- Thomas Telford
name = Thomas Telford
nationality = Scottish
birth_date =birth date|df=yes|1757|8|9
birth_place = Westerkirk,
Scotland, United Kingdom
death_date =Death date and age|df=yes|1834|9|2|1757|8|9
education = Self-taught.
Institution of Civil Engineers
Ellesmere Canal Pontcysyllte Aqueduct Shrewsbury Canal
Thomas Telford (9 August 1757 - 2 September 1834) was born in Westerkirk,
Scotland. He was a stonemason, architectand civil engineerand a noted road, bridgeand canalbuilder.
Telford's father, a shepherd, died soon after Thomas was born. Thomas was raised in poverty by his mother. 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
Langholmin the Scottish borders. He worked for a time in Edinburghand in 1782 he moved to Londonwhere (after meeting architects Robert Adamand Sir William Chambers) he was involved in building additions to Somerset Housethere. 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 was a discipline still in its infancy, so Telford was set on establishing himself as an architect. His projects included renovation of ShrewsburyCastle, the town's prison(during the planning of which he met leading prison reformer John Howard), the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Bridgnorthand another church in Madeley.
As the Shropshire county surveyor, Telford was also responsible for bridges. In 1790 he designed a bridge carrying the London-
Holyheadroad over the River Severnat Montford, the first of some 40 bridges he built in Shropshire, including major crossings of the Severn at Buildwas, and Bridgnorth. The bridge was Telford's first ironbridge. He was influenced by the famous 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 was to return to this material repeatedly.
In 1795 the bridge at
Bewdley, in Worcestershirewas swept away in the winter floods and Telford was responsible for the design of its replacement. The same winter floods saw the bridge at Tenburyalso swept away. This bridge across the River Temewas the joint responsibility of both Worcestershire and Shropshire and the bridge has a bend where the two counties meet. Telford was responsible for the repair to the northern Shropshire end of the bridge.
Telford's reputation in Shropshire led to his appointment in 1793 to manage the detailed design and construction of the
Ellesmere Canal, linking the ironworks and collieries of Wrexhamvia the north-west Shropshire town of Ellesmere, with Chester, utilising the existing Chester Canal, and then the River Mersey.
Among other structures, this involved the spectacular
Pontcysyllte Aqueductover the River Dee in the Vale of Llangollen, where Telford used a new method of construction consisting of troughs made from cast ironplates and fixed in masonry. Extending for over 1000 feet with an altitude of 126 feet above the valley floor, the 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 had to invent new techniques, such as using boiling sugar and lead as a sealant on the iron connections.
Eminent canal engineer
William Jessopoversaw the project, but he left the detailed execution of the project in Telford's hands.
The same period also saw Telford involved in the design and construction of the
Shrewsbury Canal. When the original engineer, Josiah Clowes, died in 1795, Telford succeeded him. One of Telford's achievements on this project was the design of 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 Outramon the Derby Canaljust months earlier.
Engineer in demand
The 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(c.1800).
Most notably (and again William Pulteney was influential), in 1801 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 Canalalong the Great Glenand redesign of sections of the Crinan Canal, some 920 miles of new roads, over a thousand new bridges (including the Craigellachie Bridge), numerous harbourimprovements (including works at Aberdeen, Dundee, Peterhead, Wick, Portmahomackand Banff), and 32 new churches.
Telford also undertook highway works in the Scottish Lowlands, including 184 miles of new roads and numerous bridges, ranging from a 112 ft (34 m) span stone bridge across the Dee at
Tonguelandin Kirkcudbright(1805-1806) to the 129 ft (39 m) tall Cartland Crags bridge near Lanark(1822).
Telford was consulted in 1806 by the King of
Swedenabout the construction of a canal between Gothenburgand Stockholm. His plans were adopted and construction of the Göta Canalbegan in 1810. Telford travelled to Sweden at that time to oversee some of the more important initial excavations.
The 'Colossus of Roads'
During his later years, Telford was responsible for rebuilding sections of the London to Holyhead road, a task completed by his assistant of ten years,
John MacNeill; today, much of the route is the A5 trunk road. 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 iron bridge across the River Conwyat Betws-y-Coed, the ascent from there to Capel Curigand then the descent from the pass of Nant Ffrancontowards Bangor. Between Capel Curigand Bethesda, in the Ogwen Valley, Telford deviated from the original road, built by Romans during their occupation of this area.
On the island of
Angleseya new embankment across the Stanley Sands to Holyhead was constructed, but the crossing of the Menai Straitwas the most formidable challenge, overcome by the Menai Suspension Bridge(1819-1826). Spanning 580 feet, this was the longest suspension bridge of the time. Unlike modern suspension bridges, Telford used individually linked 9.5 foot iron eye bars for the cables.
Telford also worked on the North Wales coast road between Chester and Bangor, including another major suspension bridge at
Conwy, opened later the same year as its Menai counterpart.
Further afield 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 from east to west Arran (and vice versa) avoiding the circuitous coastal route.
Telford improved on methods for the building of
macadamroads by improving the selection of stone based on thickness, taking into account traffic, alignment and slopes. [cite web
title =Thomas Telford
work =About: inventors
publisher =About, Inc,
New York Times
accessdate =2007-01-19 ]
nickname"Colossus of Roads" was given to 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 Encyclopaedia (to which he had been a contributor). [cite web
title =Colossus of Roads?
work =Feature on Telford's testament
National Archives of Scotland
accessdate =2007-08-21 ]
Other works by Telford include the
St Katharine Docks(1824-1828) close to Tower Bridgein central London, where he worked with the architect Philip Hardwick, the Gloucester and Berkeley Ship Canal (today known as the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal), the second Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent and Mersey Canal(1827), and the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal (today part of the 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 Bridgewas the longest single span in the world. He also built Whitstable harbour in Kent in 1832, in connection with the Canterbury and Whitstable Railwaywith an unusual system for flushing out mud using a tidal reservoir.
In 1820, Telford was appointed the first President of the recently-formed
Institution of Civil Engineers, a post he held until his death.Citation | first = Garth | last = Watson| title = The Civils | publisher = London: Thomas Telford Ltd | page = 251
year = 1988 | isbn = 0-727-70392-7] . He was buried in
Places named after Telford
Telford New Town
new townwas being built in the Wrekin area of Shropshirein 1968, it was named 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 was the obvious choice. Thomas Telford Schoolis consistently among the top performing comprehensive schools in the country [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/displayPopup/0,,10302,00.html] .
The borough formerly called Hendrick’s Blacksmith in Montgomery County,
Pennsylvaniachanged its name to Telford in 1857, after the North Pennsylvania Railroad Company named its new station there "Telford" in honour of Thomas Telford.
Edinburgh's Telford College
Edinburgh's Telford College, one of Scotland's largest colleges is named in the honour of the famous engineer. [http://www.ed-coll.ac.uk]
His life, entitled "The Life of Thomas Telford, Civil Engineer, written by himself", was published in 1838. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_International_Encyclopedia]
*" [http://www.archive.org/details/thelifeofthomast00939gut The Life of Thomas Telford; civil engineer with an introductory history of roads and travelling in Great Britain] " Samuel Smiles (1867)
L. T. C. Rolt, Longmans (1958)
*"Thomas Telford", Penguin (1979), ISBN 0-14-022064-X
*"Thomas Telford, Engineer", Thomas Telford Ltd (1980), ISBN 0-7277-0084-7
*He also completed the "
Grand Trunk" after James Brindleydied due to being over-worked.
* [http://www.thomastelford250.org/ 250th Anniversary 2007]
* [http://www.prosiectmenai.co.uk Prosiect Menai - Celebrating the Bridges of The Menai Strait]
* [http://www.revolutionaryplayers.org.uk/home.stm Revolutionary Players website]
* [http://www.worldwideschool.org/library/books/hst/biography/TheLifeofThomasTelford/toc.html The Life of Thomas Telford]
*Structurae person|id=d000038|name=Thomas Telford (1757-1834)
Stonemason, architect, civil engineerand road, bridgeand canalbuilder.
DATE OF BIRTH=9 August 1757
PLACE OF BIRTH=Westerkirk,
DATE OF DEATH= 2 September 1834
PLACE OF DEATH=
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