by new local area reporter Lisa Cooper, gave us a great boost and raised awareness of the campaign locally. As a result we've received many supportive comments and even been offered a painting of the bridge by a local artist to be used to help raise funds. This is an offer we hope to take up.
We received an acknowledgement of our letter of 19th March to Norman Hudson, Head of Parks and Recreation. This reply was dated 5th April and promised more information within around 10 days.
We had our first meeting with representatives of SMBC on Friday 12th April. It was encouraging because everyone there had the same objectives, although it's clear we have a long way to go before they are achieved. We all went away with various actions and agreed to meet again in May to review progress.
We have been contacted by several people wishing to show their support for the campaign. We have asked them to do this by writing to Ged Lucas, Director of Community Services Division and Councillor Ingrid Shaw, Executive Member for Heritage, with a copy to us.
We were delighted to receive a call from Lee Battersby of Romiley, who works as a technical sales manager for E Wood Ltd - a company that supplies paint for rail bridges. Lee called to offer help with the cost of restoration by providing the paint required free of charge. This act of generosity was reported in the Stockport Times, whose support has been invaluable in bringing the campaign to the attention of the wider community. The article also urged anyone concerned to write to Ged Lucas and Ingrid Shaw to register their support for the campaign.
We have begun contacting as many people and organisations as we can find who may be able to give us support and advice on the restoration of the bridge. One of these was Richard Foxcroft, who is the Webmaster of the Exploring Telford web site. Telford, as most people will know, is home to "The" Iron Bridge, built in 1770-80. In addition to suggesting some useful contacts, Richard has also taken the time to visit and photograph our Iron Bridge and included it in a section on his own site about Bridges of Iron and Steel. We are now in some very illustrious company on his pages, which show how our industrial heritage should be cared for. We thank Richard for the interest he has shown and the effort he has put in to do this.
This picture, sent to us by amateur artist Ruth Hargreaves, shows the bridge in happier times.
As reported in the Stockport Times, we've received another great offer of help from a community spirited local business. Tree surgeon Dave Myers has offered to donate professional help to deal with the trees that have grown around and into the stone masonry upon which the bridge sits. Dave, who runs Dave Myers Tree Care out of Marple Bridge, is a keen supporter of local heritage issues and has also offered to donate £500 towards the restoration costs. Needless to say, we're delighted by this response and look forward to reaching the stage when we can take up these practical offers.
The campaign reached the front page of May's issue of the monthly free paper, the Community News. The article reported the offers of a painting of the bridge, by local artist Malcolm Melia, the supply of paint from Lee Battersby of E. Wood Ltd and tree surgery and a cash donation from Dave Myers Tree Care. The article also explained that we will be launching our petition very soon, which we hope will show that a large portion of the local community would like to see the bridge restored too.
The petition 'hits the streets' and is currently available for signing at Compstall Post Office, Cote Green Wines, Grey's Tea Rooms, Marple Bookshop, Marple Post Office and Toymaster. We are very grateful to these outlets for their support.
Our second meeting with SMBC was well attended and included senior representatives from Parks, Highways and Heritage. We can confirm that SMBC do not want to demolish the bridge. We were particularly pleased by the contributions from the new Heritage Officer, Paul Hartley, and the general enthusiasm displayed for the project by everyone was encouraging.
We can also confirm that SMBC does not have the money available to fund the restoration. However, they are keen to establish ways of financing it and actions were taken that will help to determine the best strategies to use when applying for suitable grants.
The first stage in the restoration process will be to carry out a full investigative survey and prepare a detailed report of the work needed to repair the bridge. This is necessary to establish an accurate specification and costing to support an application for a grant (or grants). This first phase is going to cost in the region of £13,000, an amount the council does not currently have at its disposal.
Ways of raising this initial amount have to be found in order to make real progress and investigations are to be made into suitable grant schemes available. It is also possible that this could also be partially funded by donations or other money raising activities from within the local community.
The next meeting was arranged for 28 June, when the actions placed will be reviewed and the best strategy for the way forward should start to become clearer.
The main actions undertaken by ourselves involve helping to build a case for the restoration based on its history and heritage and also to demonstrate that it has the support of the local community.
So far we've received eight letters of support from the local community. These include six from individual residents and two from groups who use the Recreation Centre in Brabyns Park. The first of these contains twenty-six signatures and the second ninety-six. Along with the offers of assistance from local businesses, these will help to show that the community is behind the campaign.
Every letter of support that is written strengthens the case for restoration. We therefore urge everyone who cares about this to write to us expressing your support, with copies to Ged Lucas and Ingrid Shaw to ensure they are aware of your concerns.
The petition we have started will also help to strengthen this case and we hope everyone will take the time to visit one of the outlets where they are available to add their signature. To date we've had sheets returned to us containing 425 signatures. Hopefully this is just the beginning.
Of course, if there's anyone out there able to write a cheque that will help get the first phase of the work underway, please get in touch! We'd also like to hear from you if you are aware of any potential sources of funds, or have any money raising schemes that could contribute towards the first phase of the work required.
The petition is going well and in addition to the previous outlets, it's now also available in the SPAR Shop at Marple Bridge. We've collected over 1,000 signatures so far and hope to add to this considerably during Carnival Day next weekend. We've also received another letter of support from a Mrs. K Hellar, with nineteen additional signatures. Letters like this demonstrate the strength of support from the local community and we hope for more of these.
We've received the promised painting of the Iron Bridge from local artist Malcolm Melia, and in addition, Malcolm has persuaded a number of others members of the Society of Marple Artists to donate paintings to raise money for the campaign. As a results we've had a re-think of our proposals to raffle Malcolm's painting and instead hope to arrange an auction to do justice to this act of generosity from our local artists. Watch this space for more details when arrangements are firmed up.
We wrote to Martin Candler and his fellow Marple Area Councillors on 3rd June updating them on campaign progress and asking for their support and advice regarding the raising of funds for the first phase of work.
The Ring o' Bells Pub, which holds a monthly fun quiz in aid of local charities, has agreed to donate the proceeds of the next two quizzes to the Iron Bridge campaign. The first of these will be on Wednesday 19th June at 9.00 pm. It's always a good night and we hope lots of people will turn up to lend their support.
We received an encouraging reply from Councillor Candler to our letter of 3 June.
There was a lot of interest in the campaign during Carnival Day and we collected a couple of hundred more signatures on the petition.
We had a great time at the Ring o' Bells fun quiz on Wednesday evening, with all proceeds of the quiz and raffle going towards the Iron Bridge campaign. £75 was raised altogether and we also collected twenty-eight letters of support which we've forwarded to Ged Lucas and Councillor Ingrid Shaw.
The next Ring o' Bells quiz will be on Wednesday 17th July, starting at 9.00 pm, but get there early to ensure a seat. July's quiz will be set by this month's winners, the now legendary Plumber's Mates.
We've set up a standard letter which you can download on-line if you'd like an easy way to show your support for the campaign. All you need to do is add your name, address and signature 3 times, cut the sheet into 3 and sent to the 3 addresses shown.
As mentioned below, local artist Malcolm Melia has persuaded several others to donate paintings and drawings to raise money for the campaign. Some of these have been delivered and we've begun to set up an on-line catalogue so that the donations can be viewed. So far we have twenty potential lots, with quite a few more expected. Georgina Hargreaves, a professional artist and illustrator has been particularly generous and we thank her, Malcolm and their fellow artists for their generosity.
Click here to view the on-line catalogue and keep checking back for more details of when the auction will take place.
If you have anything appropriate that can be donated to raise funds for the restoration, please get in touch. The auction does not need to be restricted to paintings and pictures only.
Whilst searching for information about the Salford Ironworks, the firm who constructed the Iron Bridge in Brabyns Park, I recently came across a web site containing a comprehensive history of the engineering firm Mather and Platt, written by Marcel Boschi and David Drew-Smythe. Mather and Platt took over the Salford Ironworks in 1837, 24 years after our bridge was built. The Mather and Platt site had a brief mention of the Salford Ironworks and Bateman and Sherratt, the men who started the company, buried with its pages.
Hoping that they may have more information about these than they had already included on their site, I wrote to Marcel several days ago. Their response has been extremely good and first of all they incorporated my letter into their web site, in the hope that it may be spotted by someone with more information. You could see this page by clicking this link (no longer works) and then clicking the link on their introduction page below the large picture of the Mather and Platt works, which says "23 Jun 2002 - An interesting project - can you help?"
Since adding this page Marcel and David have gone even further and re-written their history to include a page about the Salford Ironworks, with more detailed references to Bateman and Sherratt and their part in the founding of the company that became Mather and Platt. This new page, entitled "The Salford Ironworks" can be found by following the links above or below my letter saying "The Salford Ironworks now on this site."
Obviously we're extremely pleased by this and grateful to Marcel and David for their time and effort. Hopefully it may also lead to us finding out more about Bateman and Sherratt, the latter who may have been the designer of our bridge.