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Aaron Brute Bridge Wins ICE Award

26th June 2014

The Aaron Brute’s Bridge project in Blaenavon, South Wales, has won the ‘Special Award for Heritage’ at the ICE (Institution of Civil Engineers) Wales Branch 2014 Annual Awards.

Capita worked in collaboration with Torfaen County Borough Council and Alun Griffiths contractors on the project.

Situated within the Blaenavon World Heritage site, the cast iron bridge was built circa 1812 by local stone mason and preacher Aaron Brute as a means for him to transport valuable minerals he had found, across the Afon Llwyd, to the local ironworks. 

As one of the oldest surviving cast iron bridges in Britain, and indeed the world, it is of significant historic importance, a fact that was recognised by Cadw, the Welsh Government's historic environment service, when it was entered into its Schedule of Monuments (MM 220) in 1995.

A ‘modern’ steel footbridge was placed above, and on the line of, the original bridge around the mid 1970’s as concerns over the continuing use of the iron bridge were raised.  This bridge itself was closed to the public in 2003 due to concerns about the potential risk of collapse arising from the river undercutting the weir and adjacent wing walls.

In 2011 Capita was appointed by Torfaen to advise and manage a staged project to conserve and secure the bridge for future generations.  This followed an assessment, by others, recommending “immediate” intervention to save the bridge.  It had become at risk of falling into the river, owing to the continued and ongoing loss of supporting masonry, on the downstream side, as a result of scour. 

Capita’s appointment covered the initial delicate operation of removing the original cast iron bridge for the supporting masonry abutments at both ends (the original bridge was constructed from three cast iron arches joined by iron plates on top and tie bars between the arches).  The removal allowed the bridge to be taken to an iron works, for subsequent detailed inspection and repair. 

The bridge repairs comprised full replacement of the original cast iron deck plates with steel replicas.  In addition strengthening measures, to ensure that no other loads other than the cast iron arches own self weight was carried by these elements, also had to be introduced.  To bring the bridge back into public uses necessitated hand railing / balustrading being added.  The form of these was investigated, in conjunction with Torfaen’s conservation officer, so that all proposals were sympathetic and in keeping with the historical significance of the bridge structure.

The works to the bridge were carried out remotely from the site.  Whilst the bridge was off site, and in parallel with the conservation works being undertaken to it, Capita designed, detailed and procured conservation works for the remaining masonry abutment, wingwall and weir works on the site.  Both these works were again awarded to Alun Griffiths, who subcontracted the specialist conservation works to the bridge itself to Penybryn Engineering.

The bridge was officially reopened to the public on 13 June 2013.

The ICE judges said: “...the scheme was an excellent example of the way in which heritage structures can be retained for future generations and the design was an innovative solution to a difficult problem.”

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