Swing Bridge Restoration wins Railway Heritage Award

Early December, OPT Director Debbie Dance and TMP Project manager Russ Turner attended the National Railway Heritage Award at the Merchant Taylors’ Hall in London, where against strong competition they were delighted to accept the Railway Heritage Trust Conservation Award for 2022, presented by His Royal Highness, the Duke of Gloucester. 

Watch the awards ceremony here (starting minute 43:25).

In 2023 our final goal is to complete the landscaping, railings and interpretation.  We hope to create a pocket wildflower meadow which attracts wildlife and biodiversity.

None of this would have been possible without the support of Network Rail, Historic England, the Railway Heritage Trust the Rewley Road residents who have put up with our endeavours first-hand, and to all of you that have provided your support in so many ways, financial, intellectual and moral – thanks for staying with us.  We look forward to sharing the finished soon.

The London Midland and Scottish Railway Swing Bridge is a disused railway bridge over Sheepwash Channel close to Oxford station and the city centre and is one of only two moving bridges on the Thames – the other being Tower Bridge in London. 

The swing bridge was designed by the engineer Robert Stephenson and built in 1850-1. A Scheduled Monument, the bridge is an important and unique site telling the story of its involvement in the history of the nation’s railways. However, it had been disused for many years – it had closed to passenger traffic in 1951 and to goods in 1984 – and was suffering from severe decay of the plating and paintwork which were protecting its surviving parts, including the original mechanism. 

The bridge was added to the Heritage at Risk Register in 2013. In 2020, ownership of the bridge was transferred from Network Rail to the Oxford Preservation Trust. Following funding from Historic England, Network Rail, the Railway Heritage Trust and fundraising by the Trust, the repair work to the structure was completed in summer 2022. In November 2022, the bridge was removed from the Heritage at Risk Register.

“This was the last chance for this significant piece of not only the nation’s railway heritage, but of Oxford’s town’s industrial heritage, which can so easily be overlooked in this University city. It has been a joy to work with the craftsmen who so carefully dismantled the bridge, repairing and recasting, and then putting it all back together like a giant jigsaw. With thanks to Historic England and our other funders,it feels important to have secured the bridge so that it can tell its story for future generations.” Debbie Dance, OPT Director.