The building of the Chain Bridge over the Danube was the convergence of emerging Hungarian national ambition and British Industrial Revolution knowhow. The initial approach to Marc Brunel in 1828 was followed by Count Széchenyi’s crucial visit to Hammersmith in 1832. There he saw, and immediately appreciated, the potential of the suspension bridge over the Thames to span the icebound Danube.
A meeting with William Tierney Clark, the civil engineer of the bridge, led to Clark being commissioned to design the Buda Pesth Chain Bridge.
Work started in 1839 and was completed in the midst of the Hungarian War of Independence in 1849 (see Sandor Vaci: William Tierney Clark and the Buda Pesth Chain Bridge, Proc ICE EHH Vol 164 (2) pages 109-122.) Most of the drawings and English language correspondence have survived in Hungary but unfortunately all of Clark’s own material in Hammersmith has been destroyed. For this reason the correspondence between William Tierney Clark and those in Hungary is one sided though drafts from some letters sent to Clark have survived.
Important archival and contemporary published material in London completes the unique knowledge source about the process of realisation and design.
PRINCIPAL SUBJECT AREAS IN THE ARCHIVE
Original drawings prepared in Hammersmith and during the building;
Drawings from WT Clark's published report explaining all aspects of the bridge construction (included in: Supplement to the Theory, Practice and Architecture of Bridges, John Weale 1852);
WT Clark's proposal for a Conservatory;
Proposals of competitors.
Reports (Plews and Slater);
WT Clark's letters to Count Széchenyi and Széchenyi’s drafts;
WT Clark's letters to Adam Clark (his superintendent) and Adam Clark's drafts;
Letters to Baron Sina;
WT Clark's letters from his Journeys to M. Knight.
Adam Clark’s correspondence with his parents (complete both ways);
Bland William Croker’s letters to Adam Clark (BWC, WT Clark’s relative, was responsible for the ironwork of the bridge);
Miscellaneous items including the passport issued to Adam Clark signed by Viscount Palmerston.
Contract between Baron Sina and George Burge for the construction of the cofferdams;
WT Clark's Will and valuations;
WT Clark's locations in Hammersmith.
PRINCIPAL CORRESPONDENTS AND PARTICIPANTS LISTED IN THE DATABASE
Mechanical and civil engineer of French origin
Contractor engaged to build the cofferdams and foundations
Superintendent engineer of the chain bridge construction
Adam Clark’s father, millwright
Clark, William Tierney
Engineer-architect of the chain bridge
Croker, Bland William
Engineer related to Tierney Clark, responsible for the iron elements
Partner in Hunter and English, who manufactured construction equipment, cranes etc, also rolling carriages and retaining plates for suspension chains
Secretary of the West Middlesex Water Company, Tierney Clark’s correspondent
Ogden, Francis Barber
American Consul in Liverpool
Pasley, Charles William
Expert engineer engaged to assess the Hammersmith chain bridge
Plews, John and Slater, Samuel
English contractors engaged to report on the chain bridge design, location of the bridge and nature of the icebound Danube
Mechanical and civil engineer, submitted rival design
Rennie, Sir John
Civil engineer, brother of George, promoted sale of diving bell
Sándor, Count Móric
Hungarian nobleman, the first to approach Marc Brunel for building a chain suspension bridge
Sina, Baron György
Viennese banker of Macedonian origin, first to provide financial backing
Széchenyi, Count István
Hungarian nobleman, key figure in the realisation of the chain bridge
Count Széchenyi’s secretary
Banker based in Pesth, initially rival but later financial backer of the bridge
Walker, Samuel and Yates, William
Iron masters based in Birmingham, England