John Bowen and the Lucknow Bridge, Taunton

5 December, 2016 | 18:00 - 20:00

John Bowen (insert) and the Lucknow bridge.
John Bowen (insert) and the Lucknow bridge.

About this event

On 9 June 1816 John Bowen, a 30 year old Bridgwater 'adventurer', arrived at 'the far-famed City of Lucknow' in the province of Oudh (now Uttar Pradesh, Northern India), in command of 900 boatmen manning 70 vessels of various classes. Three months earlier the fleet had set sail from Calcutta up the rivers Hooghly, Ganges and Goomti, carrying 750 tons of cast-iron bridge components which Bowen had contracted to deliver to Lucknow.

The bridge had been designed by John Rennie and shipped out from England for the fabulously wealthy King of Oudh and was among the largest and most advanced of its day. Having completed his contract, Bowen returned to Bridgwater where he spent the rest of his days campaigning for social reform.

The bicentenary of Bowen's epic journey is an appropriate time to examine how and why he came to undertake such an extraordinary feat and to explore the technical and historical context of the Lucknow bridge itself.


David Greenfield is a retired bridge engineer and represents ICE SW on the Panel for Historical Engineering Works (PHEW). His current area of historical research concerns Isambard Kingdom Brunel's iron bridges.