Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

A tribute to Telford

ICE news - This year marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Telford, one of the greatest civil engineers that ever lived and the first ever ICE president. But what were his greatest works? Here we have selected a top 10.

Thomas Telford was the original civil engineer. His legacy is immense and includes over 2,400km of roads, 640km of canals, numerous masonry, cast iron and suspension bridges, churches, docks, harbours, water supply systems and flood prevention schemes.

Choosing just 10 of his works as a representative sample of his genius was always going to be diffi ult and controversial but with help from NCE readers we've done it. Our list gives an insight into his career.

It provides a good reflection of his engineering achievements across disciplines and contrasts the works of technical innovation with infrastructure that truly made social impact.

Do you agree with the list?

Perhaps in part, almost certainly not entirely! If your favourite is missed off, let us know what it is and why you think it should be celebrated.

Between now and the 250th anniversary of Telford's birth on 9 August, NCEI will be featuring these projects ? our 'Telford top 10' ? and perhaps sneaking in a few others along the way.

By doing so we hope to shed greater light on what lay at the heart of his creativity and on what drove the man to design such a variety and range of engineering works.

Telford timeline ? his life

1757: Born 9 August ? the son of a sheep farmer in Dumfriesshire in south west Scotland.

1771: Apprenticed as a stonemason in Eskdale aged 14 after a childhood spent largely working as a shepherd.

1780: Heads for a new life in the booming new town of Edinburgh where stonemasons are in demand.

1782: Moves to London to work on Somerset House extensions.

1784: Moves to Portsmouth to work on the dockyard and extend his self-taught knowledge of design and construction management.

1787: Becomes public surveyor of works in Shropshire helped by wealthy patron William Pulteney. Works included renovation of Shrewsbury's castle and town jail.

1790: Designs his rst bridge, across the River Severn at Montford, which opens two years later as one of 40 bridges he designed in Shropshire.

1792: His rst church, St Mary Magdalen in Bridgnorth, is completed.

1793: Engaged to design and construct the Ellesmere Canal between Chester and Wrexham.

This work includes the inuential Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which is completed in 1805.

1795: Designs the replacement bridge at Bewdley and Tenbury in Worcestershire after both are swept away by oods.

1801: Masterplans Scottish Highlands' communications improvements including the Caledonian Canal ? completed in 1822 ? plus 1,500km of new road and over 1,000 bridges.

1806: Commissioned by King of Sweden to design and construct the Gotha Canal between Gothenburg and Stockholm.

Work begins in 1810.

1819: Work on the Menai Suspension Bridge begins as part of his vast project to rebuild the London to Holyhead Road.

1820: Elected as rst president of the Institution of Civil Engineers ? a post he held every year until his death.

1824: Designs and manages construction of St Katherine's Docks in London.

1826: Completes the River Conwy Suspension Bridge ? the same year as his other great suspension structure across the Menai Strait.

1827: Builds the second Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent & Mersey Canal.

1832: Builds Whitstable Harbour in Kent as part of his work on the Canterbury & Whitstable Railway.

1834: Dies on 2 September in London and is buried in Westminster Abbey.

The Telford top 10 (in chronological order)

1. Montford Bridge 2. St Mary Magdalen, Bridgnorth 3. Ellesmere Canal (including Pontcysyllte Aqueduct) 4. Caledonian Canal 5. Gotha Canal, Sweden 6. Aberdeen Harbour 7. Holyhead Road, (including the Menai Bridge) 8. Glasgow to Carlisle Road 9. Harecastle Tunnel 10. St Katherine's Dock Has your favourite Telford work missed the cut? If so write and tell us about it.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.