9th August 1757

Engineer Thomas Telford is born

Thomas Telford was born in Dumfriesshire and became one of Britain’s most important engineers. The town of Telford, in Shropshire, is named in his honour.

Initially employed as a stonemason, he worked in Edinburgh, London and Shropshire where he was appointed county surveyor and made a name for himself particularly for his work on bridges and his innovative ironwork.

These two interests coincided in the construction of the Pontcycyllte Aqueduct, which carried the Ellesmere Canal over the River Dee. Here, a man-made canal constructed entirely of iron is mounted on a 21-arch (some sources say 18; others say 19) viaduct, which has since been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Telford’s tourist attraction

The aqueduct was such an impressive feat that it was considered a sight that might encourage custom to particular coach routes. The Chester Courant, on 8 October 1805, carried an advert for “a light coach called The Commercial” from Chester to Holyhead “passing near the great aqueduct of Pontcystllte”, while The Sun, on 26 February the following year, advertised an engraving showing “a view of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct”.

The advertisement continued, “this noble structure (conveying a navigable stream through a cast iron trough 1009 feet in length, supported by 21 stone piers 116 feet in height from the surface of the River Dee) presents a feature admidst Romantic Scenery gratifying to the Tourist, and claims the attention of Amateurs, the lovers of the Arts, Agriculture, and Trade”.

Caledonian Canal

Further work on canals was to follow, including on the Caledonian Canal as part of a much larger project to make the Highlands more accessible.

He was also responsible for the Menai Suspension Bridge, linking Anglesey to mainland Wales which was, at the time, the longest suspension bridge in the world. When this was completed, the Morning Post of 2 February 1826 (three days after its opening) rejoiced that “the inconvenient Ferry across the rapid Menai Estuary is thus, at last, annihilated, and another important facility given to the intercourse between the two kingdoms”.

Thomas Telford’s death

Thomas Telford never married, and he died on 2 September 1834. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Four days after his death, the Caledonian Mercury announced that “Mr Telford was in the 79th year of his age. The immediate cause of his death was a repetition of severe bilious attacks, to which he had for some years been subject… He has of late chiefly employed his time in writing a detailed account of the principal works which he planned, and lived to see executed; and it is a singular and fortunate circumstance, that the corrected manuscript of this work was only completed by his clerk, under his direction, two or three days ago.”



Other events that occured in August

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