In the Bridges issue, to be released on March 5, Royal Mail celebrates the evolution of Britain’s river crossings from small-scale functional structures to dramatic architectural landmarks.

The 10 featured bridges were constructed over a period of five centuries from a range of different materials, from stone and timber to iron and steel, and in contrasting engineering styles, from clapper and stone arch to suspension and cantilever.

Based on photographs taken from similar angles, the stamps were designed by GBH, and printed in lithography by International Security Printers.

1st class TARR STEPS

This outstanding example of clapper-bridge construction, which crosses the River Barle in Exmoor National Park, probably dates from the 15th or 16th century. Formed by large slabs of gritstone placed flat on low piers, and 55m long, it is held together by weight alone, with no fixings or mortar.

1st class ROW BRIDGE

Believed to have been built in the mid-18th century, this crossing of Mosedale Beck at Wasdale Head in the Lake District is a fine example of an arched stone bridge. Constructed of limestone, it is wide and strong enough to take packhorses, with its segmental arch design giving it inherent strength.

1st class PULTENEY BRIDGE

Designed by Robert Adam, this crossing of the River Avon in Bath is Britain’s finest example of an inhabited bridge. Made of mellow Bath stone and completed by 1774, with its three semi-circular arches and pedimented centre pavilion, it still houses shops and originally had accommodation above them. Adam’s inspiration was a proposed but unbuilt design by the 16th-century architect Andrea Palladio for a bridge in Venice.

1st class CRAIGELLACHIE BRIDGE

Its designer Thomas Telford had this 1814 road crossing over the River Spey in Moray made of cast iron, because masonry could not achieve the single long, shallow arch required. Since cast iron is strong in compression but has low tensile strength, his design ensured that most components were in compression. The span is restrained by stone towers which resemble miniature castles.

1st class MENAI SUSPENSION BRIDGE

Completed in 1826 to Telford’s design, this 305m crossing of the Menai Strait, linking the island of Anglesey to the Welsh mainland, was the world’s first great suspension bridge. The central span, 176m long and 30m above the water level, to allow tall-masted ships to pass beneath, was carried by 16 wrought-iron chains (since replaced by steel chains), and the roadway on either side is supported by elegant arched limestone viaducts.

1st class HIGH LEVEL BRIDGE

Linking Newcastle with Gateshead, this 408m bow-string bridge over the River Tyne was one of the most innovative and visually powerful of the railway age. Designed by Robert Stephenson to carry road and rail traffic in two tiers at a high level, allowing masted ships to pass beneath, it comprises piers of local sandstone supporting spans of bow-string girders, with cast iron used for elements in compression and wrought iron for those requiring tensile strength.

1st class ROYAL BORDER BRIDGE

Completed in 1850 to a design by Stephenson, this crossing of the River Tweed between Berwick and Tweedmouth was a key component of the rail link from London to Edinburgh. Of stone and brick construction, it is essentially a viaduct formed of 28 arches, with a total length of 658m. The majestic height of its arches and the slender form of its piers gives it an elegance which complements the rugged landscape.

1st class TEES TRANSPORTER BRIDGE

Completed in 1911, this huge and utilitarian lattice-steel bridge over the River Tees in Middlesbrough is a striking piece of engineering with a unique design to avoid interfering with river traffic. An electric-powered gondola which can carry up to 200 people and nine cars is suspended at low level from its pair of cantilevered trusses, taking 90 seconds to complete the 259m crossing.

1st class HUMBER BRIDGE

This crossing of the Humber Estuary, completed in 1981, redefined the boundaries of suspension bridge technology. With a total length of 2,220m and a central span of 1,410m, for 16 years it was the longest single-span suspension bridge in the world. Despite its mighty scale it has a minimalist form, with its steel roadway suspended between two towers of reinforced concrete.

1st class PEACE BRIDGE

Spanning the River Foyle in Derry (Londonderry), this elegant self-anchored suspension bridge for pedestrians and cyclists, completed in 2011, is not only an urban route but also a work of art. A pair of tall steel masts support a system of cables which overlap in mid-river to form a symbolic ‘handshake’, with the 235m pathway providing an unusual meandering promenade.

OTHER PRODUCTS

The presentation pack, written by architectural historian and television presenter Dan Cruickshank, considers the importance of bridges in the civilised world, charts their evolution with technical drawings and includes biographies of Telford and Stephenson.

Stamp cards and a first day cover are also available.

 

PRICES

Set of 10 stamps        £6.20

Presentation pack      £6.70

Stamp cards      £4.50

First day cover           £7.92

 

VERDICT

COMMEMORATIVE WORTH   1/5

This is essentially a thematic issue, albeit with some wonderful engineering to showcase

QUALITY OF DESIGN   3/5

It’s all about well executed photography, with an appealing variety of skyscapes as a backdrop

WOW FACTOR   4/5

Most of the images are striking and colourful, and would look great on cover