World Stamps

By Denise McCarty

British stamps show bridge designs spanning several centuries

March 05, 2015 03:37 PM

  • The first five stamps in Great Britain’s March 5 Bridges issue feature photographs of the following bridges in chronological order: Tarr Steps, pre-1600; Row Bridge, 1700s; Pulteney Bridge, 1774; Craigellachie Bridge, 1814; and the Menai Suspension Bridge, 1826.

  • The second strip of five first-class stamps in Great Britain’s Bridges issue shows the High Level Bridge, 1849; Royal Border Bridge, 1850; Tees Transporter Bridge, 1911; Humber Bridge, 1981; and the Peace Bridge, 2011.

Ten new stamps from Great Britain represent hundreds of years of bridge construction.

Royal Mail issued the 10 nondenominated first-class Bridges stamps March 5.

In a press release, Royal Mail said, “The Bridges stamp issue celebrates the leaps in engineering that have seen the UK’s bridges evolve from humble stone crossings to dramatic symbolic landmarks conceived by progressive architects … ”

The stamps are in two strips of five with the designs se-tenant (side-by-side).

The bridges are shown in chronological order, starting with the Tarr Steps dating back to at least the 16th century and ending with the Peace Bridge completed in 2011. A dateline runs across the bottom of the stamp designs.

The Tarr Steps is a clapper-style bridge that spans the River Barle. The word clapper comes from a Latin word meaning “pile of stones.”

The bridge was made from large slabs of gritstone (a type of sandstone) weighing 2 tons each, placed on broad piers made from blocks of stone.

When this bridge was built is not known. Royal Mail reported that it had long been thought that the Tarr Steps could be up to 3,000 years old, but more recent research reveals that this bridge may date from the 15th or 16th century.

The inscription on the dateline on the stamp reads “pre 1600.”

The next stamp pictures Row Bridge over Mosedale Beck. Believed to date from the middle of the 18th century, this narrow bridge was built to carry packhorses crossing in a single file.

The middle stamp in the first strip shows Pulteney Bridge in Bath, completed in 1774.

The local tourism website provides a brief description: “Pulteney Bridge, together with the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, is one of the world’s most beautiful bridges. Like the Ponte Vecchio it is one of a handful of historic bridges in the world with shops built into it.

“Built for William Pulteney by Robert Adam, the bridge was an attempt to connect central Bath to land on the other bank of the River Avon and make Pulteney’s fortune. In spite of its practical origins, it is surely the most romantic bridge in the world, best viewed from Parade Gardens park by the crescent weir.”

The Craigellachie Bridge, shown on the next stamp, celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2014. Scottish civil engineer Thomas Telford (1757-1834) built this cast-iron bridge across the River Spey in Moray, Scotland, from 1812 through 1814.

Among the numerous other bridges designed by Telford is the Menai Suspension Bridge, called Pont Grog Y Borth in Welsh, pictured on the last stamp in the first strip.

Completed in 1826, this 1,368-foot long bridge linking the Isle of Anglesey to the Welsh mainland was one of the world’s first great suspension bridges.

The second strip of five stamps begins with two bridges designed by Robert Stephenson (1803-59): the High Level Bridge over the River Tyne and the Royal Border Bridge over the River Tweed. They date from 1849 and 1850, respectively.

The High Level Bridge is two-tiered, designed to carry both road and rail traffic. Royal Mail calls it “one of the most innovative and visually powerful bridges created during Britain’s Railway Age.”

A key component in Britain’s expanding railway system, the Royal Border Bridge linked London to Edinburgh. Trains continue to cross the river via this railway viaduct.

The Tees Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough is featured on the next stamp. One of only three remaining transporter bridges in Britain, people and vehicles are conveyed in an electric-powered gondola suspended above the River Tees.

Completed in 1911, the Tees Transporter Bridge is currently being renovated.

Humber Bridge, pictured on the next stamp, was opened 70 years later, in 1981 by Queen Elizabeth II.

For more than 16 years, this almost mile-and-a-half long bridge crossing the Humber estuary was the world’s longest single-span suspension bridge.

The Peace Bridge was not only designed to convey bicyclists and pedestrians but also to unite the city of Derry in Northern Ireland.

Wilkinson Eyre, the architectural firm that won a competition in 2009 to design the bridge, said in a press release at the time: “The new foot and cycle bridge, the third to cross the River Foyle, will physically and symbolically unite both sides of the river and is conceived as two distinct structural systems that work in harmony. At the middle of the river both systems overlap, boldly interacting to create a single unified crossing — a structural handshake across the Foyle and an embrace in the centre of the river.”

The London design agency GBH designed the stamps, using photographs from various sources.

Row Bridge was photographed by Tony Mangan, Craigellachie Bridge by David Gowns, and Humber Bridge by Al High. The other photographs are from the architectural photography agency Hufton + Crow.

The stamps measure 35 millimeters by 37mm each, and are perforated gauge 14.5 by 14.

They were printed by offset in sheets of 50 (sold in panes of 25 at most postal outlets) by International Security Printers.

Among the other Royal Mail products for the Bridges set are first-day covers, 10 postcards reproducing the designs of the stamps, and a presentation pack that includes the stamps and text written by architectural historian and television presenter Dan Cruickshank.

The stamps can be ordered from Royal Mail’s shop on the Internet. Ordering information also is available from Royal Mail, Tallents House, 21 S. Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB, Scotland.

Royal Mail’s two agencies in the United States are Interpost, Box 420, Hewlett, NY 11557; and the British Stamp Service in North America, 1 Unicover Center, Cheyenne, WY 82008.