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Thomas Telford 1757 - 1834

Scots mason, surveyor, architect, a noted road, bridge and canal builder and engineer of genius.
Due to his many, varied and marvellous works he became known as the "Colossus of Roads"


Thomas 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 Telford

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 in the Scottish borders. He was employed on the building of Edinburgh New Town before he moved to London in 1782.

Thomas Telford

He was employed by the office of Sir William Pulteney, Baronet and MP for Shrewsbury to carry out certain works in Shrewsbury, including alterations to the Castle and between 1787 and 1793 he built the County Gaol to designs by John Hiram Haycock with modifications by John Howard, the prison reformer.

Telfords capabilities and expertise ranged from dockyards to fen drainage, road construction to iron bridge building, churches to aquaducts. Telford advised on the building of canals in other parts of the world including work for the King of Sweden on the Gotha Canal and the Panama Canal along with canals here in Scotland, The Caledonian Canal is one of Telford's works.

Telford designed thousands of masonry bridges. One of the most impressive is the Dean Bridge in Edinburgh. He went on to develop wrought iron bridges, including the famous suspension bridge across the Menai Straits between the island of Anglesey and the mainland of Wales.

Thomas Telford

Telford was consulted on many railway projects, aqueducts and water supplies. Between 1823 and 1830 he supervised the design and building of churches and manses for the Church of Scotland.

The list of Telford's acheivements is quite immense and too large to be listed here, but the contributions made by Telford, here in Scotland, are far reaching and very varied, not only the roads and many, many churches are attributable to him but harbours and docks too.
Wick, Aberdeen, Burghead, Cullen, Peterhead, Banff and Leith are Telford's works, as are Spynie Canal, Tomintoul Church and Aultmore Bridge.

Thomas Telford

To find out more about "The Colossus of Roads" please use the links below.

Further Reading

wikipedia.org - Thomas Telford
wikipedia.org - The Works of Thomas Telford
ice.org.uk - The Telford Collection
gerard-massey.org - Iron & Other Bridges
rse.org.uk - 250th Anniversary of the birth of Thomas Telford
plaskynastoncanalgroup.org - Plas Kynaston Foundry
Robert Southey - Journal of a Tour in Scotland

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