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ICE acquire Telford letters and drawings

With the help of the Museum, Libraries and Archives Association (MLA) PRISM Fund, the ICE has recently bought a collection of five important letters from the Bloomsbury Auctions.

The letters were written by the ICE’s first president Thomas Telford to Patrick Copland of Aberdeen. The letters discussed some of the projects Telford was working on and sought Copland’s opinion.

The ICE has also obtained some more special historical documents − two Telford Bequest drawings. These were given to the Port of London Authority by ICE in 1906, but since lost.

One drawing dated 25 June 1808 relates to the entrance lock at East India Docks. The plan shows the direction of the chain holes and the width and height necessary for the sweep of the chain between opening and shutting.

Beautifully coloured

The ink and pencil plan, with a note addressed to Telford by the supplier, possibly Ralph or James Walker, was number 281 of the Telford Bequest.

The other drawing we acquired was of St Katharine Docks. It is an elevation, plan and section for the dock entrance, beautifully coloured in ink and wash, noting the materials of construction including Bramley Fall Stone and Dantzic Timber. Telford signed the sheet with: “I have examined and approved of this drawing”. The original was probably by Thomas Rhodes.

Telford’s drawings were part of the bequest left to the ICE by him on his death in 1834. In 1905-1906 the collection was broken up with a small selection retained by ICE and the remainder passed on to the owners of the works depicted.

A significant addition

The drawings relating to St Katharine and other London docks were given to the East and West India Dock Company. They became part of the Port of London collection which is now held at the Museum of London. Unfortunately, the result was that the ICE lacked representative drawings of many aspects of Telford’s work.

These drawings are therefore a significant addition to our Telford archive, and fill an important gap in the drawings of Telford we hold, as representative of his dock work.

The drawings are to be conserved and will then be displayed at One Great George Street.

  • If any reader would like to help with the conservation of such historical documents they should contact

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