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Severn Tunnel engineer honoured with blue plaque

The civil engineer who devised the Severn Tunnel has been honoured by a blue plaque in Bristol.

Charles Richardson worked on numerous rail projects in the late 19th century, after being taken on as an apprentice by Marc Brunel, and began to develop the Severn Tunnel idea following his appointment as resident engineer of the Bristol & South Wales Union Railway in 1858.

Construction on the tunnel began in 1873 and it opened in 1886 after delays caused by flooding. It remained the longest rail tunnel in the UK until the opening of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link in 2007.

Richardson also worked with Isambard Kingdom Brunel on projects such as the Box Tunnel on the Great Western Main Line near Bath and the Sapperton Canal Tunnel in Gloucestershire.

He was known for his interest in cricket and invented both the bowling machine and the modern cricket bat with cane splice-handle. He organised games among construction workers on the Severn Tunnel, as a distraction from the demons of drink, though Brunel was reportedly angered by Richardson’s cricket passion.

His other achievements include the discovery of brick clay at Cattybrook near Bristol, which led to the construction of a factory that would produce many of the bricks used to line the Severn Tunnel. Richardson is also responsible for many buildings along the Bristol waterfront.

The blue plaque was organised by the Retired Professional Engineers Club of Bristol and the Institution of Civil Engineers Bristol Club.

It is located on Engineer’s Walk and commemorates the 200th anniversary of Richardson’s birth.

Richardson, born in Cheshire in 1814, died in 1896. He is buried at Almondsbury, near Bristol.

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