special feature
What difference?
Wales played a unique role in the development
of the chain suspension bridge in Britain, supplying the iron that made new kinds of structures possible. Explore the story though the pioneering work of retired Naval captain, Sir Samuel Brown.
This essay was funded by
the ICE R&D Panel
Institution of Civil Engineers
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Chain Bridges and Welsh Iron
introduction |  first modern suspension bridges |  Captain Sir Samuel Brown + Thomas Telford |  gazeteer of Brown's works |  sources + reading list
About the reference material
The author of the essay from which this article has been adapted has been undertaking research into Captain Sir Samuel Brown at the National Archives of Scotland. Brown's correspondance and other papers have survived, passed down from the law firm he used for a number of years, through the Home family and successive practices.
Brown used the law practice of John Home (1758-1831), who was admitted as a Writer to the Signet (WS) in 1812. In Scotland, a WS is a senior solicitor who conducts cases in the Court of Session. Home was the eldest son of George Home, town Clerk of Leith, Edinburgh. He practiced at 12 Charlotte Street, Edinburgh, and this continued to be the office of successive firms.
The Home family connection passed to John's son William Home (d.1846). When Home died, the building transferred to William and his then partner in the firm John Gibson, which traded as Gibson & Home in William's lifetime, and subsequently became the firm Strathern & Blair. William's son, John Home (d.1890), was admitted as a WS in 1866.
The firm became Anderson Strathern LLP on 1st September 1992, the year J & F Anderson and Strathern & Blair merged. The papers in the National Library of Scotland are held as Papers of Sir Samuel Brown (Strathern & Blair MSS). Research is ongoing.
Other sources
A Memoir on Suspension Bridges
by C.S. Drewry .... Longman, London, 1832, reprinted by Cambridge University Press, 2014
Union Chain Bridge: linking engineering
by Gordon Miller .... Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Civil Engineering, Volume 159, Issue 2, 01 May 2006, pages 8895
A Treatise on Bridge Architecture: In which the Superior Advantages of the Flying Pendent Lever Bridge are Fully Proved
by Thomas Pope .... printed for the author by A. Niven, 1811
The Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 1
ed. Prof. Sir Alec Skempton et al .... Thomas Telford Publishing, London, 2002
The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal
Edinburgh, Vol.14, No.27, pp.53-54, January 1826
an addition by the editor to the article Account of a Bridge of Suspension Made of Hide Ropes in Chili by Captain Basil Hall
Obituary. William Clegham 1784-1863
Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, London, Vol.23, pp.485-486, 1st January 1864
www.bridgesonthetyne.co.uk
Further reading
Telford's Menai and Conwy suspension bridges, Wales
by William Day .... Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Civil Engineering, Volume 160, Issue 5, 01 May 2007, pages 26-30
A Link with the Past: The History of the Newbridge Works of Brown Lenox & Co
by Stephen K. Jones .... Glamorgan Historian, Vol. 12, 1981
Samuel Brown: Britain's pioneer suspension bridge builder
by E.L. Kemp .... History of Technology, 1977
Constructing a Bridge: An Exploration of Engineering Culture, Design, and Research in Nineteenth-Century France and America
by E. Kranakis .... MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1996
www.gracesguide.co.uk
www.unionbridgefriends.com
introduction |  first modern suspension bridges |  Captain Sir Samuel Brown + Thomas Telford |  gazeteer of Brown's works |  sources + reading list

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Clifton Suspension Bridge
Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge (begun 1836, completed 1864) in Bristol, UK. Two thirds of the chain links came from the Hungerford Suspension Bridge over the Thames in London, also by Brunel but dismantled in 1863. The bar iron was manufactured by the Dowlais Ironworks in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales.
Photo: Stephen K. Jones collection
competition entry
Captain Sir Samuel Brown's 1830 proposal for the Clifton Suspension Bridge competition.
Photo: Stephen K. Jones collection