Telford, Thomas

SUBJECT AREA: Canals, Civil engineering
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b. 9 August 1757 Glendinning, Dumfriesshire, Scotland
d. 2 September 1834 London, England.
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Scottish civil engineer.
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Telford was the son of a shepherd, who died when the boy was in his first year. Brought up by his mother, Janet Jackson, he attended the parish school at Westerkirk. He was apprenticed to a stonemason in Lochmaben and to another in Langholm. In 1780 he walked from Eskdale to Edinburgh and in 1872 rode to London on a horse that he was to deliver there. He worked for Sir William Chambers as a mason on Somerset House, then on the Eskdale house of Sir James Johnstone. In 1783–4 he worked on the new Commissioner's House and other buildings at Portsmouth dockyard.
In late 1786 Telford was appointed County Surveyor for Shropshire and moved to Shrewsbury Castle, with work initially on the new infirmary and County Gaol. He designed the church of St Mary Magdalene, Bridgnorth, and also the church at Madley. Telford built his first bridge in 1790–2 at Montford; between 1790 and 1796 he built forty-five road bridges in Shropshire, including Buildwas Bridge. In September 1793 he was appointed general agent, engineer and architect to the Ellesmere Canal, which was to connect the Mersey and Dee rivers with the Severn at Shrewsbury; William Jessop was Principal Engineer. This work included the Pont Cysyllte aqueduct, a 1,000 ft (305 m) long cast-iron trough 127 ft (39 m) above ground level, which entailed an on-site ironworks and took ten years to complete; the aqueduct is still in use today. In 1800 Telford put forward a plan for a new London Bridge with a single cast-iron arch with a span of 600 ft (183 m) but this was not built.
In 1801 Telford was appointed engineer to the British Fisheries Society "to report on Highland Communications" in Scotland where, over the following eighteen years, 920 miles (1,480 km) of new roads were built, 280 miles (450 km) of the old military roads were realigned and rebuilt, over 1,000 bridges were constructed and much harbour work done, all under Telford's direction. A further 180 miles (290 km) of new roads were also constructed in the Lowlands of Scotland. From 1804 to 1822 he was also engaged on the construction of the Caledonian Canal: 119 miles (191 km) in all, 58 miles (93 km) being sea loch, 38 miles (61 km) being Lochs Lochy, Oich and Ness, 23 miles (37 km) having to be cut.
In 1808 he was invited by King Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden to assist Count Baltzar von Platen in the survey and construction of a canal between the North Sea and the Baltic. Telford surveyed the 114 mile (183 km) route in six weeks; 53 miles (85 km) of new canal were to be cut. Soon after the plans for the canal were completed, the King of Sweden created him a Knight of the Order of Vasa, an honour that he would have liked to have declined. At one time some 60,000 soldiers and seamen were engaged on the work, Telford supplying supervisors, machinery—including an 8 hp steam dredger from the Donkin works and machinery for two small paddle boats—and ironwork for some of the locks. Under his direction an ironworks was set up at Motala, the foundation of an important Swedish industrial concern which is still flourishing today. The Gotha Canal was opened in September 1832.
In 1811 Telford was asked to make recommendations for the improvement of the Shrewsbury to Holyhead section of the London-Holyhead road, and in 1815 he was asked to survey the whole route from London for a Parliamentary Committee. Construction of his new road took fifteen years, apart from the bridges at Conway and over the Menai Straits, both suspension bridges by Telford and opened in 1826. The Menai bridge had a span of 579 ft (176 m), the roadway being 153 ft (47 m) above the water level.
In 1817 Telford was appointed Engineer to the Exchequer Loan Commission, a body set up to make capital loans for deserving projects in the hard times that followed after the peace of Waterloo. In 1820 he became the first President of the Engineers Institute, which gained its Royal Charter in 1828 to become the Institution of Civil Engineers. He was appointed Engineer to the St Katharine's Dock Company during its construction from 1825 to 1828, and was consulted on several early railway projects including the Liverpool and Manchester as well as a number of canal works in the Midlands including the new Harecastle tunnel, 3,000 ft (914 m) long.
Telford led a largely itinerant life, living in hotels and lodgings, acquiring his own house for the first time in 1821, 24 Abingdon Street, Westminster, which was partly used as a school for young civil engineers. He died there in 1834, after suffering in his later years from the isolation of deafness. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
FRSE 1803. Knight of the Order of Vasa, Sweden 1808. FRS 1827. First President, Engineers Insitute 1820.
Further Reading
L.T.C.Rolt, 1979, Thomas Telford, London: Penguin.
C.Hadfield, 1993, Thomas Telford's Temptation, London: M. \& M.Baldwin.
IMcN

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

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Telford, Thomas — born Aug. 9, 1757, near Westerkirk, Dumfries, Scot. died Sept. 2, 1834, London, Eng. Scottish civil engineer. He built the Ellesmere, Caledonian, and Göta canals and the St. Katherine s Docks in London. His crowning achievement was the design and …   Universalium

  • Telford, Thomas — (9 ago. 1757, cerca de Westerkirk, Dumfries, Escocia–2 sep. 1834, Londres, Inglaterra). Ingeniero civil escocés. Construyó los canales de Ellesmere, Caledonia y Göta y los muelles de St. Katherine en Londres. Su logro culminante fue el diseño y… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • TELFORD, THOMAS —    a celebrated engineer, born, the son of a shepherd, in Westerkirk parish, Eskdale; served an apprenticeship to a stone mason, and after a sojourn in Edinburgh found employment in London in 1782; as surveyor of public works for Shropshire in… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Thomas Telford — Nacimiento 9 de agosto …   Wikipedia Español

  • Thomas Telford — (* 9. August 1757 in Westerkirk, Dumfriesshire, Schottland; † 2. September 1834 in Westminster (London)) war ein bedeutender britischer Baumeister. Leben und Wirken Telford verschaffte sich durch zahlreiche Meisterwerk …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Thomas Telford — [Thomas Telford] (1757–1834) a Scottish engineer who designed many bridges, canals and roads in Britain. Among his best known achievements are the ↑Caledonian Canal in northern Scotland and the ↑Menai Strait Bridge in north Wales. Many of his… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Thomas — Thomas, Albert Thomas, André Antoine Thomas, Ch. L. Ambroise Thomas, Dylan Thomas, Sidney Gilchrist Thomas, Theodore * * * (as used in expressions) Adès, Thomas …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Telford — Telford, Thomas, Ingenieur, geb. 9. Aug. 1757 in Eskdale (Dumfriesshire), gest. 2. Sept. 1834 in Westminster, erlernte das Maurerhandwerk, ging 1781 nach Edinburg, 1782 nach London, wo er unter Chambers und Adams Studien machte und 1787 die Docks …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Telford — Telford, Thomas, geb. 1755; englischer Baumeister, Erbauer der Menay u. Conwaybrücke, des Calidonschen Kanals, der Katharinendocks; st. 1834 …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Thomas Telford — Infobox Engineer image size = caption = 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 death place =… …   Wikipedia

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