NEWLY DISCOVERED documents show that Isambard Kingdom Brunel started designing and building bridges three years earlier than originally thought, the ICE said this week.
They indicate that his earliest bridge structure could have been built across the River Lea in Chingford in 1832.
This was three years ahead of those he designed and built for the Great Western Railway, previously thought to be his earlist bridges.
ICE librarian Mike Chrimes made the discovery after buying a batch of 19th century railway drawings for the ICE's archives last summer. After buying the drawings, Chrimes found that Brunel had been paid for working on the Chingford bridge.
'There's strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that the Chingford Bridge is Brunel's - why else would he document his professional fees for it?' He added that there had been a gap in records of Brunel's work between completion of the Thames Tunnel in 1828 and the start of the Great Western Railway in 1835.
'This is the only example of what he was doing during this period, ' said Chrimes.
The drawings are being restored and will be exhibited at the ICE's headquarters in April to tie in with the Brunel 200 celebrations (see page 19).
The drawings were bought for £20 each, but could now be worth thousands of pounds.
Chrimes will be unearthing more gems from the archives every month - see ICE News on page 24