erection bridge employed
TELFORD, THOMAS (1757-1834), civil engineer, was the son of a shepherd in Eskdale, Dumfriesshire, and was born in the valley of the Megget, 9th August 1757. From early childhood he was employed as a herd, occasionally attending the parish school of Westerkirk, where his quickness and diligence helped to make up for his lack of opportunity. On being apprenticed, at the age of fifteen, to a stone mason at Langholm, he found leisure not only to gain an acquaintance with Latin, French, and German, but to gratify his literary tastes by a 'wide variety of reading. In his .early manhood he was much given to the writing of verse: a poem of some length on Eskdale appeared in 1784 in the Poetical Museum, published at Hawick ; under the signature of "Eskdale Tam" he contributed verses to Ruddiman's Weekly Magazine ; and he addressed an epistle in rhyme to Burns, which was published in Currie's Life of the poet. But these poetical effusions were of comparatively little value. In 1780 Telford went to Edinburgh, where he was employed in the erection of houses in the "new" town, and occupied much of his spare time in learning architectural drawing. Two years later he proceeded to London, finding employment in the erection of Somerset House. Having in 1784 superintended the erection of a house for the commissioner at Portsmouth dockyard, he next repaired the castle of Kohkoly, Practische Anleitung zur Anstellung astron. Beobachtungen, Brunswick, 1883.
Sir W. Pulteney, member for Shrewsbury, who conceived such a high opinion of his talents that he got him made surveyor of public works for the county of Salop. His earliest bridge was that across the Severn at Montford, finished in 1792. In the following year he was appointed engineer of the Ellesmere Canal, which led to his being employed for the chief canals subsequently constructed in Great Britain, including the Caledonian (1804), the Gloucester and Berkeley (1818), the Grand Trunk (1822), the Macclesfield (1824), and the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction (1825). He was consulted in 1806 by the king of Sweden. regarding the construction of the Gotha Canal between Lake Wener and the Baltic, and, his plans having been adopted, he visited the country in 1810 to superintend some of the more important excavations. In 1803 he had been appointed engineer for the construction of 920 miles of roads in the Highlands of Scotland, a great part through very difficult country. Of the numerous bridges built in this line of roads mention may be specially made of that across the Tay at Dunkeld. Subsequently be perfected the road communication between London and Scotland and the northern towns of England. An undertaking of equal magnitude and importance with that in the Highlands of Scotland was a system of roads through the more inaccessible parts of Wales, which involved the erection of the magnificent suspension bridge across the Menai Straits, begun in 1820, and the Conway bridge, begun in 1822. For the Austrian Government Telford built the Polish road from Warsaw to Brest. While the fame of Telford rests chiefly on his road and canal engineering, and the erection of the numerous bridges and aqueducts which this involved, he also did good work in harbour construction. In 1790 he was employed by the British Fishery Society to inspect the harbours on the north-cast coast of Scotland ; and, besides constructing the important fishing harbour at Pulteneytown, Wick, he greatly improved those at the other principal fishing stations. His important works of this kind were, however, his improvement of the harbours at Aberdeen and Dundee, and the construction of the St Katherine's docks at London. In 1828-30 he drained the north level of the eastern Fen district, an area of 48,000 acres. The erection of the Dean Bridge, Edinburgh, and of the Broomielaw Bridge, Glasgow, and the improvement (1833-34) of Dover harbour were the principal achievements of his later years. He died on 2d September 1834, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Telford was never married. For twenty-one years he lived at the Salopian coffee house, afterwards the Ship Hotel, Charing Cross. He was a fellow of the Royal Societies of London and of Edinburgh, and was annually elected president of the Institution of Civil Engineers from its commencement. He received the Swedish order of knighthood " of Gustavus Vasa."
See Telford's Memoirs, written by himself and edited by John Rickman (1538) ; also Smiles's Lives of the Engineers.