Steers, Thomas

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b. c. 1672 Kent, England
d. buried November 1750 Liverpool, England
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English dock and canal engineer.
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An Army officer serving at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 and later in the Low Countries, Steers thus gained experience in water control and development, canals and drainage. After his return to England he was associated with George Sorocold in the construction of Howland Great Dock, Rotherhithe, London, opened in 1699 and the first wet dock built in England. He was again associated with Sorocold in planning the first of Liverpool's wet docks and subsequently was responsible for its construction. On its completion, he became Dockmaster in 1717.
In 1712 he surveyed the River Douglas for navigation, and received authorization to make it navigable from the Ribble estuary to Wigan in 1720. Although work was started by Steers, the undertaking was hit by the collapse of the South Sea Bubble and Steers was no longer associated with it when it was restarted in 1738. In 1721 he proposed making the Mersey and Irwell navigable.
In 1736 he surveyed and engineered the first summit-level canal in the British Isles, between Portadown and Newry in Ulster, thus providing through-water communication between Lough Neagh and the Irish Sea. The canal was completed in 1741. He also carried out a survey of the river Boyne. Also in 1736, he surveyed the Worsley Brook in South Lancashire to provide navigation from Worsley to the Mersey. This was done on behalf of Scroop, 1st Duke of Bridgewater; an Act was obtained in 1737, but no work was started on the scheme at that time. It was left to Francis Egerton, the 3rd Duke, to initiate the Bridgewater Canal to provide water transport for coal from the Worsley pits direct to Manchester. In 1739 Steers was elected Mayor of Liverpool. The following year, jointly with John Eyes of Liverpool, he surveyed a possible navigation along the Calder from its junction with the Aire \& Calder at Wakefield to the Hebble and so through to Halifax, but, owing to opposition at the time, the construction of the Calder \& Hebble Navigation had to wait until after Steers's death. In the opinion of Professor A.W. Skempton, Steers was the most distinguished civil engineer before Smeaton's time.
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Further Reading
Henry Peet, 1932, Thomas Steers. The Engineer of Liverpool's First Dock; reprinted with App. from Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire 82:163– 242.
JHB

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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