Spanish Town Iron Bridge a little safer for residents

April 29, 2010

Iron bridge1_edit.jpg

Kingston, Jamaica
The Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) has completed the first phase of its promised restoration of the historic Spanish Town Iron Bridge in St. Catherine. The completed works mean that the bridge will be reopened thus enabling residence of Beacon Street, Thompson Pen and adjoining communities more direct access to the main road.

The bridge was in imminent danger of collapsing when the JNHT began restorative work in 2008. Even more dangerous to the residents then was the massive hole in the centre of the bridge which forced the authorities to close it off to public access. The residents are therefore quite happy at the work that has so far been completed.

Mrs. Scion Rhoden-Thorpe, a resident of Beacon Hill, openly expressed her appreciation. "My son walks to school and it is much easier for him now that the bridge is fixed. Thank you very much. I use to fear for the children when they crossing even though you tell them not to as it was very dangerous for them. You could look down and see the river underneath. Also, many persons in the community work at the Spanish Town Hospital and to go to work we had to pay $90 taxi fare to go around. Now that the bridge is fixed, they can just walk across. It is really appreciated."

Director of Estate Management at the JNHT Mr. Gavern Tate noted that while the surface of the bridge is still rough and in need of more work, he is happy with the work done so far. "We are happy to have fixed the gaping hole in the bridge that was a menace to the residents of the surrounding communities and at the same time protect and prevent the monument from imminent collapse," he said.

"This work represents phase one of the restoration project and the project proposal is currently being written to garner funds to undertake phase 2 which will include restorative work on the cast iron railings and the other structural members," he continued.

On October 1, 2008 the JNHT signed a contract with Surrey Paving and Aggregate Company Ltd. valued at just over J$12 million to begin repair work on the bridge which is over 200 years old and is the first of its kind in the western hemisphere. Several members of the community were trained in the mixing and use of lime mortar and employed to assist in the restoration which required specialized skills. One such person was Donnette McBean, a resident of Thompson Pen.

The restoration was undertaken in collaboration with the Spanish Town Iron Bridge Foundation, a non-government organisation, established in 1996 to work towards preserving the bridge and enhancing the environment around it. The bridge was declared a national monument by the JNHT and was at one time placed on the UNESCO list of endangered world sites. It was designed by British Engineer Thomas Wilson, cast in 1801 and shipped to Jamaica in prefabricated parts which were assembled and mounted on its stone abutments in 1802.

For further information contact:
Andrea Braham, 922-1287-8/922-3990

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