This is part of a blog series about Scotland's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Scotland has six UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Forth Bridge
The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh
The Antonine Wall
Heart of Neolithic Orkney
In part one we are going to explore the magnificent Forth Bridge.
What is UNESCO?
UNESCO stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.
The aim of UNESCO is to promote world peace through international collaboration in education, science and culture.
What is a World Heritage Site?
Since 1978, UNESCO has cultivated a list of places with particular cultural, historic or scientific significance, these are known as World Heritage Sites. As of 2022 there are over 1,100 site across the world. Below are six you might recognise.
L to R: Stonehenge, Pyramids of Giza, Machu Picchu,
Great Wall of China, Great Barrier Reef, Acropolis
The Forth Bridge
The Forth Bridge was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015.
Why build a bridge?
During the second half of the nineteenth century railways became an essential and popular mode of transport, goods and people could be quickly transported all over the UK. The Forth Bridge created a rail connection between the Edinburgh area and the northern towns of Scotland.
Building the Bridge
The new rail bridge was designed by Sir John Fowler and Benjamin Baker and was a cantilever design. The building contract was awarded to the Scottish civil engineering company Sir William Arrol & Co., who later built Tower Bridge and the Titan Crane. Work began on the bridge in April 1883 during the reign of Queen Victoria. Sadly, 73 men died during the construction of the bridge, they are remembered on a memorial near the bridge.
construction of the three piers of the Forth Bridge in 1891
What is a Cantilever Bridge
A cantilever is a structure that is supported at only one end, a balcony is a simple example of a cantilever structure. The Forth Bridge has four cantilever arms which are supported by the tower and connected with a truss.
The picture below shows men demonstrating the principle of a a cantilever bridge. The men on the left and right represent the towers, their arms are the cantilever arms and the man in the middle is the truss.
DID YOU KNOW? - The Forth Bridge is the second longest single cantilever span bridge in the world! The longest is the Quebec Bridge in Canada which was completed in 1919.
Opening the Bridge
The bridge took seven years to build and was opened in March 1890 by the then Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VII, he was given the honour of driving the last rivet into to bridge!
The Painting Myth
A Scottish expression for a never-ending task is ‘like painting the Forth Bridge’. People believed that upon completion of painting the bridge, workers would go back to the beginning and start again. Unfortunately, this has never been true. A maintenance team painted areas of the bridge that were particularly weathered. In 2011 the bridge was given a coating to last 25 years, bringing an end to having painters on the maintenance crew.
During the 1950's an increase in road travel meant that a Forth Road Bridge was essential. The Forth Road Bridge was opened in 1964 by Queen Elizabeth II. In 2017 a second road bridge, the Queensferry Crossing, was opened.
Today all three bridges stand proudly together, a trip across the Forth Bridge is definitely a bucket list wish!
Learn about Forth Bridges with our comprehensive digital pack.
Take a look at our Forth Bridges explainer video.
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