From Brycgstow To Bristol In 45 Bridges, by Jeff Lucas and Dr Thilo Gross, has been published this month by Bristol Books.
The importance of bridges to the city of Bristol is written into its very name; the first written reference to the city, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of 1051, calls it Brycgstow, which means ‘place by the bridge’.
Each one of Bristol’s bridges, from oldest to newest, has a fascinating story which is woven intimately into the 1,000-year history of the city. Why was it built? What was involved in its design, engineering and construction? What dramatic events sometimes swirled around and perhaps on it?
In this book Jeff Lucas tells the story of each of the 45 bridges which span the main waterways of Bristol, between Avonmouth and St Anne’s, and which can be crossed on foot.
Among the historic bridge-related episodes that Jeff recounts are the Bristol Bridge massacre of 1793, the Bathurst Basin naphtha explosion of 1888, and the mass gas workers strike of 1889.
Illustrated with 120 colour photographs, this book will open up new ways of looking at these often-beautiful structures that we usually take for granted.
The book also describes how the bridges can be linked into a 45km circular walk that takes you from the nooks and crannies of the inner city to the open vistas of the Severn Estuary and back again.
This walk is also the solution to an intriguing mathematical puzzle called The Königsberg Bridge Problem: how to walk around a given set of bridges, crossing each one only once.
The problem has been solved for Bristol’s 45 bridges by Thilo Gross, a young mathematician who worked at Bristol University. Thilo contributes a chapter about the bridge problem, its importance to mathematics and the modern world, and how he solved it for Bristol.
When Thilo first published his "Bridge Problem" solution in the Bristol Post in 2013, we believe that Bristol became the first city in the world to do so, followed a year later by New York.
If you do decide to take on the challenge of the walk, there is a map of the route and full walk instructions included in the book.
Author Jeff Lucas said: “In everyday life we rarely pay attention to bridges, but they are vital to human society and its history".
“They are of significance economically and socially; they are strategically important in warfare – battles are fought over them. They constitute powerful imagery in literature and poetry. They can be as simple as a plank but also superlative feats of design and engineering".
“They are often the primary subject of visual art and can be sculptural objects in their own right.”
“This walk will take you into strange and not-so-strange places where you will discover the delightful and the dreadful! I hope readers will enjoy exploring Bristol in this new and unusual way".
From Brycgstow To Bristol In 45 Bridges is priced at £18 and is available from books shops or online through www.bristolbooks.org (ISBN: 978-1-909446-18-2).