Iron Bridge Viewing Platform Refurbishment
In 2018 the bronze plaque at the Iron Bridge was at risk of being lost due to decay of the tree stump that it was mounted on. After a dialogue with the council and park stakeholders a project led by the Marple Website began in March 2019 with removal of the plaque for safe keeping.
The project to remove the stump, rebuild the platform, refurbish the bronze plaque and fit it on new bestpoke railings came together in stages over the next two and a half years with the help of Friends of Brabyns Park and Stockport Council with funding support from the Macnair Trust, Marple Area Committee, Marple Civic Society and others. The bespoke railings were made by Wayne Chaisty.
Removal and refitting of the Iron Bridge Bronze Plaque
The background story....
As many people will know, the Marple Website was the driving force behind the restoration of the Iron Bridge in Brabyns Park. This lengthy project began in 2001 and was completed in 2008. Those unfamiliar with the story can read more on the old web site: The Iron Bridge Restoration Project.
A late addition to the project was the permanent viewing platform built around the stump of what was once a huge beech tree on the bank near to the bridge. This came about due to the sad demise of that fantastic looking tree, which was estimated to be around 350 years old. Unfortunately it was damaged during a storm over the winter of 2006/7, when a large section of it was blown down. Thankfully it didn't hit the bridge, otherwise the project would have been over before work started.
The storm damage revealed that the whole tree was in a dangerous condition and it was removed for us by local tree surgeon Myers Tree Care. Afterwards we decided to make a feature of the remaining stump - it was carved with wildlife figures for us by tree sculptor Andrew Frost - and the bronze plaque we'd created to explain the story of the bridge was mounted on it. At first a temporary timber viewing platform was built around the stump because we didn't have enough money for the permanent platform and railings we had worked with the council to design.
We eventually managed to raise the £16,391 needed for the permanent platform by reallocating some unspent funds from the original project, adding a £2,500 Community Award we had won for our efforts to restore the bridge, plus a contribution of £1,143 from SMBC and £250 from Marple Civic Society.
The viewing platform was finally completed in December 2011 and it looked great. The final touch was completed almost a year later, in October 2012, when the wind-up listening post was installed.
Gradual decay over the years
As with any tree stump that remains in the ground, gradual decay set-in. This was a concern that was considered at the time but we chose to go ahead anyway and were really pleased with the result. However, in the last couple of years the stump has deteriorated badly and in 2018 a dialogue was begun with Friends of Brabyns Park and then the Council about what needs to be done to ensure that the decaying of the stump does not result in the loss of the bronze plaque.
Here's how the project got underway in March 2019 and progressed...
The council removed the plaque in March 2019 and it is now in safe storage at the Brabyns Park depot. In June 2019 the council ground away the remains of the stump for us, which enabled their engineers to specify the ground works needed. This includes the supply and installation of steel lintels to carry new stonework and coping to match original across the gap and to renew the decking.
The other key element of work is to create a new section of railings to span the area between the existing railings, where the stump used to be. This new section of railings will also include brackets for the mounting of the bronze plaque. The railings will be a bespoke mild steel galvanised (and painted white) fabrication that will be made for us by local Metal Artist Wayne Chaisty. Wayne has worked on a number of other projects with the Marple Website and Friends of Memorial Park including the Coronation Bench in the Park, the Jubilee Sculpture in front of the library and the Lock Gates on Oldknow Gardens (known as Lock 17). Wayne also created the Nativity Sculptures that appear on Market Street each Christmas, so his work is well know to most people in the town.
In July 2019 there was a visit to the site and to see the plaque in storage with Wayne, and with Jackie Collins from Friends of Brabyns Park. Wayne was able to confirm the provisional price he had already given to supply and install the railings once the ground works are completed.
In June 2019 Friends of Brabyns Park submitted a grant application to the Stockport Local Fund but this was unsuccessful and work began on a submission to the Manchester Airport Fund.
Update July 2020:
In November 2019 the Friends of Brabyns Park submitted a grant application to the Manchester Airport Fund towards a project to refurbish the Iron Bridge Viewing Platform. It was considered by the fund's trustees in January and they asked the group for further information. This was provided at the end of January but unfortunately the application was refused in late April 2020. We believe, despite our best efforts, we struggled to give the trustees a full understanding of the project aims.
Following this, and in response to the Covid19 outbreak, the project was re-examined and restructured. It was pared down to the key physical works needed to restore the viewing platform only, with plans for walks, talks and reissue of the Discovery Trail put on hold for the time-being. The works were divided into two stages to take advantage of the partial funding already available and in the hope that it would be easier to raise further funds locally. The two stages defined were:
STAGE ONE Making the platform safe and accessible
Install new steel lintels and new matching stone work and kerbs to bridge the gap in the viewing platform left by the removal of the decayed tree stump.
Remove and replace / make good the wooden deck on the viewing platform.
Make safe pending Stage 2.
Budget Cost £2,661
STAGE TWO refit the refurbished plaque on new bespoke railings
Fabricate and install a new bespoke matching decorative railing at the back of the platform to bridge the gap between the existing railings left by the removal of the stump.
Clean and refurbish the bronze plaque at the original manufacturers.
Mount the bronze plaque on the new railings and return the viewing platform to full use.
Budget Cost £1,656
Stage One funded successfully
We are pleased to advise that in June 2020 an application to Marple Area Committee for £1,000 of Area Flexibility Funding was successful. Coupled with contributions of £900 from Stockport Council, £561 from Friends of Brabyns Park, and £100 each from The Marple Website and Marple Civic Society, this means that Stage One is now fully funded and can go ahead.
Stockport Council has been requested to place an order for Stage One with their landscape contractor and we are currently waiting to learn when the works will take place.
Once this is underway the next step will be find ways to fund Stage Two and complete the project.
The Friends Group is being supported by The Marple Website in these aims. You can make a donation to this project if you wish via the Friends of Brabyns Park's page in the Community Directory.
Update October 2020:
The Marple Website and Friends of Brabyns Park are pleased to report that Stage 1 of the works to refurbish the Iron Bridge Viewing Platform has been completed. Stage 1 included the installation of new steel lintels and new matching stone work to bridge the gap in the viewing platform left by the removal of the decayed tree stump. The wooden deck on the platform has also been fully renewed.
Stage 1 was funded by a £1,000 Flexibility Award from Marple Area Committee, £561 from Friends of Brabyns Park and £100 each from The Marple Website and Marple Civic Society. The council has contributed too - this was to be £900 but they have also absorbed some cost increases too.
We now need to find a further £1,656 of funding for Stage 2. This will include the fabrication and installation of new bespoke matching decorative railings at the back of the platform to bridge the gap left by the removal of the tree stump. The bronze plaque will also be cleaned and refurbished before being remounted on the new railings, returning the viewing platform to full use.
Update November 2020:
Stage 2 Funding awarded by the Macnair Trust
Fantastic news this month is that the Macnair Trust met on 4th November and approved a grant application from Friends of Brabyns Park for the sum of £1,656 needed to complete Stage 2 of the Iron Bridge Viewing Platform refurbishment. This award will pay for the fabrication and installation of new bespoke railings to bridge the gap left by the tree stump removal and refurbishment of the bronze plaque itself by the original manufacturers.
The new railings will include a mounting on which the bronze plaque will be secured.
Stage 2 works will be completed as soon as circumstances allow, so check back for updates.
It looks like a small Stage 3 to this project will be required to get everything ship-shape:
During a recent visit to review the completed Stage 1 works it was noticed that the top of the support post holding the audio listening device near to the platform is rusting quite badly. The council's maintenance team will be temporarily removing the listening device soon, so that they / we can have a closer look at what is required to remedy this situation.
Update December 2020
Latest news is that the Iron Bridge bronze plaque has been collected just before Christmas from Leander, the original manufacturer. They've done a brilliant job of cleaning, re-patinating, polishing and lacquering the plaque so that it looks just like when it first came out of their factory in 2009.
We are also pleased to report that the rusty audio post has been repaired by Stockport Council.
Fabrication of the new infill railings by Wayne Chaisty is expected to start in the New Year.
Update mid-April 2021
On the afternoon of Friday 16 April 2021 we completed the first trial fit of the bespoke railings being fabricated by Metal Artist Wayne Chaisty. We are delighted to report that it all went well and, as expected, Wayne is doing an excellent job for us.
Update end-April 2021
On Friday 30 April we had our second trial fit of the bespoke railings being fabricated by Wayne Chaisty. We also tried our mock-up of the bronze plaque and hopefully you can see how well the job is coming together now. We have a few more adjustments to make before getting the railings galvanised and painted ready for final install, so watch this space for more news.
Update May 2021
On Wednesday 19 May we did the final trial fitting of the railings at the Viewing Platform and test fitted the bronze plaque too. We're pleased to report that everything went very well and the next step is for Wayne to fully weld the brackets in place and then send the whole railing assembly for galvanising. We currently expect to complete the final installation in June.
Update June 2021
I'm delighted to report that we completed the final installation of the bespoke railings and refurbished bronze plaque at the Iron Bridge Viewing Platform on Monday 14 June. Wayne Chaisty of Ironwood Art has done a brilliant job fabricating and fitting the railings to turn the vision of mounting the plaque on the railings without welding on site into a reality.
All that is left to do now is fit a small plaque onto the backing plate that you can see in the first photo. This will explain a little bit about the project and acknowledge funding sources. That has been ordered and should be available for fitting in around 2 to 3 weeks time.
Update October 2021
I'm pleased to report that the small plaque explaining a little about the refurbishment of the Iron Bridge Viewing Platform and linking to this page has now been fitted. This had been delayed at the manufacturers and also required a bit of fettling before it would fit nicely on the mounting plate.
The plaque acknowledges the help and support of Friends of Brabyns Park, Stockport Council, the Macnair Trust, Marple Area Committee, Marple Civic Society and other private individuals who donated towards the cost of the works. It also acknowledges the wonderful skills of Wayne Chaisty of Ironwood Metal Art, without whom the project would simply not have been possible.
This means that the project to refurbish the Viewing Platform and Bronze Plaque begun by The Marple Website almost exactly 3 years ago, in September 2018, is now fully completed.
But this is not the end of the Iron Bridge Story!
Unfortunately this is not the end of the Iron Bridge Project story because the council has been neglecting the bridge's maintenance for many years since it was restored. I began corresponding with them almost 12 months ago about bringing the next principle inspection forward from the date they had it scheduled (which was this December and already one year late due to Covid). I'm pleased to report that it was conducted in September, although I had been pushing for much earlier than this so it can only be regarded as a partial success so far. Reports from the inspection are now awaited and will be followed by discussions on the remedial actions to be taken.