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Restoration work on Swansea historic bascule bridge moves ahead

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The council says a big new step is about to be taken in the repair and restoration of an historic Swansea landmark.

It will help lead to the return of Landore’s 112-year-old Bascule Bridge.

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The structure is earmarked by Swansea Council as a key heritage feature of the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks site’s bright future.

The aim is to re-install the restored 70-tonne steel span at its site crossing the River Tawe. Restoration work, in the form of detailed investigations, structural repairs and painting, has taken place at Afon Engineering, Swansea Vale, since summer 2019.

Having investigated the bridge’s timberwork that helps support the span, the council is now about to look for a specialist business to repair those wooden elements.

The bascule bridge as it stood before being removed for restoration (Image: Swansea Council)

Officers continue to work closely with Welsh Government’s historic environment service Cadw on the project.

Council cabinet member Robert Francis-Davies said: “Our detailed work so far puts us in a strong position to move to the next stage of repairing and restoring this wonderful survivor of Swansea’s industrial history.

“We’re in constant contact with Cadw to ensure that the restoration journey meets their requirements.”

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Fellow cabinet member Mark Thomas said: “The timber restoration will be specialist work and we hope to start that early next year.

“In the meantime, we plan to move the span from Afon Engineering to a new short-term temporary home close to the former Hafod-Morfa Copperworks site which is undergoing regeneration.

“Work is essential at this time to prevent further decay and risk loss of this grade II listed structure and scheduled monument. Any further delay would result in the loss of this valuable heritage that forms a critical part of Swansea’s story.

“Our work on the Bascule Bridge will complement the work we are doing to develop a world class tourist destination at the copperworks; this attracted National Lottery Heritage Funding of £3.75m to restore the Powerhouse for future use as a Penderyn Distillery visitor attraction.”

The bascule bridge at Afon Engineering where it is being restored (Image: Swansea Council)
The bascule bridge at Afon Engineering where it is being restored (Image: Swansea Council)
The bascule bridge at Afon Engineering where it is being restored (Image: Swansea Council)

Wales’ Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters said: “I am pleased that we’ve been able to contribute to this important project via our Transforming Towns programme which supports the economic and social recovery of our town and city centres across Wales.   

“Restoring this historic bridge is important to the overall development of the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks as a heritage and tourism site that I am sure will attract visitors from far and wide.”

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Louise Mees, Cadw’s regional inspector of ancient monuments, said: “The Bascule Bridge was pivotal to the area’s time as the world copper capital and is a unique part of Swansea’s industrial heritage.  

“It was built in 1909 to carry materials and waste between the two copper works on either side of the River Tawe. It was hinged so that it could be lifted to allow the ships with high masts that were carrying cargo and trade to and from all around the world to navigate the river.”

A unique feature of Swansea’s industrial heritage, the Bascule Bridge was pivotal to the area’s time as the world copper capital. Its hinged steel structure would lift to allow the passage of river traffic.

The initial main work on the steel elements was part funded by Welsh Government Transforming Towns funding support together with a funding contribution from the council.

Businesses involved in the work include lead contractor Griffiths, through the Swansea Highways Partnership, and  structural engineers/consultants Mann Williams.

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Lead Image: The main span of Swansea’s Bascule Bridge at the city’s Afon Engineering where it has been restored (Image: Swansea Council)

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