Amberley Publishing - Transport, Military, Local and General History

Who was Thomas Telford? by Chris Morris

The technical answer is - possibly the most significant engineer of the industrial revolution.

Thomas Telford 3 Menai Suspension Bridge

Telford, born son of a shepherd in 1757 in the Scottish Borders, trained as a stone mason and had ambitions to be an architect. By the last decade of the eighteenth century good fortune placed him as County Surveyor of Shropshire. Ah, you are saying, he built the iron bridge at Ironbridge. No – that was already there before his county job, built by the iron founder Abraham Darby the third. This first iron bridge is within the boundaries of the 1940s new town, and yes, it is named after our heroic engineer (apparently only after a meeting of new town worthies chose Darby as the town’s name, only to realise that the long established Derby, whatever the spelling, would cause confusion).

Thomas Telford 1 Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Let’s get back to the tour. Inspired by Darby’s bridge, and surrounded by fervour of canal building heralding the coming industrial revolution, Telford took up the use of iron and rapidly became the most celebrated engineer of his generation, with two particular works, the Menai suspension bridge and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct cementing his reputation. In tremendous demand his workload had him travelling between projects scattered from the Severn, to the Pennines, and most extensively in Scotland. He had no permanent home till the very end of his working life, and was constantly on the move. Like a giant life-long tour.

Thomas Telford 2 Craigellachie - Although Telford was a skilled mason, it was his use of iron that made him famous.

You do not need to have an interest in engineering history to be a Telford Tourist. The settings of his bridges are often magical statements in wonderful landscapes, the routes of his canals and roads a handsome addition to some of Britain’s best topography. Even to plan an itinerary is exciting, wondering how many pretty east coast harbours you can include, whether you’d have time to take a trip into Standedge canal tunnel, what time of day would be best to be at Tobermory (if you haven’t booked a night in Mull you need to know the times of the last ferry!).

The latest Amberley edition of the book is re-arranged to include more photographs, many from Scotland, so the Tour is now extended to 160 pages.

Thomas Telford - 9781445650579

Chris Morris' book On Tour with Thomas Telford is available for purchase now.