Forth Bridge

Date of Submission: 27/01/2012
Criteria: (i)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
State, Province or Region:
Fife / Edinburgh, Scotland
Coordinates: N56 00 04 W3 23 23
Ref.: 5680
Word File

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Spanning the Estuary of the River Forth in Scotland, the Forth Bridge represents the pinnacle of 19th century iron and steel bridge construction. A world wonder of its age, this Victorian engineering marvel that was made possible by new steel production processes, is arguably the world's greatest and most famous cantilever bridge

A truly monumental structure, the 54,000 tons of Siemens-Martin open-hearth steel, whose main compression struts of rolled steel plate are riveted into 12ft (4m) diameter tubes, spans some 1710ft (521m) to link the counties of Fife and Edinburgh.

When opened in 1890, the Bridge was the greatest example of its type. It holds the record for the world's longest cantilever bridge, although the Quebec Bridge exceeded the record for a single cantilever span in 1917. Still operating today as an important passenger and freight rail bridge, the Bridge's distinctive, iconic profile is recognised the world over and internationally regarded as not only one of the world's first and greatest iron and steel bridges, but also as the world's most famous cantilever.

No steel cantilever bridge has ever matched the perfect balance of structural elegance and quality of design represented by this bridge.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The construction of the Bridge made it the first monumental scale cantilever bridge ever built in steel. Its groundbreaking design and engineering was significantly ahead of its time, a reality confirmed by the fact that when built, and for 27 years after, it contained the longest span cantilever in the world. The genius of the Bridge's design is at once both structural and aesthetic, perfectly encapsulating the 19th century aspiration of ambition that reinforced the belief in mankind's ultimate ability to overcome any obstacle and to make the impossible possible. The Bridge possesses internationally recognised values that are aesthetic, artistic, historic, typological and that represent unsurpassed creativity and genius of design along with a uniqueness and rarity value.

The Bridge is distinguished by the unique form of its counterbalanced cantilever design, each of the two main spans of the bridge comprise two towering 680 ft (207m) cantilevers with a 350ft (107m) suspended span. The net result is 1,700 ft (518m) long monumental symmetrical profile which is not only unique in appearance, but is also regarded around the world as much as an iconic symbol of aesthetics in engineering as it is a technological marvel of 19th century engineering.

The Bridge is recognised as a milestone in the world history of technology and engineering. The design, materials and construction techniques in this bridge represent a set of technological ideas which together were revolutionary, and which represented a fundamental departure from all that had gone before. The originality and genius of its design, its size and scale, the revolutionary use of steel in its construction and the extraordinary degree of ambition in its conception can be shown to have changed approaches to engineering the world over.

Criteria met:

(i) As a design solution employing new scientific thought and new materials, the steel-built cantilever design of the Forth Bridge represents human creative genius in overcoming a problem that had never before been overcome..

(iv) The Forth Bridge was revolutionary in its design, in its scope, in its materials and in its truly incredible scale. It is an outstanding example of the evolution of bridge design and the use of steel in monumental construction. The bridge is a landmark structure that represents a fundamental departure from everything that had gone before and reflects the major advances in metal production processes brought about by the industrial revolution.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Integrity:The Site includes within its proposed boundary all the elements necessary to express its Outstanding Universal Value. Its completeness is represented by the fact that the Bridge exists today in a uniquely unchanged form. Designed as a railway bridge intended for use by independently powered steam locomotives it remains in daily use today, some 120 years later, as the major rail artery connecting the north-east and south-east of Scotland.

As a fully functioning railway bridge in daily commercial use, the Bridge is maintained to an exacting standard. It has been, and continues to be, the focus of considerable investment in its maintenance, a feature which has ensured that its present-day form and condition are essentially unchanged from the day it was opened. There has been negligible fabric replacement or addition and no structural alteration. The structure standing today is essentially, the structure that was built 120 years ago.

Additionally, the Bridge has been ‘A' Listed since 1971, providing it with the highest statutory level of protection in Scotland for an historic structure in use.

Authenticity: The Forth Bridge maintains a high level of authenticity in its present state. As both a wonder of its age and as an iconic symbol of industrial achievement, the Bridge has been described, drawn, painted and photographed in infinite detail throughout its existence. The original plans, drawings and documentation relating to its commission, design and build are all still in existence and permit the original design to be compared in exacting detail with the bridge that can be seen today.

Thus, based upon the unparalleled degree of documentation and the numerous later studies covering the Bridge's 120 year lifespan, it is possible to assert with complete confidence that the structure as it appears today is a near mirror reflection of its original planned form and finish.

Comparison with other similar properties

Bridges are at once so fundamental to man's engagement with his environment that it is not surprising that a number of World Heritage sites include bridges within their inscribed boundaries. However, there are only three sites at which a bridge is the principal focus of an inscription. These are the Vizcaya Bridge, The Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge of Višegrad across the Drina River and the Iron Bridge at Ironbridge Gorge. In the case of the Old Bridge Area and Bridge of Mostar, it is not the unique qualities of the bridge per se that underlie this site's OUV.

The TICCIH thematic study Context for World Heritage Bridges concludes that of the world's great cantliever bridges only three have the potential to demonstrate the OUV required of a World Heritage Bridge: The Forth Bridge (1890): Scotland (UK), Poughkeepsie Cantilever (1886): Poughkeepsie, New York (USA) and the Québec Bridge (1917): Canada.

The thematic study makes it clear that it is the Forth Bridge that stands out. Talking of steel cantilever bridges DeLony states that "The crowning achievement of the material during the 19th century, was the mighty Forth Railway Bridge in Scotland (1890)." He echoes this sentiment throughout his study: "the Forth Railway Bridge, perhaps the world's greatest cantilever" and "The world's most famous cantilever [the Forth Bridge] is also one of the world's first and largest steel bridges and held the record for longest cantilever for 27 years."

In as much as The Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge of Višegrad in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a 16th century stone bridge, this leaves only the Iron Bridge at Ironbridge Gorge in England and the transporter Vizcaya Bridge as anything remotely comparable. But no comparison can really be drawn. Ironbridge is a product of a different age, different design, different materials and character. The Vizcaya Bridge is of steel and of similar date to the Forth Bridge but uses a totally different technology and design approach. Currently, no bridge on the list of World Heritage sites can be properly compared with the Forth Bridge and to this extent it must be considered that this bridge represents a class of monument which is not represented on the current list.