The Whorlton Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning over the River Tees east of Barnard Castle, a city located in northern England. Local authorities mention that the facility is the oldest suspension bridge constructed in England.
The construction of the facility began in 1830 and was completed by the summer of 1831. It spans a length of about 53 meters and consists of 2 rock pillars. The deck of the structure is still being supported by the initial chains that were installed almost 190 years ago. Currently, it is a Grade II listed structure by Historic England.
The design of the structure coupled with its deterioration over the years have made it non-operational. In fact, some repair works were carried out but, in 1985, authorities applied a regulation that enables only one vehicle to pass over the structure at a time. Additional structural improvements were made in 1993, 2003 and recently in 2017 to ameliorate the structural integrity of the bridge.
However, the structure was temporarily closed for vehicles in August 2019 and engineers went through a series of detailed investigations. The structure remained open for pedestrians and cyclists.
After the assessments were completed, the Durham County Council decided to permanently close the historic bridge for all the public after evaluations showed that it could collapse at any time without warning. In particular, a report submitted to the council suggested that the structure is not capable of withstanding the loads applied during its current utilization. The report mentioned severe structural deficiencies in many parts across the structure.
Officials stated that, after securing the structure, proposals for preserving the bridge will be thoroughly evaluated with the support of Historic England. The strategic plans that will be followed are of great importance given the significance of the facility.
In addition to its valuable, historic importance, the bridge also serves as a crucial transportation feature in the region connecting 2 villages. Locals have to take a long diversion to pass over the river, hence, making the bridge operational again is crucial. “It is right that the bridge is closed until it is safe for drivers to pass over. However, it should be of paramount importance repairs are conducted as soon as possible to ensure residents of both villages are able to quickly and conveniently visit each other," Dehenna Sheridan Davison, a Member of the Parliament for Bishop Auckland, stated.
News about the future of the bridge is expected in early 2021 and until a decision is made, it will be closed indefinitely.