THE Duchess of Northumberland yesterday cut the ribbon on a country village’s historic bridge after a three-year makeover.
The Duchess was at Rothbury to perform the official reopening of the road bridge over the River Coquet, fresh from its £3.7m overhaul.
The bridge was built in 1460, making it one of Northumberland’s most historic structures.
Northumberland County Council decided to carry out extensive strengthening work to the structure after a consultation with local residents made it clear they did not want any alterations of a 21st century nature.
As a result, the council’s design team came up with features last seen more than 100 years ago, such as parapets and refuges.
These were eventually given consent by English Heritage, after it had initially voiced concerns.
The work also had to tie in with several constraints, as the structure is a scheduled ancient monument and spans a river which is a designated site of special scientific interest, with protected species of bats and birds. Closing the bridge for any length of time without an alternative means of traffic crossing the river was ruled not feasible so it was decided a temporary Bailey bridge would be necessary while the work was carried out.
Council stonemasons Dennis Atkinson and Rothbury resident Stewart Foggon, along with father and son stonemasons David and Malcolm Sutton, who also live in the village, worked together to replace the stonework using traditional skills.
Six Victorian-style lampposts were added to help restore the bridge to its former glory – four of them paid for by local residents and organisations and the council met the cost of the remaining two.
The Duchess yesterday cut a ribbon and unveiled a plaque accompanied by Angus Armstrong, who is from a family of valley doctors. Children from Rothbury First School and residents had lined the bridge to mark the occasion.
Dr Armstrong was then given the honour of being the first person to drive across the bridge in three years. Those gathered then made their way to the Jubilee Hall for speeches, and presentations to the duchess and Dr Armstrong.
The Duchess told The Journal: “It is just wonderful to see a community get the bridge they want and be involved in the design and consultation process.
“The designers have been sympathetic to the landscape and environment, and the community has come together to fund the lamps and put seating on the bridge. It is a wonderful community project.
“It is great to see a great Northumberland bridge being built. The bridges are our assets, our historical assets.”
County and parish councillor for Rothbury Steven Bridgett told those present: “The sheer number of you who have turned out is testament to how important this bridge is.”
Dr Armstrong added: “The bridge really does bring the village together again.”