Basic Biographical Details

Name: Thomas Telford
Designation: Engineer
Born: 9 August 1757
Died: 2 September 1834
Bio Notes: Thomas Telford was born at Glendinning, Westerkirk, Dumfriesshire on 9 August 1757, the son of a shepherd. He trained with a local mason and then moved to work in Edinburgh. In 1782 he moved to London as a journeyman mason and worked as such on Somerset House. By this time he had acquired a knowledge of architecture and surveying.

He soon acquired the patronage of William Pulteney, brother of Sir James Johnstone of Westerhall and was employed on various projects by him, including alterations to Westerhall and to the vicarage of which Pulteney was the patron. In the 1780s he worked at Plymouth Dockyard as clerk of works for Samuel Wyatt. He moved to Shrewsbury to make alterations to Shrewsbury Castle again for William Pulteney. He predicted the imminent collapse of the tower of St Chad’s as a result of which his talents were widely recognised.

He was employed on a number of other jobs in Shrewsbury and from 1788 onwards was the Surveyor of Bridges in Shropshire. He rapidly grasped the possibilities of iron which had been successfully demonstrated by T F Pritchard at Coalbrookdale. Telford’s iron bridge at Buildwas in Shropshire was a pioneer of its type. He went on to build a number of bridges and the suspension bridges at The Menai and Conway and at Craigellachie over the Spey are particularly noteworthy. He designed over a thousand bridges of one arch or more. In 1793 he was appointed surveyor of the Ellesmere Canal. From this time onwards he had little time for architectural work other than bridges. He was active as a road builder, harbour improver and drainer of fens.

In 1820 Telford became the first president of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Between 1825 and the year of his death many Highland churches and manses had been built under Telford's general supervision for the Parliamentary Commission. However most of the work of drawing up plans and specifications were the work of two subordinate surveyors, James Smith and William Thomson.

By the time of his death on 2 September 1834, architecture and civil engineering were seen as two distinct professions. From this point onwards it was rare for individuals to practise as both.

Telford wrote copiously, although many of his writings are engineering reports. A number appeared in the ‘Edinburgh Encyclopaedia’ of which he was a co-proprietor.

There is a statue of Telford in Westminster Abbey. An engraved portrait appears on the frontispiece of Telford’s ‘Works’.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this engineer:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 1Westminster, London, EnglandBusiness   

Employment and Training

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this engineer (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 2Francis Hall  Assistant 
Item 2 of 2John Chisholme1807 Assistant 

Buildings and Designs

This engineer was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 60 BridgeWick CaithnessScotland 
Item 2 of 60 BridgeHelmsdale SutherlandScotland 
Item 3 of 60 Fairn-ness Bridge  MorayshireScotland 
Item 4 of 60c. 1801Spey BridgeFochabers MorayshireScotlandSubmitted design - proposal was rejected.
Item 5 of 601805Bridge over the Dee, TonguelandKirkcudbright KirkcudbrightshireScotland 
Item 6 of 601805Tongland Bridge over the River Dee  KirkcudbrightshireScotland 
Item 7 of 601805Wick Bridge over Water of WickWick CaithnessScotland 
Item 8 of 601806Conon Bridge over the River CononConon Ross & CromartyScotland 
Item 9 of 601806Dunkeld Bridge Over River TayDunkeld PerthshireScotland 
Item 10 of 601806HarbourArdrossan AyrshireScotland 
Item 11 of 601807Ballater Bridge over River DeeBallater AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 12 of 601807HarbourBurghead MorayshireScotlandResponsible for original design
Item 13 of 601808Canal systemSpynie MorayshireScotlandDrainage by system of canals
Item 14 of 601810Alford Bridge over River DonAlford AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 15 of 601811Aberdeen Harbour, North Pier  AberdeenScotlandAdditions
Item 16 of 601811Alness Bridge over River Averon  Ross & CromartyScotland 
Item 17 of 601811Helmsdale BridgeHelmsdale SutherlandScotland 
Item 18 of 601811Lovat BridgeBeauly Inverness-shireScotland 
Item 19 of 601811Potarch Bridge over the River Dee  AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 20 of 601812BridgeCraigellachie Inverness-shireScotland 
Item 21 of 60c. 1812Torry HarbourTorry AberdeenScotlandPlanned
Item 22 of 601815Harbour  DundeeScotlandDrew up plans
Item 23 of 60c. 1815Bona Lighthouse, Caledonian CanalInverness Inverness-shireScotland 
Item 24 of 601817Ballintraid PierInvergordon Ross and CromartyScotland 
Item 25 of 601817Glaister BridgeMachrie AyrshireScotland 
Item 26 of 601817HarbourCullen BanffshireScotlandSeaward pier on N
Item 27 of 601818HarbourBanff BanffshireScotlandFormation of outer harbour
Item 28 of 601818Peterhead HarbourPeterhead AberdeenshireScotlandPlans for North Harbour
Item 29 of 601819Beattock Bridge over Evan WaterBeattock DumfriesshireScotland 
Item 30 of 601820sCross, Ness Parish ChurchBarvasLewisRoss & CromartyScotland 
Item 31 of 601820Cartland Crags Bridge over the Mouse Water  LanarkshireScotland 
Item 32 of 60c. 1820Parish ChurchLochgilphead Argyll Under Telford's general supervision
Item 33 of 60c. 1821Harbour and LighthouseMacduff AberdeenshireScotlandNorth Basin was begun as a breakwater constructed by 4th Earl Fife
Item 34 of 601825Bridge over the River AvonHamilton LanarkshireScotland 
Item 35 of 601826Don Bridge over the River DonAberdeen (near) AberdeenshireScotland 
Item 36 of 601826ManseTomintoul BanffshireScotlandProvided standard design
Item 37 of 601826Tomintoul Parish ChurchTomintoul BanffshireScotland 
Item 38 of 601827Berriedale Parliamentary Church and ManseLatheron CaithnessScotland 
Item 39 of 601827Duror Parish ChurchAppin ArgyllScotland 
Item 40 of 601827Parish ChurchRothiemurchus Inverness-shireScotlandWith Joseph Mitchell
Item 41 of 601827Pathhead Bridge over Tyne WaterPathhead MidlothianScotland 
Item 42 of 601827Shieldaig Parish ChurchShieldaig Ross & CromartyScotlandIn charge overall
Item 43 of 601827Strontian Parish ChurchStrontian ArgyllScotland 
Item 44 of 601827Tobermory Parish Church MullArgyllScotland 
Item 45 of 601827Ulva Parish Church and manseUlva ArgyllScotland 
Item 46 of 601828Kilmeny ManseBallygrantIslayArgyllScotlandProduced standard design - modified by Mitchell
Item 47 of 601828Kinlochspelve Parish ChurchBarachandromanMullArgyllScotlandUnder Telford's general supervision
Item 48 of 601829Ardgour Parish ChurchNorth Corran ArgyllScotland 
Item 49 of 601829Church Acharacle ArgyllScotland 
Item 50 of 601829Dean Bridge over Water of Leith  EdinburghScotland 
Item 51 of 60c. 1830Iona and Ross of Mull Parish Church IonaArgyllScotland 
Item 52 of 60c. 1830Kildalton and Oa Parish ChurchPort Ellen ArgyllScotland 
Item 53 of 60c. 1830(?)Knock Parish Church, Uie (or Eye)StornowayLewisRoss & CromartyScotland 
Item 54 of 60c. 1830North Ballachulish ChurchBallachulish Inverness-shireScotland 
Item 55 of 60c. 1830Portnahaven Parish Church IslayArgyllScotland 
Item 56 of 60c. 1830Steinscholl Parish Church SkyeRoss & CromartyScotland 
Item 57 of 601832Earl Grey Dock  DundeeScotlandOld tidal harbour developed into Earl Grey Dock
Item 58 of 601833Broomielaw Bridge over River Clyde  GlasgowScotland 
Item 59 of 601833(?)Spey Bridge (1)Newtonmore Inverness-shireScotland 
Item 60 of 60c. 1840Argyle SquareWick CaithnessScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this engineer:
Item 1 of 3Colvin, Howard2008A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840 London: YUP. 4th edition 
Item 2 of 3New DNB New Dictionary of National Biography   
Item 3 of 3Rickman, John (ed)1838The Life of Thomas Telford written by himself