Canadian Consulting Engineer

Historic Brunel bridge found in London

Few engineers are household names, but the fame of the 19th century engineer who went by the unlikely name of Isamb...

March 17, 2004   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Few engineers are household names, but the fame of the 19th century engineer who went by the unlikely name of Isambard Kingdom Brunel lives on. His fame was boosted early this month after crews uncovered one of the first bridges designed by him near Paddington Station in the heart of London, U.K.
The cast iron structure had been hidden behind modern brick parapets at the inaccessible end of the Bishop’s Road Bridge, which has become a traffic bottleneck and is due to be replaced. The tenders for the demolition of the bridge had gone out when an English Heritage inspector happened to come across some of Brunel’s records of load-testing for the cast-iron beams of the bridge. It was built in 1838.
The bridge has lost its original railings, but otherwise was perfectly preserved. It is now being dismantled and plans are to relocate it as a pedestrian bridge over the canal. Westminster city council owns the bridge and is hoping to tap into the country’s National Lottery funds which are often used to restore and rehabilitate historic buildings in the U.K.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859) was a celebrated engineer in the age of iron and steam. The son of a French engineer, he was born in Portsmouth and became a student at the College Henri Quatre in Paris. His father had fled from the Revolution in France in the 1780s.
Isambard was in charge of the construction of the Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe when he was only 20 years old, and went on to be chief engineer for Britain’s Great Western Railway, designing a network of tunnels, bridges and viaducts. He also designed steamships. With John Scott Russell, for example, he designed the Great Britain, the first steamship to cross the Atlantic ocean.

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