06 October 2019

"An Encyclopaedia of British Bridges" by David McFetrich

David McFetrich's "An Encyclopaedia of British Bridges" (Pen and Sword Books, ISBN 978-1-52675-295-6, 2019, 444pp) is the 2nd edition (with a very slight change in title) of a volume previously published in 2010.

It updates and expands its predecessor with one-third more structures discussed across 1,600 individual entries (previously 1,350), and a page-count increased by a quarter. Size does matter in an effort like this - it can never possibly be comprehensive, but an already impressive reference work has been made significantly more valuable.

The additions are from all periods of history, bridges both ancient and modern, and many of them are structures I'd never heard of. Picking the letter K at random, the bridges added are Karlsruhe Friendship Bridge, various Kew Gardens bridges, Kildrummy Castle Bridge, Glasgow's Kingston Bridge, and Knostrop Weir Footbridge. One of these is an inexplicable omission from the previous volume, and the others are all worthy inclusions.

The core of the book remains a well-illustrated alphabetised compendium of notable bridges (I should declare an interest here, as some images in the new volume have been provided by the Happy Pontist). Descriptions vary in detail but always convey the core facts and usually offer interesting information or context. Some entries have been expanded from the previous edition. The Encyclopaedia is frequently my first point of reference when investigating British bridges, and helpfully includes cross-references to other sources and a thorough bibliography.

The book is topped-and-tailed with a brief history of Britain's transport infrastructure, details of how bridges work, a fine glossary, lists of record-breaking bridges and a very helpful geographic index. A length "miscellany" puts the bridges in many different contexts, covering not just "timber bridges" or "suspension bridges" but less obvious subjects such as "tea house bridges", "relocated bridges", "finback bridges" and "ugly bridges".

Every time I open the book, I discover something new, and I imagine most readers will find the same. If you already own the first edition, it may be difficult to justify this new one, unless your interest in the subject is serious. If you don't, and you are at all interested in British bridges, I think this book is indispensable. If you are involved in the bridge design or engineering community, you may even find some of your own bridges here - I certainly did!

An Encyclopaedia of British Bridges is currently available at a discounted price of £54 (postage free in the UK) from the publisher, and also on Kindle via Amazon.

1 comment:

Richard Cooke said...

Dear HP, just received a copy of this book following your recommendation. What an interesting and detailed publication! There are so many varied examples and not just famous or well-known bridges. Thank you. Richard