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British Industrial History

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Samuel Wyatt

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Samuel Wyatt (1737-1807) was a member of a leading family of 18th and 19th century English architects. He was a member of the Lunar Society

In his twenties, Wyatt was master carpenter and later Robert Adam's clerk of works at Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire, which was a landmark in English neoclassical architecture. He later worked with his brother James Wyatt on The Pantheon in Oxford Street, London. He designed neoclassical country houses such as Dodington Hall in Gloucestershire and Tatton Park in Cheshire, and Trinity House in London.

Wyatt's career was diverse. He designed the Albion Mills, Blackfriars in London, which was the first in the world to be powered by steam engines, and patented designs for cast iron bridges. He designed model farm buildings and cottages, including many on the Holkham estate, and several lighthouses, including those at Dungeness and Flamborough Head.

Samuel Wyatt developed a friendship with Matthew Boulton, for whom he designed Soho House in the Handsworth area of Birmingham in 1789. Prior to this, Boulton recommended him to the proprietors of the Theatre Royal on New Street, Birmingham in 1777, and in 1780, a portico of coupled Ionic columns between arched wings was added to the front of the theatre to a design by Wyatt.

It is also believed that he was recommended by Boulton to James Watt, for whom Wyatt designed Heathfield House in Handsworth, Birmingham. This was completed in 1790. He was also responsible for work at Moseley Hall in the Moseley area of Birmingham.


The following information is largely taken from an account of Wyatt's life and work by A. W. Skempton [1].

In June 1800 Samuel Wyatt took out a patent for a new method of cast iron bridge construction, in which the arched ribs were assembled from cast iron voussoirs of unusual design. Voussoirs traditionally described the wedge-shaped stone blocks which formed the load-carrying arch. Here the voussoirs were iron castings forming segments of an arc. The top and bottom of the segment was of hollow oval section, joined by radial members. The arch ribs were connected transversely by iron plates. Arched plates between the ribs carried the infill up to roadway level. It is difficult to visualise the arrangement from the foregoing description, but the patent description and drawings are available online [2] [3] (Two links are given, both being required to see the two halves of a folded drawing!).

Wyatt proposed this form of construction for a bridge over the Thames in London. The eminent J. G. James wrote in the context of Wyatt's London Bridge proposal '..which, although no drawing survives, was presumably based on the system he patented (No. 2410, 10 June 1800) which had elegant but impractical cast voussoirs with hollow oval members. Possibly it was this which suggested to Wilson the idea of making the ends of his voussoir blocks hollow and inserting cast-iron dowels to provide continuity, instead of using wrought-iron straps.'[4]

J. G. James, writing in 1988, was unaware of the existence of a bridge made to Wyatt's patent, and it was not realised until 1996 that a bridge of this type exists at Culford School, Suffolk. Built in 1804. It spans 60 ft and is 20 ft wide. The 80 tons of iron castings were produced by William Hawks and Sons of Gateshead. Seen from the roadway, it would not be obvious that it is an iron bridge, due to the adoption of masonry balustrades.

Since Culford Bridge only came to the attention of bridge historians in recent years, it is possible that any influence on the development of iron bridges has not received adequate recognition.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 'A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland, Vol 1', Thomas Telford Publishing, 2002
  2. [1] The Repertory of Arts and Manufactures, Volume 14, 1801
  3. [2] The Repertory of Arts and Manufactures, Volume 14, 1801
  4. 'Some Steps in the Evolution of Early Iron Arched Bridge Designs' by J. G. James, Newcomen Society, presented at the Science Museum, 11 May 1988