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Hungary's appreciation of William Clark

William Tierney Clark (1783- 1852) is one of the unsung heroes of early nineteenth century engineering.

While his principal employment was as engineer to West Middlesex Waterworks, based in Hammersmith, he was one of the pioneers of the modern suspension bridge design, and through the use of models developed the use of bracing and trusses to successfully counter the effects of wind loading for the fi rst time.

Although responsible for a number of British suspension bridges - Hammersmith, Shoreham, and Marlow - the absence of an archive of his papers has hampered appreciation of his work by modern engineers and historians of technology.

Paradoxically a large collection of his drawings and correspondence has survived in Budapest where Clark designed the iconic Szechenyi Chain Bridge, the first crossing of the Danube to provide a permanent link between the twin cities of Buda and Pesth.

Clark's drawing of the Pesth bridge

Key link: Clark’s drawing of the Pesth bridge

Over the last two years the ICE has collaborated with the Budapest History Museum, one of two main repositories of Clark material in Hungary, to digitise a large proportion of this material and make it available to scholars.

On 23 April Roland Perényi, director of the History Museum came to London to present ICE President Richard Coackley with digital copies of the material.

The architect Sandor Vaci, who has supervised the project for ICE has been a driving force for its conception and completion was also present.

The digital archive includes correspondence from Clark to his clients and staff, and some magnificent drawings that demonstrate Clark’s ability as an architect as well as an engineer.

Material came from the museum, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the ICE Library, and the London Metropolitan Archive, the latter providing background material on Clark.

  • ICE Library staff and members of the Archives Panel are currently reviewing the data. Any member who would like more information should contact carol.morgan@ice.org.uk

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