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Thomas Telford
Telford
FRS, FRSE (9 August 1757 – 2 September 1834) was a Scottish civil engineer, architect and stonemason, and a noted road, bridge and canal builder. After establishing himself as an engineer of road and canal projects in Shropshire, he designed numerous infrastructure projects in his native Scotland, as well as harbours and tunnels. Such was his reputation as a prolific designer of highways and related bridges, he was dubbed The Colossus of Roads (a pun on the Colossus of Rhodes), and, reflecting his command of all types of civil engineering in the early 19th century, he was elected as the first President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, a post he retained for 14 years until his death.

Contents

1 Early career 2 Ellesmere Canal 3 The 'Colossus of Roads' 4 The ' Telford
Telford
Church' 5 Late career 6 Telford's death 7 Honours 8 Telford
Telford
the poet 9 Bridges designed by Telford 10 Places named after Telford

10.1 Telford
Telford
New Town 10.2 Thomas Telford
Telford
Road 10.3 Telford
Telford
Hall 10.4 Telford, Pennsylvania 10.5 Edinburgh's Telford
Telford
College 10.6 Telford
Telford
Bridge (footbridge)

11 Autobiography 12 Bibliography 13 See also 14 References 15 External links

Early career[edit] Telford
Telford
was born on 9 August 1757 at Glendinning, a hill farm 3 miles east of Eskdalemuir Kirk, in the rural parish of Westerkirk, in Eskdale, Dumfriesshire. His father John Telford, a shepherd, died soon after Thomas was born. Thomas was raised in poverty by his mother Janet Jackson (died 1794).[1] At the age of 14 he was apprenticed to a stonemason, and some of his earliest work can still be seen on the bridge across the River Esk in Langholm
Langholm
in the Scottish borders. He worked for a time in Edinburgh and in 1782 he moved to London where, after meeting architects Robert Adam and Sir William Chambers, he was involved in building additions to Somerset House
Somerset House
there. Two years later he found work at Portsmouth dockyard and — although still largely self-taught — was extending his talents to the specification, design and management of building projects. In 1787, through his wealthy patron William Pulteney, he became Surveyor of Public Works in Shropshire. Civil engineering
Civil engineering
was a discipline still in its infancy, so Telford
Telford
was set on establishing himself as an architect. His projects included renovation of Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury
Castle, the town's prison (during the planning of which he met leading prison reformer John Howard), the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Bridgnorth
Bridgnorth
and another church, St Michael, in Madeley. Called in to advise on a leaking roof at St Chad's Church Shrewsbury in 1788, he warned the church was in imminent danger of collapse; his reputation was made locally when it collapsed 3 days later, but he was not the architect for its replacement. As the Shropshire
Shropshire
county surveyor, Telford
Telford
was also responsible for bridges. In 1790 he designed a bridge carrying the London–Holyhead road over the River Severn
River Severn
at Montford, the first of some 40 bridges he built in Shropshire, including major crossings of the Severn at Buildwas, and Bridgnorth. The bridge at Buildwas
Buildwas
was Telford's first iron bridge. He was influenced by Abraham Darby's bridge at Ironbridge, and observed that it was grossly over-designed for its function, and many of the component parts were poorly cast. By contrast, his bridge was 30 ft (10 m) wider in span and half the weight, although it now no longer exists. He was one of the first engineers to test his materials thoroughly before construction. As his engineering prowess grew, Telford
Telford
was to return to this material repeatedly. In 1795 the bridge at Bewdley
Bewdley
in Worcestershire
Worcestershire
was swept away in the winter floods and Telford
Telford
was responsible for the design of its replacement. The same winter floods saw the bridge at Tenbury
Tenbury
also swept away. This bridge across the River Teme
River Teme
was the joint responsibility of both Worcestershire
Worcestershire
and Shropshire
Shropshire
and the bridge has a bend where the two counties meet. Telford
Telford
was responsible for the repair to the northern (Shropshire) end of the bridge. Ellesmere Canal[edit] Telford's reputation in Shropshire
Shropshire
led to his appointment in 1793 to manage the detailed design and construction of the Ellesmere Canal, linking the ironworks and collieries of Wrexham
Wrexham
via the north-west Shropshire
Shropshire
town of Ellesmere, with Chester, utilising the existing Chester
Chester
Canal, and then the River Mersey.

A canal boat traverses the Pontcysyllte aqueduct

Among other structures, this involved the spectacular Pontcysyllte Aqueduct over the River Dee in the Vale of Llangollen, where Telford used a new method of construction consisting of troughs made from cast iron plates and fixed in masonry. Extending for over 1,000 feet (300 m) with an altitude of 126 feet (38 m) above the valley floor, the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
consists of nineteen arches, each with a forty-five foot span. Being a pioneer in the use of cast-iron for large scaled structures, Telford
Telford
had to invent new techniques, such as using boiling sugar and lead as a sealant on the iron connections. Eminent canal engineer William Jessop
William Jessop
oversaw the project, but he left the detailed execution of the project in Telford's hands. The aqueduct was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.[2]

Longdon-on-Tern
Longdon-on-Tern
Aqueduct

The same period also saw Telford
Telford
involved in the design and construction of the Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury
Canal. When the original engineer, Josiah Clowes, died in 1795, Telford
Telford
succeeded him. One of Telford's achievements on this project was the design of Longdon-on-Tern Aqueduct, the cast-iron aqueduct at Longdon-on-Tern, pre-dating that at Pontcysyllte, and substantially bigger than the UK's first cast-iron aqueduct, built by Benjamin Outram
Benjamin Outram
on the Derby Canal
Canal
just months earlier. The aqueduct is no longer in use, but is preserved as a distinctive piece of canal engineering. The Ellesmere Canal
Ellesmere Canal
was completed in 1805 and alongside his canal responsibilities, Telford's reputation as a civil engineer meant he was constantly consulted on numerous other projects. These included water supply works for Liverpool, improvements to London's docklands and the rebuilding of London Bridge
London Bridge
(c.1800). Most notably (and again William Pulteney was influential), in 1801 Telford
Telford
devised a master plan to improve communications in the Highlands of Scotland, a massive project that was to last some 20 years. It included the building of the Caledonian Canal
Caledonian Canal
along the Great Glen and redesign of sections of the Crinan Canal, some 920 miles (1,480 km) of new roads, over a thousand new bridges (including the Craigellachie Bridge), numerous harbour improvements (including works at Aberdeen, Dundee, Peterhead, Wick, Portmahomack and Banff), and 32 new churches. Telford
Telford
also undertook highway works in the Scottish Lowlands, including 184 miles (296 km) of new roads and numerous bridges, ranging from a 112 ft (34 m) span stone bridge across the Dee at Tongueland
Tongueland
in Kirkcudbright
Kirkcudbright
(1805–06) to the 129 ft (39 m) tall Cartland Crags bridge near Lanark
Lanark
(1822). Telford
Telford
was consulted in 1806 by the King of Sweden about the construction of a canal between Gothenburg
Gothenburg
and Stockholm. His plans were adopted and construction of the Göta Canal
Göta Canal
began in 1810. Telford
Telford
travelled to Sweden at that time to oversee some of the more important initial excavations. Many of Telford's projects were undertaken due to his role as a member of the Exchequer Bill Loan Commission, an organ set up under the Poor Employment Act of 1817, to help finance public work projects that would generate employment.[3] The 'Colossus of Roads'[edit]

Menai Suspension Bridge

During his later years, Telford
Telford
was responsible for rebuilding sections of the London to Holyhead
Holyhead
road, a task completed by his assistant of ten years, John MacNeill; today, much of the route is the A5 trunk road, although the Holyhead
Holyhead
Road diverted off the A5 along what is now parts of A45, A41 and A464 through the cities of Coventry, Birmingham
Birmingham
and Wolverhampton. Between London and Shrewsbury, most of the work amounted to improvements. Beyond Shrewsbury, and especially beyond Llangollen, the work often involved building a highway from scratch. Notable features of this section of the route include the Waterloo Bridge across the River Conwy
River Conwy
at Betws-y-Coed, the ascent from there to Capel Curig
Capel Curig
and then the descent from the pass of Nant Ffrancon towards Bangor. Between Capel Curig
Capel Curig
and Bethesda, in the Ogwen Valley, Telford
Telford
deviated from the original road, built by Romans during their occupation of this area. On the island of Anglesey
Anglesey
a new embankment across the Stanley Sands to Holyhead
Holyhead
was constructed, but the crossing of the Menai Strait
Menai Strait
was the most formidable challenge, overcome by the Menai Suspension Bridge (1819–26). Spanning 580 feet (180 m), this was the longest suspension bridge of the time. Unlike modern suspension bridges, Telford
Telford
used individually linked 9.5-foot (2.9 m) iron eye bars for the cables.

Galton Bridge

Telford
Telford
also worked on the North Wales coast road between Chester
Chester
and Bangor, including another major suspension bridge at Conwy, opened later the same year as its Menai counterpart. Further afield Telford
Telford
designed a road to cross the centre of the Isle of Arran. Named the 'String road', this route traverses bleak and difficult terrain to allow traffic to cross between east and west Arran avoiding the circuitous coastal route. His work on improving the Glasgow
Glasgow
– Carlisle road, later to become the A74, has been described as "a model for future engineers."[4] Telford
Telford
improved on methods for the building of macadam roads by improving the selection of stone based on thickness, taking into account traffic, alignment and slopes.[5] The punning nickname Colossus of Roads was given to Telford
Telford
by his friend, the eventual Poet Laureate, Robert Southey. Telford's reputation as a man of letters may have preceded his fame as an engineer: he had published poetry between 1779 and 1784, and an account of a tour of Scotland with Southey. His will left bequests to Southey (who would later write Telford's biography), the poet Thomas Campbell (1777–1844) and to the publishers of the Edinburgh Encyclopædia (to which he had been a contributor).[6] In 1821, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The ' Telford
Telford
Church'[edit]

A ' Telford
Telford
church' on Ulva
Ulva
(1827/8) in the Inner Hebrides

An Act of Parliament in 1823 provided a grant of £50,000 for the building of up to 40 churches and manses in communities without any church buildings (hence the alternative name: 'Parliamentary Church' or 'Parliamentary Kirk').[7] The total cost was not to exceed £1500 on any site and Telford
Telford
was commissioned to undertake the design. He developed a simple church of T-shaped plan and two manse designs – a single-storey and a two-storey, adaptable to site and ground conditions, and to brick or stone construction, at £750 each. Of the 43 churches originally planned, 32 were eventually built around the Scottish highlands and islands (the other 11 were achieved by redoing existing buildings). The last of these churches was built in 1830.[8][9] Some have been restored and/or converted to private use.[10] Late career[edit] Other works by Telford
Telford
include the St Katharine Docks
St Katharine Docks
(1824–28) close to Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge
in central London, where he worked with the architect Philip Hardwick, the Gloucester and Berkeley Ship Canal (today known as the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal), Over Bridge
Over Bridge
near Gloucester, the second Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent and Mersey Canal (1827), and the Birmingham
Birmingham
and Liverpool
Liverpool
Junction Canal
Canal
(today part of the Shropshire
Shropshire
Union Canal) – started in May 1826 but finished, after Telford's death, in January 1835. At the time of its construction in 1829, Galton Bridge
Galton Bridge
was the longest single span in the world. He also built Whitstable
Whitstable
harbour in Kent in 1832, in connection with the Canterbury and Whitstable
Whitstable
Railway with an unusual system for flushing out mud using a tidal reservoir. He also completed the Grand Trunk after James Brindley
James Brindley
died due to being over-worked. In 1820, Telford
Telford
was appointed the first President of the recently formed Institution of Civil Engineers, a post he held until his death.[11] Telford's death[edit] Telford's young draughtsman and clerk 1830–34 George Turnbull in his diary states:

On the 23rd [August 1834] Mr Telford
Telford
was taken seriously ill of a bilious derangement to which he had been liable … he grew worse and worse … [surgeons] attended him twice a day, but it was to no avail for he died on the 2nd September, very peacefully at about 5pm. … His old servant James Handscombe and I were the only two in the house [24 Abingdon Street, London] when he died. He was never married. Mr Milne and Mr Rickman were, no doubt, Telford's most intimate friends. … I went to Mr Milne and under his direction … made all the arrangements about the house and correspondence. … Telford
Telford
had no blood relations that we knew of. The funeral took place on the 10th September [in Westminster
Westminster
Abbey]. … Mr Telford
Telford
was of the most genial disposition and a delightful companion, his laugh was the heartiest I ever heard; it was a pleasure to be in his society.[12][13]

Thomas Telford
Telford
was buried in the nave of Westminster
Westminster
Abbey; a statue was erected to him nearby, in St Andrew's Chapel adjoining the north transept. Honours[edit] In 2011 he was one of seven inaugural inductees to the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame.[14] Telford
Telford
the poet[edit] George Turnbull states that Telford
Telford
wrote and gave him a poem:[15][16]

On reading an account of the death of ROBERT BURNS, the SCOT POET

CLAD in the sable weeds of woe,

The Scottish genius mourns,

As o'er your tomb her sorrows flow,

The "narrow house" of Burns.

Each laurel round his humble urn,

She strews with pious care,

And by soft airs to distance borne,

These accents strike the ear.

Farewell my lov'd, my favourite child,

A mother's pride farewell!

The muses on thy cradle smiled,

Ah! now they ring thy knell.

---- ten verses and then ----

And round the tomb the plough shall pass,

And yellow autumn smile ;

And village maids shall seek the place,

To crown thy hallowed pile.

While yearly comes the opening spring,

While autumn wan returns ;

Each rural voice shall grateful sing,

And SCOTLAND boasts of BURNS.

22nd August, 1796. T.T.

(Turnbull includes notes that explain nine references to Burns's life in the poem.) Turnbull also states:[12][17]

His ability and perseverance may be understood from various literary compositions of after life, such as the articles he contributed to the Edinburgh
Edinburgh
Encyclopædia, such as Architecture, Bridge-building, and Canal-making. Singular to say the earliest distinction he acquired in life was as a poet. Even at 30 years of age he reprinted at Shrewsbury a poem called "Eskdale", … Some others of his poems are in my possession.

Bridges designed by Telford[edit]

Telford's Lothian Bridge
Lothian Bridge
(1831) on the present-day A68

An early proposal for Telford's Menai Suspension Bridge

Telford
Telford
designed a number of bridges and aqueducts during his career. They include:[18]

Year Name / Location

London Bridge
London Bridge
proposal

Potarch
Potarch
Bridge

1792 Clachan Bridge

1792 Montford Bridge

1796 Buildwas
Buildwas
bridge

1796 Longdon-on-Tern
Longdon-on-Tern
Aqueduct

1797 Coundarbour Bridge

1798 Bewdley
Bewdley
Bridge

1801 Chirk Aqueduct

1805 Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

1806 Glen Loy Aqueduct, Caledonian Canal

1808 Tongland
Tongland
Bridge

1809 Dunkeld Bridge

1810 Bridgnorth
Bridgnorth
bridge

1812 Bonar Bridge

1813 Telford
Telford
Bridge, Invermoriston

1815 Craigellachie Bridge

1815 Dunans Bridge

1815 Waterloo Bridge, Betws-y-Coed

1816 Broomielaw Bridge, Glasgow

1819 Bannockburn
Bannockburn
Bridge

1820 Cantlop Bridge

1823 Stanley Embankment

1824 Eaton Hall Bridge

1826 Conwy
Conwy
Suspension Bridge

1826 Menai Suspension Bridge

1826 Mythe Bridge

1827 Holt Fleet Bridge

1827 Over Bridge

1827 Bridge of Keig[19]

1829 Galton Bridge

1831 Dean Bridge, Edinburgh

1831 Lothian Bridge, Pathhead

Places named after Telford[edit] Telford
Telford
New Town[edit]

Statue of Thomas Telford
Telford
outside the law courts in Telford, Shropshire.

When a new town was being built in the Wrekin area of Shropshire
Shropshire
in 1968, it was named Telford
Telford
in his honour. In 1990, when it came to naming one of Britain's first City Technology Colleges, to be situated in Telford, Thomas Telford
Telford
was the obvious choice. Thomas Telford School is consistently among the top performing comprehensive schools in the country.[20] Thomas Telford
Telford
Road[edit] In Langholm, where Telford
Telford
was an apprentice in his early years. Telford
Telford
Hall[edit] Telford
Telford
Hall is a hall of residence at Loughborough University named after Thomas Telford. A plaque in his Honour hangs in the halls common room. Telford, Pennsylvania[edit] The Borough of County Line in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania
Montgomery County, Pennsylvania
changed its name to Telford
Telford
in 1857, after the North Pennsylvania Railroad Company named its new station there "Telford" in honour of Thomas Telford. Edinburgh's Telford
Telford
College[edit] Edinburgh's Telford
Telford
College (incorporated into Edinburgh
Edinburgh
College since October 2012), was named in honour of the famous engineer.[21] Telford
Telford
Bridge (footbridge)[edit] in 2008, a footbridge was erected over the Shubenacadie Canal
Canal
in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and named for Telford
Telford
who made important contributions to the nineteenth century Canadian canal.[22][23] Autobiography[edit] Telford's autobiography, titled The Life of Thomas Telford, Civil Engineer, written by himself, was published in 1838.[24] Bibliography[edit]

The Life of Thomas Telford; civil engineer with an introductory history of roads and travelling in Great Britain Samuel Smiles (1867) Thomas Telford
Telford
L. T. C. Rolt, Longmans (1958) Thomas Telford, Penguin (1979), ISBN 0-14-022064-X Thomas Telford, Engineer, Thomas Telford
Telford
Ltd (1980), ISBN 0-7277-0084-7 Man of Iron: Thomas Telford
Telford
and the Building of Britain, Bloomesbury Publishing (2017), ISBN 9781408837467

See also[edit]

UK Waterways portal

Works of Thomas Telford Telford
Telford
Medal

References[edit]

^ Waterston, Charles D; Macmillan Shearer, A (July 2006). Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh
Royal Society of Edinburgh
1783–2002: Biographical Index (PDF). II. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ISBN 978-0-902198-84-5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 October 2006. Retrieved 25 September 2010.  ^ " Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
and Canal". UNESCO – World Heritage List. UNESCO. Retrieved 17 January 2017.  ^ "Engineering Timelines – Thomas Telford". engineering-timelines.com. Retrieved 26 September 2014.  ^ Mort, Frederick (2012). Lanarkshire : Cambridge County Geographies. Cambridge University
Cambridge University
Press. p. 133. ISBN 9781107616707.  ^ Bellis, Mary (2007). "Thomas Telford". About: inventors. About, Inc, New York Times. Retrieved 19 January 2007.  ^ "Colossus of Roads?". Feature on Telford's testament. National Archives of Scotland. 2007. Retrieved 21 August 2007.  ^ The Edinburgh
Edinburgh
Review. 70: 25. October 1839.  Missing or empty title= (help); access-date= requires url= (help) ^ Telford
Telford
Church Design[permanent dead link] ^ Anne Burgess (March 2014). "Thomas Telford's Parliamentary Kirks". Geograph Britain and Ireland. license: cc. Retrieved 5 March 2017.  ^ "RIAS Awards 2013". The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland. Retrieved 5 March 2017.  ^ Watson, Garth (1988). The Civils. London: Thomas Telford
Telford
Ltd. p. 251. ISBN 0-7277-0392-7.  ^ a b Diaries of George Turnbull (Chief Engineer, East Indian Railway Company) held at the Centre of South Asian Studies at Cambridge University, England ^ Pages 15 to 18 of George Turnbull, C.E. the 437-page memoirs published privately 1893: scanned copy held in the British Library, London on compact disk since 2007 ^ "Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame". engineeringhalloffame.org. 2012. Retrieved 27 August 2012.  ^ Diaries of George Turnbull (Chief Engineer, East Indian Railway Company) held at the Centre of South Asian Studies at Cambridge University, England ^ Pages 19 to 21 of George Turnbull, C.E. the 437-page memoirs published privately 1893: scanned copy held in the British Library, London on compact disk since 2007 ^ Page 18 of George Turnbull, C.E. the 437-page memoirs published privately 1893: scanned copy held in the British Library, London on compact disk since 2007 ^ Structurae: International Database and Gallery of Structures, retrieved 2009-05-27. ^ "Press and Journal – Article – Bridge of Keig
Keig
closes amid fears". web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2012-03-20. Retrieved 26 September 2014.  ^ Robertson, David. "GCSE: Top comprehensive schools". Times Online. Retrieved 25 January 2010.  ^ Telford
Telford
College, Edinburgh ^ Tattrie, Jon (17 September 2008). "Shubenacadie Canal
Canal
bridge underway". Metro News. Free Daily News Group Inc. Retrieved 28 October 2014.  ^ Waterfront development Corporation TELFORD BRIDGE (DARTMOUTH) Archived 28 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine., Press Release n.d., [about 2008] ^ Telford, Thomas (1838). John, Rickman, ed. Life of Thomas Telford, civil engineer, written by himself, containing a descriptive narrative of his professional labours, with a folio atlas of copper plates. London: J. and L.G. Hansard and Sons, sold by Payne and Foss. 

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Thomas Telford.

Menai Heritage A community project and museum telling the story of Thomas Telford's Menai Suspension bridge Revolutionary Players website The Life of Thomas Telford Avon Aqueduct near Linlithgow, Scotland on YouTube Thomas Telford
Telford
(1757–1834) information at Structurae  "Telford, Thomas". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911. 

Professional and academic associations

New creation President of the Institution of Civil Engineers March 1820 – September 1834 Succeeded by James Walker

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 35254198 LCCN: n50008225 ISNI: 0000 0000 8114 5973 GND: 118867725 SELIBR: 280030 ULAN: 500026120 NLA: 35542920 NDL: 00458447 CiNii: DA03869123 RKD: 313

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