Sarah Guppy: The Bridge, The Bed, The Truth

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In the Year of Engineering and Centenary of Women’s Suffrage, Show of Strength are bringing us the opportunity to learn more about Bristol pioneer Sarah Guppy, the first woman to patent a bridge and formally design one.

Sarah Guppy was an engineer, inventor, campaigner, designer, reformer, writer, environmentalist and business woman. Born Sarah Maria Beach in Birmingham in 1770, she moved to Bristol in 1795 when she married merchant Samuel Guppy. She supported Isambard Kingdom Brunel and was the mother of (along with another five children) Thomas Guppy, who worked with Brunel on many projects, including the SS Great Britain.


In 1811, she designed and patented a chain bridge; this design was never built, but she went on to design other inventions such as an early teasmade which cooked eggs in its steam and an exercise bed.

She also mentored Brunel with his winning entry to design a bridge to span the Avon Gorge – the now iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge. Could Sarah have been the real engineer behind the design?









Sarah Guppy: The Bridge, The Bed, The Truth is on at the Hen & Chicken in Bedminster on 6th and 7th November at 8.30 pm, at the Create Centre in Hotwells on 8th and 9th November at 4 pm and 6.30 pm and The Savoy Theatre in Monmouth on 10th November at 2 pm. The performance lasts an hour and the first night will be attended by the Lord Mayor. Cllr Cleo Lake.

For more information and to buy tickets, visit

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