Steel Section Sizes - Historic
When undertaking structural assessments or appraisals of historic structures it can often be difficult to establish exact section sizes, given the variable nature of site based measurements. Having a good idea of the sections sizes that were available at the time of construction will help an engineer to an informed decision about the nominal section size and therefore establish the key section dimensions.
However, information relating to historic wrought iron and steel sections is somewhat limited. This page attempts to bring a number of different sources of historic section information together in one place. It is hoped that this will be of use for both assessment engineers and industrial historians.
Historical Steelwork Handbook
The Historical Steelwork Handbook was originally published in 1984 by the British Constructional Steelwork Association (BCSA) to pre-empt the large number of requests to identify historic steel sections for purposes of structural assessment. The original handbook was written by William Bates (CEng FIStructE), who was formally the Chief Structural Engineer of Dorman Long (see the information below).
The Historical Steelwork Handbook was revised by my friend and industry colleague Dr David Gent (CEng FICE) in 2019 and republished as "Historical Structural Iron and Steel Sections". The revised publication has updated and added to the original, clarifying a number of areas and notably including information on identification of materials in-situ.Link to the Historical Steelwork Handbook (1984) (this link will open in a new tab)
Link to the Historical Structural Iron and Steel Sections (2019) (this link will open in a new tab)
Dorman Long Company Handbooks
Dorman Long Iron and Steelworks was first founded in 1875 in Teesside and operated as a Iron and Steelworks in both Middlesbrough and Redcar. In addition to the Steelwork, Dorman Long also constructed a number of bridges, most notably the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Tyne Bridge.
For readers in the UK, it is possible to watch a 1961 film of the Dorman Long steel works in operation in the British Film Institute Archive here. For anyone interested in the process of steel making and how structural sections are rolled its worth a watch.
Dorman Long Technology Ltd have fortunately preserved a number of documents published by Dorman Long over the years and kindly made them available to the public. The documents include Steel Handbooks covering a time period from 1895 to 1964, this provides a great resource for both assessment engineers and industrial historians.Link to the Dorman Long Handbook 1895 (this link will open in a new tab)
Link to the Dorman Long Handbook 1906 (this link will open in a new tab)
Link to the Dorman Long Handbook 1924 (this link will open in a new tab)
Link to the Dorman Long Handbook 1928 (this link will open in a new tab)
Link to the Dorman Long Bridges Book 1930 (this link will open in a new tab)
Link to the Dorman Long Handbook 1960 (this link will open in a new tab)
Link to the Dorman Long Handbook 1964 (this link will open in a new tab)
Butterley Company Handbooks
The Butterley Company of Derbyshire was founded in 1790 by the pioneering Civil Engineer Benjamin Outram. During the construction of the Cromford Canal's Butterley Tunnel, deposits of coal and iron were discovered. Outram being a pragmatic engineer founded an Ironworks nearby to exploit the newly discovered resources (a similar ploy used nearby at Clay Cross decades later by George Stephenson while building what is now the Midland Mainline).
The Butterley Company initially produced pig iron and cast iron sections (notably for Vauxhall Bridge), but later moved in to both Wrought Iron and Steel. The Butterley Company constructed a number of famous structures throughout the UK, from St Pancras Railway Station canopy in 1870, to the Falkirk Wheel and Spinnaker Tower more recently. Sadly, the Butterley Company was placed into administration in 2009 after over 200 years of operation.
Access to Butterley Company information is harder to come by than Dorman Long information. However, Derbyshire Record Office holds three Butterley Company Handbooks. After purchasing a "License to Reproduce" in January 2020 I am able to share the below information.Butterley Company Handbook 1895 (this link will open in a new tab)
Butterley Company Handbook 1904 (this link will open in a new tab)
Butterley Company Handbook 1912 (this link will open in a new tab)