Saturday, 5 December 2020

An Encyclopaedia of British Bridges.

OK, I like bridges. I guess as an Engineer I like many things structural and mechanical, and I'm always interested in how things work and why they are the way they are. I even did a little Civil Engineering as part of my degree, so have a basic understanding of them, and bridges are such a visual illustration of forces at work. So perhaps not surprising that this book by David McFretrich caught my eye

It's a massive book - large hardback format, almost 450 pages, and rather heavy - and is exactly what it says on the front. It doesn't list every bridge in Britain of course, but aims to list all those of interest; historically, structurally, aesthetically, socially. Many of them (near half) are illustrated with a photo, though of course these are by necessity rather small. Some photos are rather poor, being dark or grainy, which is understandable where it is a historic image but I'm sure better quality pictures could have been sourced in some places. The short text entry gives the background, history, key structural and aesthetic details very succinctly, with references and even listing any walks that pass it.

As well as the encyclopaedia and references, and a geographical index, the book starts with a brief outline of the types of bridge and how they work - very clearly and simply. There is a "miscellany" with further information, categories, and background, referring to listed bridges. It is a good quality book that seems very well put together. The author not only knows his bridges but is enthusiastic about them, yet he is able to explain the subject well - this is not an engineers textbook, it is accessible to any reader. It's probably not a guide for modellers either, though I think it is good inspiration for the many types of bridges in Britain. 

Of course probably this isn't the sort of book you read from cover to cover, but it is a fascinating resource to dip into and flick through. If like me you find bridges interesting, or if you like structures, architecture, or history, you will find this interesting. 

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