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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 March, 2004, 07:27 GMT
Hidden Brunel bridge is rescued
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Brunel's bridge was found encased inside a modern brick one
An historic Isambard Kingdom Brunel bridge is being saved after being discovered inside a modern brick road bridge about to be demolished.

The structure, the earliest of eight surviving Brunel iron bridges in the country, was found over the Grand Union Canal near London's Paddington station.

It is hoped the bridge will be moved and rebuilt in time for the 200th anniversary of Brunel's birth, in 2006.

Journalist and Brunel fan Jeremy Clarkson said: "It's sensational."

He added: "It is astonishing to think that in a city like London, such an extraordinary part of our industrial past could lie unknown and undiscovered."

Stroke of luck

English Heritage inspector Dr Steven Brindle tracked down the bridge after leafing through Brunel's little-known surviving notebooks to research a new history of the station.

He found designs and recorded tests on beams for a Paddington canal bridge, dating from 1838.

It was discovered by chance just before contracts were due to be let to demolish the exterior bridge as part of a road improvement scheme.

Westminster City Council member Colin Barrow said: "The next stage will be to secure funding for its full restoration and confirm its new location.

"We are considering... positioning it as a public footbridge over the canal where it would enhance Brunel's magnificent legacy in this area."

The bridge was perfectly preserved under brick parapets.

It was unrecognisable except from below, where the construction exactly matched Brunel's sketches and notes.

Westminster City Council halted demolition plans and gave instruction for the bridge to be carefully dismantled and moved out of the way of danger.

The BBC's Lucy Atherton
"Without one man's dogged research, the bridge would be covered in tarmac"

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