Female innovator’s grave restored and blessed

First published 31st March 2023

Sarah Guppy was an extraordinary woman. Born in 1770 into a wealthy family, she was the first woman in the world to take out a patent for building a bridge.

Recently, her restored grave was unveiled and blessed at a ceremony in the closed churchyard of St Andrew’s church, Clifton.

In 1811 Sarah patented her ideas for a chain bridge. This was before the announcement of a competition for a bridge to span the Avon Gorge, which was eventually won by her friend Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Thomas Telford asked her for permission to use her designs for a suspension bridge foundations, which she granted to him free of charge. Her ideas greatly contributed to Telford’s successful Menai bridge construction.

“Against the odds, Sarah had many genuine achievements, winning a place for herself in the male dominated world of business and innovation in the early 19th century,” says the Very Revd Mandy Ford, the Dean of Bristol.

Sarah died in Clifton in 1852. Dean Mandy led the recent short service of commemoration and re-dedication of Sarah’s grave at St Andrew’s.

The service was attended by the Dean of Bristol the Very Revd Mandy Ford, the King’s representative in the county, Lord Lieutenant, Peaches Golding and the Lord Mayor of Bristol, Councillor Paula O'Rourke.

“We gave thanks to God for the life and example of Sarah Guppy and for her intelligence, tenacity and courage,” says the Revd Paul Langham, vicar of Christ Church, Clifton, in whose parish St Andrew’s is located. “We also prayed for the other women in pioneer roles, especially for those working in engineering and technology.”

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