Telford, Thomas

views updated Jun 27 2018

Telford, Thomas (1757–1834). Scots mason, surveyor, architect, and engineer of genius. He was employed on the building of Edinburgh New Town before he moved to London in 1782. Through the good offices of Sir William Pulteney, Bt. (1729–1805), MP for Shrewsbury, Salop., he was employed to carry out certain works in that town, including alterations to the Castle (1787). He built (1787–93) the County Gaol there to designs by John Hiram Haycock (1759–1830) with modifications by John Howard (c.1726–90), the prison reformer. He designed the robust Neo-Classical Church of St Mary, Bridgnorth, Salop., (1792–4), the utilitarian octagonal Church of St Michael, Madeley, Salop., (1794–6), and pioneered the use of iron for the construction of bridges (he was Surveyor of Bridges to the County of Shropshire) with his hand-some structure at Buildwas (1795–6—demolished). His canal aqueducts at Longdon, Salop. (1793–4), Pont-y-Cysyllte, near Llangollen, Wales (1795–1805), and Chirk, Denbighshire (1796–1801), are among the finest and most dignified of such structures in the world. Telford de-signed more than 1,000 bridges, including the Menai (1819–26) and Conway (1821–6) suspension bridges, Caernarfonshire, Wales, Craigellachie iron bridge, Banffshire, Scotland (1814–15), and arched bridges at Bewdley, Worcs. (1797–9), Dunkeld, Perthshire, Scotland (1806–9), and Dean, Edinburgh (1829–31). His works as a road-and canal-builder and his designs for harbours and docks (including works at Wick, Caithness (from 1808), Aberdeen, Peterhead, Banff, Leith, and the very important St Katherine Docks, London (1825–8—with severe brick warehouses by Hardwick (mostly demolished) ), were among the most accomplished designs for such buildings ever made. He was responsible for over 30 churches and manses in the Scottish Highlands (1825–34), including those at Acharacle, Ardgour, Portnahaven, and Strontian (all in Argyll), and Ullapool (Ross-shire). He laid out Pulteney Model Town, near Wick, Caithness (1808).


Colvin (1995);
Nicholson (1835);
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004);
Penfold (ed.) (1980);
Rolt (1958);
Skempton et al. (eds.) (2002);
Smiles (1862);
Telford (1838);
Thorne (ed.) (1990)

Telford, Thomas

views updated May 23 2018

Telford, Thomas (1757–1834). Civil engineer from Eskdale (Dumfries). Apprenticeship as a stonemason laid the basis for Telford's move via Edinburgh to London, where he worked on Somerset House (1782), being introduced to Chambers and Adam, before work at Portsmouth dockyard (1784). The patronage of William Pulteney took him to Shrewsbury (1786), where he restored the castle, and built the gaol and the reputation that led to his appointment as ‘general overlooker’ of the Ellesmere canal in 1793, and his transition to civil engineer. Distinguished canal work followed with his aqueduct at Pontcysyllte (1805), the Caledonian canal (1822), contributions to Sweden's Gotha canal (1832), the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction (1835), the last main line, and his replacement tunnel at Harecastle on the Trent and Mersey (1826). As adviser to the British Fisheries Society (1796) he was invited to undertake road- and bridge-building in the Scottish Highlands, and between 1803 and 1824 was responsible for the construction or remodelling of 1,200 miles of road, all constructed on his ‘Roman’ principles, with adequate foundations. His creation of the Shrewsbury–Holyhead road (from 1802) was a parallel developmental project, and at Menai (1825) and Conwy (1826) led to his pioneering development of suspension bridges that was to influence Brunel and others. Nicknamed by Southey ‘the colossus of roads’, he succeeded Rennie as Britain's leading civil engineer, and was a founding member of the Institute of Civil Engineers in 1828.

J. A. Chartres

Telford, Thomas

views updated May 14 2018

Telford, Thomas (1757–1834) Scottish civil engineer who built roads, bridges, canals, docks, and harbours. His most notable achievements were the Caledonian Canal in Scotland, and the 177m (580ft) Menai Strait suspension bridge, connecting Anglesey with mainland Wales.

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Thomas Telford

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