Chester ’s Watergate Bridge has been restored to its former glory thanks to a programme of works to repair the structure costing more than £500,000.
Today (Friday 22 December), the Lord Mayor of Chester, Cllr Razia Daniels, performed a ribbon cutting ceremony to re-open the historic bridge which carries a footpath as part of the city walls circuit.
She was joined on the bridge by representatives from all the organisations involved in the comprehensive programme of repairs, as well as nearby businesses.
The grade I listed bridge had been supported by scaffolding since late in 2012 and thorough investigations were carried out to assess the condition of the bridge and its red sandstone. The amount of work required increased significantly after the bridge parapet was dismantled earlier this year.
Repair techniques used in the last century meant that 85% of the stone had to be replaced due to ‘delamination’ – where water flakes away outer layers of stonework. Initially the project estimated that 15% of the stonework on the bridge would need to be replaced.
The structure spans the A548 with Lower Watergate Street on one side – looking towards the city centre – and New Crane Street on the other with the racecourse in view.
Lord Mayor of Chester Cllr Razia Daniels said: “I was delighted to be involved in today’s re-opening ceremony. The bridge looks wonderful and will now be around for everyone to admire for many, many years to come.”
Cllr Karen Shore, cabinet member for environment, said: “The skilled work taking place on the bridge was previously hidden from public view, but now the restored bridge has been revealed in all its glory. It looks wonderful.”
Deputy council leader Cllr Louise Gittins , cabinet member for communities and well-being, added: “The council is committed to protecting Chester’s unique heritage. These intensive and specialist works are part of project to improve and maintain the city’s historic walls.”
There has been a structure at ‘Watergate’ on the city walls since the late 11th to early 12th century.
The current arch was constructed in 1789 replacing an earlier medieval gate which was described at the time as ‘’dangerously ruinous’.
During the 16th and 17th centuries Watergate was, as its name suggests, a main gateway to the quay of what was the largest, most important seaport in the region. The River Dee reached right up to Watergate for goods to be unloaded and transported up the hill into the city.
Ultimately the River Dee silted up and the area to the west was developed, so Watergate lost its link to the river. As a Scheduled Monument, all repair work at Watergate Bridge was carried out under the guidance of Historic England.