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Conference of Engineers at the Menai Straits Preparatory to Floating one of the Tubes of the Britannia Bridge

1 portrait of Alexander Ross

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Conference of Engineers at the Menai Straits Preparatory to Floating one of the Tubes of the Britannia Bridge

by James Scott, published by Henry Graves & Co, after John Lucas
mezzotint, published 25 January 1858
Purchased, 2017
Reference Collection
NPG D10713

Artistsback to top

  • Henry Graves & Co (active 1844-1899), Publishers. Artist or producer associated with 232 portraits.
  • John Lucas (1807-1874), Portrait painter. Artist or producer associated with 32 portraits, Sitter in 1 portrait.
  • James Scott (circa 1809-circa 1889), Engraver. Artist or producer associated with 134 portraits, Sitter in 1 portrait.

Sittersback to top

  • George Parker Bidder (1806-1878), Engineer. Sitter in 5 portraits.
  • Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859), Civil engineer. Sitter in 13 portraits.
  • Edwin Clark (1814-1894), Engineer. Sitter in 1 portrait.
  • Latimer Clark (1822-1898), Engineer. Sitter in 1 portrait.
  • Captain Claxton (active mid 19th century), Nautical engineering specialist. Sitter in 1 portrait.
  • Frank Forster (1800-1852), Civil engineer. Sitter in 1 portrait.
  • John Hemingway (1795-1872), Stonemason; railway bridge and viaduct contractor. Sitter in 1 portrait.
  • Joseph Locke (1805-1860), Civil engineer. Sitter in 2 portraits.
  • Constantine Richard Moorsom (1792-1861), Vice-Admiral; Chairman of the London and North-Western Railway. Sitter in 5 portraits.
  • Alexander Ross (active mid 19th century), Civil engineer; resident engineer, Conway district. Sitter in 1 portrait.
  • Robert Stephenson (1803-1859), Civil engineer; son of George Stephenson. Sitter in 12 portraits.
  • Charles Heard Wild (1819-1857), Civil engineer. Sitter in 1 portrait.

This portraitback to top

An engraving after John Lucas' group portrait commissioned by the Institute of Civil Engineers, circa 1851-1853, to commemorate the building of the Britannia Bridge across the Menai Straits. The bridge, which formed a link from Chester to Holyhead and thus the Irish crossing, was one of the greatest achievements of Robert Stephenson, shown seated in the centre of the composition. In order to cover the span of the Straits, Stephenson devised a construction of massive wrought iron tubes, supported on mansonry piers.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG P4: Robert Stephenson (source portrait)

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Cooper, John, Great Britons: The Great Debate, 2002, p. 103 Read entry

    Engineering was a high-risk profession in the mid-nineteenth century, but both its status and public interest increased with the creation of vast new buildings and structures. This mezzotint captures a series of better-known figures (including Latimer Clark (1822-98), Edwin Clark (1814-94), Frank Forster (1800-52), George Parker Bidder (1806-78), Robert Stephenson, Joseph Locke (1805-60) and Isambard Kingdom Brunel) preparing to float one of the tubes of the Britannia Bridge. Such prints were popular in demonstrating the work of engineers to a broad audience. This one celebrates the co-operative spirit that persisted, despite commercial rivalry.

Placesback to top

Events of 1858back to top

Current affairs

After Palmerston's government collapses, the Earl of Derby becomes Prime Minister for second time, again heading a minority government.
The Property qualification for MPs is abolished; one of the demands made by the Chartists, this allowed men who did not own property to stand as parliamentary candidates. Lionel Nathan Rothschild becomes the first Jew to sit in Britain's House of Commons, taking his oath on the Old Testament.

Art and science

The pianist Charles Hallé founds a symphony orchestra in Manchester, the Halle; now Britain's oldest professional orchestra. The Hallé symphony rose to prominence in the mid-20th century, under the tenure of conductor John Barbirolli, during which time they made many recordings, including Ralph Vaughan Williams's Symphony No. 8.


The British Crown assumes control of India from the East India Company.
The Treaty of Tientsin, ending the Second Opium War, gives European powers new rights to intervene in Chinese affairs
The Fenian Brotherhood is founded by John O'Mahony, an Irish emigrant to the United States, to support Irish republican ambitions.

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