Connecting Communities Along the Carron


Building owner/client:

Dorrator Bridge

Architect or lead designer:

James McLean - Falkirk Council

Local Authority Area:


Nominating Body:

Communities Along the Carron Association

Project Description

The Louis Harper designed bridge, officially known as the ‘Dorrator Bridge’ over the River Carron, installed in 1893 has been held in high esteem by Communities Along the River Carron for 121 years. Originally built to allow the local workforce to travel to the many industries on both sides of the river, by 2012 it was deemed to have reached the end of it life as repairs were no longer cost effective and new disability compliance regulations and increased expectations of multi-use path networks led to the need for the old bridge to be replaced. The communities were determined not to allow this faithful old structure to simply disappear so set out to publicise its removal and to engage the local people in how they wanted it to be celebrated and remembered and at the same time, celebrate and publicise the grand new bridge which was to be its replacement. The people came forward and the significance of the deep affection the local people had for the old structure known fondly as ‘The Swing Bridge’ or ‘Shoogly Bridge’ became very apparent. We had emails and anecdotal stories from as far away as Canada and Dubai. In respect for the significance of this marvellous old structure we set out to track down anything we could find out about Louis Harper, the original designer who was discovered to be a hugely significant in the world of bridge Engineers. We traced Louis’ grandson Douglas Harper in Aberdeen and he came to meet us. We involved him in the design elements and plans for the new bridge and we have invited him to ‘Officially Open’ the new structure in 2015 in recognition of his grandfather’s lifetime achievements. Louis Harper had bridges of this unique design installed worldwide and we feel privileged to have had one connecting Camelon and Larbert in the Falkirk area. The only other one of this type in Scotland still stands at Birkhall in the Balmoral Estate. As an amazing coincidence, Douglas Harper (Louis’ grandson) happened to be a Surgeon at the Falkirk District Royal Infirmary for 23 years and the cables which carried power to the hospital were suspended beneath his grandfather’s bridge. The new bridge now carries power cables which feed the new Forth Valley Royal Hospital. The community gathered in large numbers to witness history as the New Bridge was constructed and the old bridge removed. It was negotiated and agreed with Falkirk Council that part of the main structure which held the suspension wires would be retained on the site and restored to create a monument and interpretation installation which would tell the story of ‘The Old Swing Bridge’ designed by Louis Harper. The sadness of this story of the old bridge is met with excitement and renewed pride in the fantastic structure we now have which is serving a whole new generation of people using it commute between the villages and to the local train stations, and many for the scenic value of a walk or cycle along the River Carron. Increased usage is calculated at around 700% now that the bridge is of multiuser design.

Supporting Statement

Firstly the group are extremely proud to have been part of this wonderful project. Connecting people along the River Carron is one of five main objectives of our volunteer community group which formed in 2010. Since then we have raised over £500,000 towards projects in line with our aims, one of which was the Dale Bridge, nominated in the 2012 My Place Awards. We influenced this project in the same way as the Dale Bridge, even deciding on the colour so we can have a theme colour along the Carron which radiates the beautiful greenery surrounding the rivers and green spaces. This has been a people project from the beginning and we now secured funding of £146,000 from the Climate Challenge Fund in partnership with Sustrans to encourage even greater use of this bridge and the 10K path network surrounding it which we helped raise funding to create. The replacement bridge is a Vierendell Girder Steel Bridge with the main span weighing 34 tonnes. It is over 2m wide and has no step approaches. The cleverly yet challenging design of the curved access ramp provides a smooth tie in to the existing footway. We also have an anti skid surface for our walkers and cyclists! The area is a natural flood plan but the elevation of the design allows clearance in spate and flood events and will prevent the potential to trap trees or debris being washed down the river.