The restoration of a historic rail bridge in Oxford is about to get under way after almost £1m was raised by conservationists.

Oxford Preservation Trust has announced that work on the Rewley Road swing bridge is about to begin, thanks to the support of the Railway Heritage Trust, Historic England, Network Rail, Chiltern Railways and others.

The £900,000 will ensure the bridge is restored to turn again and the scheme will remove the Scheduled Monument from Historic England’s ‘Heritage at Risk’ Register.

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The bridge, built in 1851 to a design by the engineer Robert Stephenson, the man behind the pioneering locomotive Rocket, started to deteriorate in the 1950s and was last used by a freight train in 1985.

Oxford Mail:

LMS locomotive 8106 on the swing bridge in May 1942. Picture: RHG Simpson

Trust director Debbie Dance said: “The university and colleges are so well known that it is easy to overlook Oxford’s town and industrial heritage. OPT knew that no one could save it without us and are delighted to be on site at last despite all the difficulties this year has brought us.”

The swing bridge is one of only two moveable bridges on the River Thames, the other being London’s Tower Bridge.

It is an outstanding piece of Victorian railway engineering and all that is left of the second railway that used to run through Oxford, with an amazing story to tell of the epic battle between Stephenson and Brunel, who each brought their lines through the city.

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Oxford Mail:

There were even two stations built.

The Rewley Road station was designed by the architects for Crystal Palace and the Great Exhibition, which remained until it was moved to the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre to make way for the Said Business School.

Andy Savage, executive director of the Railway Heritage Trust, said: "I have been involved with the swing bridge on and off since 1983, and have spent the last 10 years working with the Oxford Preservation Trust to find a solution that prevents further deterioration, and transfers ownership to a local body.

“I am so delighted that it has all come to fruition now, and that we have been able to help with our grants.

I congratulate Debbie Dance and her team at Oxford Preservation Trust for their perseverance and hard work.”

Oxford Mail:

Debbie Dance at the bridge in 2012

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Emily Gee, Regional Director for Historic England in London and the South East, said: “The Rewley Road Swing Bridge is a remarkable structure of railway heritage. We are delighted that repair works are starting on this Heritage at Risk priority site after many years of investigation and preparation, aided by Historic England funding. It’s great that the Oxford Preservation Trust, with the support of key partners, is helping to forge a brighter future for this scheduled monument to be better understood and enjoyed.”

Mike Gallop, Network Rail’s Western Route Director, said: “We are delighted to be able to support the Oxford Preservation Trust, Railway Heritage Trust and Historic England in the refurbishment of this historic railway swing bridge in Oxford. We are thrilled that the Swing Bridge will be preserved for future generations to visit and appreciate.”