Thomas Telford

Thomas Telford

Thomas Telford, the son of a shepherd, was born in Westerkirk, Scotland in 1757. At the age of 14 he was apprenticed to a stonemason. He worked for a time in Edinburgh and in 1792 he moved to London where he was involved in building additions to Somerset House. Two years later he found work at Portsmouth dockyard.

In 1787 he became surveyor of public works for Shropshire. By this time Telford had established a good reputation as an engineer and in 1790 was given the task of building a bridge over the River Severn at Montford. This was followed by a canal that linked the ironworks and collieries of Wrexham with Chester and Shrewsbury. This involved building an aqueduct over the River Dee. On the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Telford used a new method of construction consisting of troughs made from cast-iron plates and fixed in masonry.

After the completion of the Ellesmere Canal Telford moved back to Scotland where he took control of the building of Caledonian Canal. Other works by Telford include the Menai Suspension Bridge (1819-1826) and the Katherine's Docks (1824-1828) in London.

Telford was also an important road builder. He was responsible for rebuilding the Shrewsbury to Holyhead road and the North Wales coast road between Chester and Bangor. During his life Telford built more than 1,000 miles of road, including the main road between London and Holyhead.

Thomas Telford died in 1834.

Thomas Telford - History

Valley of "the Unblameable Shepherd", Eskdale

Thomas Telford was born in one of the most Solitary nooks of the narrow valley of the Esk, in the eastern part of the county of Dumfries, in Scotland. Eskdale runs north and south, its lower end having been in former times the western march of the Scottish border. Near the entrance to the dale is a tall column erected on Langholm Hill, some twelve miles to the north of the Gretna Green station of the Caledonian Railway,--which many travellers to and from Scotland may have observed,--a monument to the late Sir John Malcolm, Governor of Bombay, one of the distinguished natives of the district. It looks far over the English border-lands, which stretch away towards the south, and marks the entrance to the mountainous parts of the dale, which lie to the north. From that point upwards the valley gradually contracts, the road winding along the river's banks, in some places high above the stream, which rushes swiftly over the rocky bed below.

A few miles upward from the lower end of Eskdale lies the little capital of the district, the town of Langholm and there, in the market-place, stands another monument to the virtues of the Malcolm family in the statue erected to the memory of Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm, a distinguished naval officer. Above Langholm, the country becomes more hilly and moorland. In many places only a narrow strip of land by the river's side is left available for cultivation until at length the dale contracts so much that the hills descend to the very road, and there are only to be seen their steep heathery sides sloping up towards the sky on either hand, and a narrow stream plashing and winding along the bottom of the valley among the rocks at their feet.

Telford's Native District

From this brief description of the character of Eskdale scenery, it may readily be supposed that the district is very thinly peopled, and that it never could have been capable of supporting a large number of inhabitants. Indeed, previous to the union of the crowns of England and Scotland, the principal branch of industry that existed in the Dale was of a lawless kind. The people living on the two sides of the border looked upon each other's cattle as their own, provided only they had the strength to "lift" them. They were, in truth, even during the time of peace, a kind of outcasts, against whom the united powers of England and Scotland were often employed. On the Scotch side of the Esk were the Johnstones and Armstrongs, and on the English the Graemes of Netherby both clans being alike wild and lawless. It was a popular border saying that "Elliots and Armstrongs ride thieves a'" and an old historian says of the Graemes that "they were all stark moss-troopers and arrant thieves to England as well as Scotland outlawed." The neighbouring chiefs were no better: Scott of Buccleugh, from whom the modern Duke is descended, and Scott of Harden, the ancestor of the novelist, being both renowned freebooters.

There stands at this day on the banks of the Esk, only a few miles from the English border, the ruin of an old fortalice, called Gilnockie Tower, in a situation which in point of natural beauty is scarcely equalled even in Scotland. It was the stronghold of a chief popularly known in his day as Johnnie Armstrong.*[1] He was a mighty freebooter in the time of James V., and the terror of his name is said to have extended as far as Newcastle-upon-Tyne, between which town and his castle on the Esk he was accustomed to levy black-mail, or "protection and forbearance money," as it was called. The King, however, determining to put down by the strong hand the depredations of the march men, made a sudden expedition along the borders and Johnnie Armstrong having been so ill-advised as to make his appearance with his followers at a place called Carlenrig, in Etterick Forest, between Hawick and Langholm, James ordered him to instant execution. Had Johnnie Armstrong, like the Scotts and Kers and Johnstones of like calling, been imprisoned beforehand, he might possibly have lived to found a British peerage but as it was, the genius of the Armstrong dynasty was for a time extinguished, only, however, to reappear, after the lapse of a few centuries, in the person of the eminent engineer of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the inventor of the Armstrong gun.

The two centuries and a half which have elapsed since then have indeed seen extraordinary changes.*[2] The energy which the old borderers threw into their feuds has not become extinct, but survives under more benignant aspects, exhibiting itself in efforts to enlighten, fertilize, and enrich the country which their wasteful ardour before did so much to disturb and impoverish. The heads of the Buccleugh and Elliot family now sit in the British House of Lords. The descendant of Scott of Harden has achieved a world-wide reputation as a poet and novelist and the late Sir James Graham, the representative of the Graemes of Netherby, on the English side of the border, was one of the most venerable and respected of British statesmen. The border men, who used to make such furious raids and forays, have now come to regard each other, across the imaginary line which divides them, as friends and neighbours and they meet as competitors for victory only at agricultural meetings, where they strive to win prizes for the biggest turnips or the most effective reaping-machines while the men who followed their Johnstone or Armstrong chiefs as prickers or hobilers to the fray have, like Telford, crossed the border with powers of road-making and bridge-building which have proved a source of increased civilization and well-being to the population of the entire United Kingdom.

The hamlet of Westerkirk, with its parish church and school, lies in a narrow part of the valley, a few miles above Langholm. Westerkirk parish is long and narrow, its boundaries being the hill-tops on either side of the dale. It is about seven miles long and two broad, with a population of about 600 persons of all ages. Yet this number is quite as much as the district is able to support, as is proved by its remaining as nearly as possible stationary from one generation to another.*[3] But what becomes of the natural increase of families? "They swarm off!" was the explanation given to us by a native of the valley. "If they remained at home," said he, "we should all be sunk in poverty, scrambling with each other amongst these hills for a bare living. But our peasantry have a spirit above that: they will not consent to sink they look up and our parish schools give them a power of making their way in the world, each man for himself. So they swarm off--some to America, some to Australia, some to India, and some, like Telford, work their way across the border and up to London."

One would scarcely have expected to find the birthplace of the builder of the Menai Bridge and other great national works in so obscure a corner of the kingdom. Possibly it may already have struck the reader with surprise, that not only were all the early engineers self-taught in their profession, but they were brought up mostly in remote country places, far from the active life of great towns and cities. But genius is of no locality, and springs alike from the farmhouse, the peasant's hut, or the herd's shieling. Strange, indeed, it is that the men who have built our bridges, docks, lighthouses, canals, and railways, should nearly all have been country-bred boys: Edwards and Brindley, the sons of small farmers Smeaton, brought up in his father's country house at Austhorpe Rennie, the son of a farmer and freeholder and Stephenson, reared in a colliery village, an engine-tenter's son. But Telford, even more than any of these, was a purely country-bred boy, and was born and brought up in a valley so secluded that it could not even boast of a cluster of houses of the dimensions of a village.

Telford's father was a herd on the sheep-farm of Glendinning. The farm consists of green hills, lying along the valley of the Meggat, a little burn, which descends from the moorlands on the east, and falls into the Esk near the hamlet of Westerkirk. John Telford's cottage was little better than a shieling, consisting of four mud walls, spanned by a thatched roof. It stood upon a knoll near the lower end of a gully worn in the hillside by the torrents of many winters.

The ground stretches away from it in a long sweeping slope up to the sky, and is green to the top, except where the bare grey rocks in some places crop out to the day. From the knoll may be seen miles on miles of hills up and down the valley, winding in and out, sometimes branching off into smaller glens, each with its gurgling rivulet of peaty-brown water flowing down from the mosses above. Only a narrow strip of arable land is here and there visible along the bottom of the dale, all above being sheep-pasture, moors, and rocks. At Glendinning you seem to have got almost to the world's end. There the road ceases, and above it stretch trackless moors, the solitude of which is broken only by the whimpling sound of the burns on their way to the valley below, the hum of bees gathering honey among the heather, the whirr of a blackcock on the wing, the plaintive cry of the ewes at lambing-time, or the sharp bark of the shepherd's dog gathering the flock together for the fauld.

In this cottage on the knoll Thomas Telford was born on the 9th of August, 1757, and before the year was out he was already an orphan. The shepherd, his father, died in the month of November, and was buried in Westerkirk churchyard, leaving behind him his widow and her only child altogether unprovided for. We may here mention that one of the first things which that child did, when he had grown up to manhood and could "cut a headstone," was to erect one with the following inscription, hewn and lettered by himself, over his father's grave:

NOVEMBER, 1757,"

a simple but poetical epitaph, which Wordsworth himself might have written.

The widow had a long and hard struggle with the world before her but she encountered it bravely. She had her boy to work for, and, destitute though she was, she had him to educate. She was helped, as the poor so often are, by those of her own condition, and there is no sense of degradation in receiving such help. One of the risks of benevolence is its tendency to lower the recipient to the condition of an alms-taker. Doles from poor's-boxes have this enfeebling effect but a poor neighbour giving a destitute widow a help in her time of need is felt to be a friendly act, and is alike elevating to the character of both. Though misery such as is witnessed in large towns was quite unknown in the valley, there was poverty but it was honest as well as hopeful, and none felt ashamed of it. The farmers of the dale were very primitive*[4] in their manners and habits, and being a warm-hearted, though by no means a demonstrative race, they were kind to the widow and her fatherless boy. They took him by turns to live with them at their houses, and gave his mother occasional employment. In summer she milked the ewes and made hay, and in harvest she went a-shearing contriving not only to live, but to be cheerful.

The house to which the widow and her son removed at the Whitsuntide following the death of her husband was at a place called The Crooks, about midway between Glendinning and Westerkirk. It was a thatched cot-house, with two ends in one of which lived Janet Telford (more commonly known by her own name of Janet Jackson) and her son Tom, and in the other her neighbour Elliot one door being common to both.

Young Telford grew up a healthy boy, and he was so full of fun and humour that he became known in the valley by the name of "Laughing Tam." When he was old enough to herd sheep he went to live with a relative, a shepherd like his father, and he spent most of his time with him in summer on the hill-side amidst the silence of nature. In winter he lived with one or other of the neighbouring farmers. He herded their cows or ran errands, receiving for recompense his meat, a pair of stockings, and five shillings a year for clogs. These were his first wages, and as he grew older they were gradually increased.

But Tom must now be put to school, and, happily, small though the parish of Westerkirk was, it possessed the advantage of that admirable institution, the parish school. The legal provision made at an early period for the education of the people in Scotland, proved one of their greatest boons. By imparting the rudiments of knowledge to all, the parish schools of the country placed the children of the peasantry on a more equal footing with the children of the rich and to that extent redressed the inequalities of fortune. To start a poor boy on the road of life without instruction, is like starting one on a race with his eyes bandaged or his leg tied up. Compared with the educated son of the rich man, the former has but little chance of sighting the winning post.

To our orphan boy the merely elementary teaching provided at the parish school of Westerkirk was an immense boon. To master this was the first step of the ladder he was afterwards to mount: his own industry, energy, and ability must do the rest. To school accordingly he went, still working a-field or herding cattle during the summer months. Perhaps his own "penny fee" helped to pay the teacher's hire but it is supposed that his cousin Jackson defrayed the principal part of the expense of his instruction. It was not much that he learnt but in acquiring the arts of reading, writing, and figures, he learnt the beginnings of a great deal. Apart from the question of learning, there was another manifest advantage to the poor boy in mixing freely at the parish school with the sons of the neighbouring farmers and proprietors. Such intercourse has an influence upon a youth's temper, manners, and tastes, which is quite as important in the education of character as the lessons of the master himself and Telford often, in after life, referred with pleasure to the benefits which he had derived from his early school friendships. Among those to whom he was accustomed to look back with most pride, were the two elder brothers of the Malcolm family, both of whom rose to high rank in the service of their country William Telford, a youth of great promise, a naval surgeon, who died young and the brothers William and Andrew Little, the former of whom settled down as a farmer in Eskdale, and the latter, a surgeon, lost his eyesight when on service off the coast of Africa. Andrew Little afterwards established himself as a teacher at Langholm, where he educated, amongst others, General Sir Charles Pasley, Dr. Irving, the Custodier of the Advocate's Library at Edinburgh and others known to fame beyond the bounds of their native valley. Well might Telford say, when an old man, full of years and honours, on sitting down to write his autobiography, "I still recollect with pride and pleasure my native parish of Westerkirk, on the banks of the Esk, where I was born."

Westerkirk Church and School.

*[1] Sir Waiter Scott, in his notes to the 'Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border,' says that the common people of the high parts of Liddlesdale and the country adjacent to this day hold the memory of Johnnie Armstrong in very high respect.

*[2] It was long before the Reformation flowed into the secluded valley of the Esk but when it did, the energy of the Borderers displayed itself in the extreme form of their opposition to the old religion. The Eskdale people became as resolute in their covenanting as they had before been in their free-booting the moorland fastnesses of the moss-troopers becoming the haunts of the persecuted ministers in the reign of the second James. A little above Langholm is a hill known as "Peden's View," and the well in the green hollow at its foot is still called "Peden's Well"--that place having been the haunt of Alexander Peden, the "prophet." His hiding-place was among the alder-bushes in the hollow, while from the hill-top he could look up the valley, and see whether the Johnstones of Wester Hall were coming. Quite at the head of the same valley, at a place called Craighaugh, on Eskdale Muir, one Hislop, a young covenanter, was shot by Johnstone's men, and buried where he fell a gray slabstone still marking the place of his rest. Since that time, however, quiet has reigned in Eskdale, and its small population have gone about their daily industry from one generation to another in peace. Yet though secluded and apparently shut out by the surrounding hills from the outer world, there is not a throb of the nation's heart but pulsates along the valley and when the author visited it some years since, he found that a wave of the great Volunteer movement had flowed into Eskdale and the "lads of Langholm" were drilling and marching under their chief, young Mr. Malcolm of the Burnfoot, with even more zeal than in the populous towns and cities of the south.

*[3] The names of the families in the valley remain very nearly the same as they were three hundred years ago--the Johnstones, Littles, Scotts, and Beatties prevailing above Langholm and the Armstrongs, Bells, Irwins, and Graemes lower down towards Canobie and Netherby. It is interesting to find that Sir David Lindesay, in his curious drama published in 'Pinkerton's Scottish Poems' vol. ii., p. 156, gives these as among the names of the borderers some three hundred years since. One Common Thift, when sentenced to condign punishment, thus remembers his Border friends in his dying speech:

"Adew! my bruther Annan thieves,
That holpit me in my mischeivis
Adew! Grosaws, Niksonis, and Bells,
Oft have we fairne owrthreuch the fells:

Adew! Robsons, Howis, and Pylis,
That in our craft hes mony wilis:
Littlis, Trumbells, and Armestranges
Baileowes, Erewynis, and Elwandis,
Speedy of flicht, and slicht of handis
The Scotts of Eisdale, and the Gramis,
I haf na time to tell your nameis."

Telford, or Telfer, is an old name in the same neighbourhood, commemorated in the well known border ballad of 'Jamie Telfer of the fair Dodhead.' Sir W. Scott says, in the 'Minstrelsy,' that "there is still a family of Telfers. residing near Langholm , who pretend to derive their descent from the Telfers of the Dodhead." A member of the family of "Pylis" above mentioned, is said to have migrated from Ecclefechan southward to Blackburn, and there founded the celebrated Peel family.

The Dunstable Northern Bypass opened on May 10th 2017.

The original alignment of the A5 through Milton Keynes is now the V4 and easily recognisable as the old road. It still forms a significant local link in the town, and continues to be referred to as the A5 by local residents, with the current bypass known as the "A5D" (ie: A5 diversion).

The A5 has never run along Watling Street immediately north of Watford Gap, as quicksand in the local area rendered the road impractical for a coach route. A small section of the Roman road was reclaimed in 1959 when the first section of the M1 was built. The A5 mainline was originally a TOTSO to this spur, but was converted into the current roundabout in 1997 when the International Freight Terminal at Daventry was built.

Here are 10 of the people and places celebrated with blue plaques in Shropshire:

Wilfred Owen

One of the great poets of the First World War, Wilfred Owen was born at Plas Wilmot on the outskirts of Oswestry, later moving with his family to 69 Monkmoor Road in Shrewsbury.

Blue plaques on both homes mark his connection to the buildings.

Owen was killed aged 25 just days before the end of the conflict, on 4 November, 1918. News of his death reached his family on Armistice Day. His mother is said to have read the telegram as church bells rang out across Shrewsbury in celebration.

Some of Owen’s best known works include ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ and ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’, though only five of his poems were published before his death.

Captain Matthew Webb

Born in Dawley in 1848, a young Matthew Webb learned to swim in the River Severn at Coalbrookdale. He went on to become the first person to swim the English Channel, on his second attempt in August 1875.

Aged 15 he had saved his 12-year-old brother from drowning, and was later hailed a hero after leaping into the Atlantic to try and rescue a man overboard during his time in the navy.

Webb died aged 35 during an attempt to swim through the Whirlpool Rapids below Niagara Falls.

He is commemorated by a blue plaque put up by Great Dawley Town Council bearing the words ‘Nothing Great is Easy’, while a monument to him also stands in the town centre.

Billy Wright CBE

The first footballer in the world to get 100 international caps grew up in Ironbridge, where a blue plaque was unveiled at his childhood home in New Road last year.

It was the second plaque to be put up in the town honouring Wright, 20 years after the first was installed at 33 Belmont Road, where he was born.

Wright spent his entire career at Wolverhampton Wanderers between 1939 and 1959, and is also commemorated with a statue outside Molineux as well as having a stand named after him.

He made 105 appearances for England, including a record 90 as captain, and managed England’s youth team and later Arsenal after retiring from playing. He died in 1994 aged 70.

Mary Edwards

Mary Edwards was the first female ‘computer’ employed by the Board of Longitude to work on the British Nautical Almanac.

She worked from her home at 4 Brand Lane, Ludlow, where a Ludlow Civic Society blue plaque was installed in 2016.

Mrs Edwards’ husband John worked on the almanac from 1773 until his death in 1784, when it was revealed that she had in fact been doing most of the calculations.

She was employed to continue the work, calculating the position of the sun at different times of the day, and continued until her death in 1815 aged 65.

The minor planet 12627 Maryedwards was named in her honour.

Thomas Telford

Scottish civil engineer and architect Thomas Telford became such a prominent figure in shaping the county that the new town of Telford was named after him.

Telford became Surveyor of Public Works in Shropshire in 1787, and oversaw the renovation of Shrewsbury Castle, the town’s prison, and several churches.

He designed around 40 bridges in the county, and in 1793 was appointed to oversee the construction of the Ellesmere Canal, including designing the Chirk and Pontcysyllte Aqueducts.

Telford died in 1834. A Bridgnorth Civic Society blue plaque was installed at his former home in East Castle Street, while a second plaque on the Corbet Arms in Market Drayton notes Telford’s time staying there in 1832.

St Michael’s Church

Another blue plaque bearing reference to Thomas Telford can be found at St Michael’s Church in Madeley, which he designed.

The plaque, installed by the town council as part of Madeley Town Trail, also pays tribute to Revd. John Fletcher, who is buried in the churchyard.

In the 18th century Fletcher became one of the leading figures of the Methodism movement as a contemporary of its founder, John Wesley.

Other notable graves in the churchyard include that of the ‘Nine Men of Madeley’, who were killed in a mining accident in 1864.

Percy Thrower MBE

Percy Thrower moved to Shrewsbury in 1946 to take up the job of Parks Superintendent for Shrewsbury Borough Council.

His passion for gardening led to a long and successful broadcasting career with the BBC and he became a household name, presenting Gardener’s World and appearing in over 100 episodes of Blue Peter.

He also opened his own garden centre, and wrote several books.

Mr Thrower stayed in his Parks Superintendent post, living at Quarry Lodge, until his retirement in 1974. He died in 1988.

A blue plaque was installed on Quarry Lodge in his honour by Shrewsbury Horticultural Society in 2013, to commemorate the 125th Shrewsbury Flower Show.

Dr William Penny Brookes

It’s hard to believe the modern Olympic Games were inspired by an annual sporting competition in Much Wenlock, organised by town GP Dr William Penny Brookes.

Born and raised at 4 Wilmore Street, a blue plaque honouring Dr Brookes was installed on the building by the Wenlock Olympian Society.

The annual games he started in Much Wenlock in 1850 are still held to this day. The 1890 event welcomed special guest Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who would go on to found the International Olympic Committee and organise the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896.

But Dr Brookes never got to see the result of his efforts, dying just months before the Athens games aged 85.

Longmynd Hotel

The Longmynd Hotel was transformed in 1940 into the headquarters of charity St Dunstan’s – now Blind Veterans UK – which relocated from its base in Brighton during the Second World War and stayed until 1946.

Almost all British servicemen and women blinded in the conflict, around 700, spent time in Church Stretton, where they were trained in new manufacturing skills and learned to live without their sight.

The charity took over other buildings to turn into an eye hospital, accommodation and training workshops. Guiding wires were put down between the Longmynd Hotel and the town centre, so the veterans could find their way unaccompanied.

A blue plaque commemorating this time was installed at the hotel entrance in 2015 as part of the charity’s 100th anniversary celebrations.

It was unveiled by Joan Osborne, whose father was blinded in the First World War and moved the family to Church Stretton to teach Braille to the new arrivals. It was here that Joan met her late husband, blinded Second World War veteran Bob Osborne.

A wooden tablet was presented to the people of Church Stretton from the charity in 1987, and can be found in St Laurence’s Church.

Barbara Pym

Booker-nominated author Barbara Pym is commemorated with a blue plaque on the site of 72 Willow Street in Oswestry, where she was born in 1913. The house was demolished in the 1960s.

Pym penned novels including ‘Some Tame Gazelle’, ‘Excellent Women’ and ‘A Glass of Blessings’ in the 1950s and 60s, but her career was reignited in 1977 when she was twice nominated as the most underrated British writer of the century in the Times Literary Supplement.

A renewed interest in Pym’s work saw the publication of previously rejected novel Quartet in Autumn, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize that year.

She died in 1980 aged 66. A second blue plaque can be found on Barn Cottage in Finstock, Oxfordshire, where Pym lived with her sister from 1972 until her death.

But what about…

Several other notable figures hailing from Shropshire are commemorated with blue plaques elsewhere in the country, though not in their home county.

Eglantyne Jebb, founder of charity Save the Children, was born in Ellesmere in 1876. A blue plaque on the former St Peter’s School in Marlborough marks her time teaching there. It was replaced last year after mistakenly commemorating ‘Eglantyne Mary Jebb’, a younger relative, for 23 years.

Mary Webb was born and raised in the village of Leighton, and rose to prominence as a romantic novelist and poet after her death in 1927. Most of her works are set in south Shropshire. A blue plaque can be seen at her former home in Weston-super-Mare.

Len Murray, Baron Murray of Epping Forest, was a Labour politician and trade union leader, born in Hadley in 1922. He led the TUC through the Winter of Discontent and clashes with the Thatcher government. He was created a life peer in 1985 and died in 2004. A blue plaque was unveiled at his former home in Loughton, Essex, last year.

Menai Heritage

The Thomas Telford Centre, home of the Menai Heritage offices and exhibition, is a former schoolhouse that was refurbished in 2007. In the early 1850s, as the congregation of Porthaethwy/Menai Bridge outgrew the tiny church on Church Island, the well-known Bangor architect Henry Kennedy drew up plans for a new church along with an associated school, yard and schoolmaster’s house, with the church in a commanding position overlooking the entrance to the Menai Bridge. Land was donated by the Marquess of Anglesey, as was funding, and the school opened in 1854.

Initially the school was a simple rectangular building with a small porch on the front. In 1878 an extension was added perpendicular to the back wall to accommodate an infant’s school. A new cloakroom was added in 1896 and the front porch extended in 1909.

The school was part of the National School Movement, which sought to provide elementary education in association with the Established Church, as opposed to the British Schools founded by non-conformists. Initially the syllabus would mainly focus on the Bible and the catechism, but into the 20th century the study of mathematics, literature and geography were added.

The school could accommodate 200 pupils, but rarely was full, particularly after a new British School was built in 1865 in Dale Street. A new Council School built on the corner of the Holyhead and Pentraeth Roads in 1913 further depleted the student numbers. An inspection report in 1921 cast doubt on the suitability of the building for a modern school, although the teaching was considered very good. In 1923, when the headmastership of the Council School was vacant, it was decided to merge the two schools, with the National School’s headmaster George Senogles becoming head of the Council School. On 29 March 1923 the students and teachers parcelled up all their belongings, marched down the road to the new school, then gave three cheers for the old school and three more for the new one.

After 1923 plans were put forward for other uses for the building, including as a police court house, but the original conveyance of the land from the Marquess of Anglesey stipulated that it was to be used for educational purposes. It therefore continued to be used as a Sunday School and parish hall for St. Mary’s church.

Founded in 1997, the Menai Bridge Community Heritage Trust (also known as Menai Heritage) seeks to preserve the historical and architectural heritage of Menai Bridge for the community. These aims were advanced by their purchase of the old National School in 2007, with the generous help of Menter Môn, the National Assembly, the Cemlyn Jones Trust, the Institution of Civil Engineers (Wales) and by Friends of the Trust. It was renamed after the builder of the nearby Menai Suspension Bridge, Thomas Telford.

The Centre has been fully refurbished and now has a new roof and central heating, and has all the requirements for public use, with new toilets and kitchen, a storeroom and room for meetings, lectures and events.Since its purchase, it has become a busy centre for community activities and group and school workshops. The Menai Heritage Exhibition is also housed in this building and is open to the public, telling the story of the building of the two iconic bridges over the Strait and the people involved.

We are currently developing a permanent home for the Exhibition at Princes Pier on the waterfront in Menai Bridge, for the enjoyment of local people and to encourage visitors back to the town of Menai Bridge.

History of Road Development | Roman Road | Tresaguet Construction | Metcalf Construction | Telford Construction | Macadam Construction

History of road development can be studied under the following headings:

History of Road Development

1. Early Development

The oldest mode of travel was on the footpath. Animals were widely used to transport men & materials. Later an invention of wheels resulted in the development of vehicles run by the help of animals. This type of vehicles become the most popular mode of transportation for a very long period.

2. Roman Roads

These roads are developed by the Roman Civilization among which some are still in existence.

Roman roads were built with the stone blocks of considerable thickness.

The main features of the Roman road are:

They were built straight ( with minimal slope or without slope).

They were built after soft soil is removed and a hard status was reached.

The total thickness of the construction was as high as 0.75 m to 1.2 m.

3. Tresaguet Construction

After the fall of the Roman Empire, their technique of road construction didn’t gain popularity in other countries.

Pierre Trezeguet (1716 – 1796 AD) developed several methods of road construction which were considered to be quiet advantageous and meritorious.

The main feature of his proposal was that the thickness of construction needs to be only 30 cm.

Side drainage was also provided in these roads.

4. Metcalf Construction

John Metcalf (1717-1810 AD) was engaged in road construction in England during the period when Trezeguet was working in France.

He followed the recommendations made by Robert Phillips.

Metcalf was responsible for the construction of 290 km of road in northern England.

5. Telford Construction

Thomas Telford (1751 – 1834 AD), the founder of the institution of civil engineers at London began the road construction in the early 19th century.

He believed in using a heavy foundation above the soil subgrade to keep the road foundation formed and also insisted on providing definite cross slope for the top surface of the pavement by varying the thickness of foundation on stones.

He proposed to provide cross drains at an interval of almost of 90m which were usually laid below the foundation level.

6.Macadam Construction

There are different stages of road development. But among all of them, Macadam road is the most successful type of road. Some detail features about macadam road are:

John Macadam (1756 -1836 AD) the surveyor-general of road in England put forward an entirely new method of road construction.

The macadam method is the first method based on scientific thinking.

It realized that the stresses due to wheel load get decrease at the lower layers & so it is not necessary to provide large layer pavement.

The importance of subgrade drainage and compaction was recognized. So the subgrade was compacted and was prepared with across slope (1 in 36 ).

Types of Macadam Road

There are four types of Macadam roads and they are:

In this type, broken stones are bounded with the help of stone dust and water during the construction process.

b.Traffic Bound Macadam

Broken stones or gravels are generally used as a wearing. Multi-layers of stones and gravels are provided in this type.

c.Bituminous Macadam

Bitumen is used as a binding material to bind stone chips and also to bind base and sub-base courses.

d. Cement Macadam

Cement macadam is quite similar to bitumen macadam. Cement is used as a binding material instead of bitumen.

Thomas Telford London to Holyhead Road

Having just read the newspaper report of the high speed rail link between London and Birmingham, with all of it’s attendant arguments for and against, we wondered whether Thomas Telford had to contend with much opposition when he engineered the London to Holyhead road in 1819.

Telford was a prolific engineer, responsible for over one thousand miles of roads and his major achievement was the road that would link London and Holyhead, the gateway to Ireland, via the Menai Straits and Conwy bridges.

The new high speed rail link is deemed necessary to give fast and reliable connections between the centre of the country and the rest of Europe.

The Holyhead London road was deemed necessary to link London with Ireland in the fastest and most reliable way. In fact Telford managed to reduce the journey time from 36 hours in 1808, to 26 hours 35mins in 1836, an amazing feat!

The road carved it’s way through incredibly difficult and beautiful terrain and required the demolition of ancient and beautiful buildings such as the monastic buildings associated with Shrewsbury Abbey.

Look at the Parliamentary Archives for a great piece about Thomas Telford, Engineer, a colossus of roads.

8. Dunkeld Bridge

Dunkeld Bridge over the River Tay, Perthshire.

Striding across the River Tay, Dunkeld Bridge, near the ruins of Dunkeld Cathedral, is a striking sight. It leads into the lovely small town, crossing a river which in spate carries more than twice as much water as the Thames. This was one of the first big bridges Telford built in Scotland and he chose an elegant design in stone. At one end, under the arch, you can find the rusted iron gate of the old town gaol.

Thomas Telford - History

TELFORD, THOMAS, an eminent engineer and constructor of public works, was born about the year 1755, in the parish of Westerkirk in Dumfriesshire. His outset in life was strikingly humble in comparison with its close. He began the world as a working stone-mason in his native parish, and for a long time was only remarkable for the neatness with which he cut the letters upon those frail sepulchral memorials which "teach the rustic moralist to die." His occupation fortunately afforded a greater number of leisure hours than what are usually allowed by such laborious employments, and these young Telford turned in the utmost advantage in his power. Having previously acquired the elements of learning, he spent all his spare time in poring over such volumes as fell within his reach, with no better light in general than what was afforded by the cottage fire. Under these circumstances the powers of his mind took a direction not uncommon among rustic youths he became a noted rhymster in the homely style of Ramsay and Fergusson, and, while still a very young man, contributed verses to Ruddiman’s Weekly Magazine, under the unpretending signature of "Eskdale Tam." In one of these compositions, which was addressed to Burns, he sketched his own character, and hinted his own ultimate fate –

Nor pass the tentie curious lad,
Who o’er the ingle hangs his head,
And begs of neighbours books to read
For hence arise,
Thy country’s sons, who far are spread,
Baith bold and wise.

Though Mr Telford afterwards abandoned the thriftless trade of versifying, he is said to have retained through life a strong "frater-feeling" for the corps, which he showed in a particular manner on the death of Burns, in exertions for the benefit of his family. Having proceeded to London in quest of work, he had the good fortune to be employed under Sir William Chambers in the building of Somerset house. Here his merit was soon discovered by the illustrious architect, and he experienced promotion accordingly. We are unable to detail the steps by which he subsequently placed himself at the head of the profession of engineering but it is allowed on all hands that his elevation was owing solely to his consummate ability and persevering industry, unless we are to allow a share in the process to the singular candour and integrity which marked every step in his career. His works are so numerous all over the island, that there is hardly a county in England, Wales, or Scotland, in which they may not be pointed out. The Menai and Conway bridges, the Caledonian canal, the St Katharine’s docks, the Holyhead roads and bridges, the Highland roads and bridges, the Chirke and Ponteysulte aqueducts, the canals in Salop, and great works in that county, of which he was surveyor for more than half a century, are some of the traits of his genius which occur to us, and which will immortalize the name of Thomas Telford.

The Menai bridge will probably be regarded by the public as the most imperishable monument of Mr Telford’s fame. This bridge over the Bangor ferry, connecting the counties of Caernarvon and Anglesea, partly of stone and partly of iron, on the suspension principle, consists of seven stone arches, exceeding in magnitude every work of the kind in the world. They connect the land with the two main piers, which rise fifty-three feet above the level of the road, over the top of which the chains are suspended, each chain being 1714 feet from the fastenings in the rock. The first three-masted vessel passed under the bridge in 1826. Her topmasts were nearly as high as a frigate, but they cleared twelve feet and a half below the centre of the roadway. The suspending power of the chains was calculated at 2016 tons. The total weight of each chain, 121 tons.

The Caledonian canal is another of Mr Telford’s splendid works, in constructing every part of which, though prodigious difficulties were to be surmounted, he was successful. But even this great work does not redound so much to his credit as the roads throughout the same district. That from Inverness to the county of Sutherland, and through Caithness, made not only, so far as respects its construction, but its direction, under Mr Telford’s orders, is superior in point of line and smoothness, to any part of the road of equal continuous length between London and Inverness. This is a remarkable fact, which, from the great difficulties he had to overcome in passing through a rugged, hilly, and mountainous district, incontrovertibly establishes his great skill in the engineering department, as well as in the construction of great public communications.

Mr Telford was not more remarkable for his great professional abilities than for his sterling worth in private life. His easiness of access, and the playfulness of his disposition, even to the close of life, endeared him to a numerons circle of friends, including all the most distinguished men of his time. For some years before his death, he had withdrawn himself in a great measure from professional employment, and amused his leisure by writing a detailed account of the principal works he had planned, and lived to see executed. He died September 9, 1834, in his seventy-ninth year, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

The Life of Thomas Telford
Civil engineer with an introductory history of roads and travelling in Great Britain
by Samuel Smiles

"Let us travel, and wherever we find no facility for
travelling from a city to a town, from a village to a
hamlet, we may pronounce the people to be barbarous"
--Abbe Raynal

"The opening up of the internal communications of a
country is undoubtedly the first and most important
element of its growth in commerce and civilization"
--Richard Cobden

The present is a revised and in some respects enlarged edition of the 'Life of Telford,' originally published in the 'Lives of the Engineers,' to which is prefixed an account of the early roads and modes of travelling in Britain.

From this volume, read in connection with the Lives of George and Robert Stephenson, in which the origin and extension of Railways is described, an idea may be formed of the extraordinary progress which has been made in opening up the internal communications of this country during the last century.

Among the principal works executed by Telford in the course of his life, were the great highways constructed by him in North Wales and the Scotch Highlands, through districts formerly almost inaccessible, but which are now as easily traversed as any English county.

By means of these roads, and the facilities afforded by railways, the many are now enabled to visit with ease and comfort magnificent mountain scenery, which before was only the costly privilege of the few at the same time that their construction has exercised a most beneficial influence on the population of the districts themselves.

The Highland roads, which were constructed with the active assistance of the Government, and were maintained partly at the public expense until within the last few years, had the effect of stimulating industry, improving agriculture, and converting a turbulent because unemployed population into one of the most loyal and well-conditioned in the empire-- the policy thus adopted with reference to the Highlands, and the beneficial results which have flowed from it, affording the strongest encouragement to Government in dealing in like manner with the internal communications of Ireland.

While the construction of the Highland roads was in progress, the late Robert Southey, poet laureate, visited the Highlands in company with his friend the engineer, and left on record an interesting account of his visit, in a, manuscript now in the possession of Robert Rawlinson, C.E., to whom we are indebted for the extracts which are made from it in the present volume.


Chapter I. Old Roads
Roads as agents of civilization, Their important uses, Ancient British trackways or ridgeways, The Romans and their roads in Britain, Decay of the Roman roads, Early legislation relating to highways, Roads near London, The Weald of Kent, Great Western roads, Hollow ways or lanes, Roads on Dartmoor, in Sussex, at Kensington.

Chapter II. Early Modes of Conveyance
Riding on horseback the ancient mode of traveling, Shakespear's description of travelling in 'Henry IV.', Queen Elizabeth and her coach, Introduction of coaches or waggons, Painful journeys by coach, Carriers in reign of James I, Great north Road in reign of Charles I, Mace's description of roads and travellers stage-coaches introduced, Sobriere's account of the Dover stage-coach, Thoresby's account of stage-coaches and travelling, Roads and travelling in North Wales, Proposal to suppres stage-coaches, Tediousness and discomforts of travelling by coach, Pennant's account of the Chester and London stage, Travelling on horseback preferred, The night coach, Highway robbers and foot-pads, Methods of transport of the merchandize pack-horse convoys, Traffic between lancashire and Yorkshire, Signs of the pack-horse.

Chapter III. Influence of Roads on Society
Restricted intercourse between districts, Local dialects and customs thereby preserved, Camden's fear of travelling into the barbarous regions of the North, Rev. Mr Brome's travels in England, Old Leisure, Imperfect postal communication, Hawkers and pedlars, Laying in stores for winter, Household occupations, Great fairs of ancient times, Local fairs, Fair on Dartmoor, Primitive manners of Dartmoor District.

Chapter IV. Roads in Scotland last centuary
Poverty of Scotland, Backwardness of agriculture, Idleness of the people, Andrew Flecher's description of Scotland, Slavery of colliers and salters, Improvements in agriculture opposed, Low wages of the labouring population, State of the Lothians and Ayrshire, Wretched states of the roads, Difficulty of communication between districts, Coach started between Edinburgh and Glasgow, Carrier's perils between Edinburgh and Selkirk, Dangers of travelling in Galloway, Lawlessness of the Highlands, Picking and lifting of cattle, Ferocity of population on the Highland Border, Ancient civilization of Scotland.

Chapter V. Travelling in England last century
Progress made in travelling by coach, Fast coaches established, Bad state of the roads, Foreigners' accounts of travelling in England, Herr Moritz's journey by the basket coach, Arthur Young's description of English roads, Palmer's mail coaches introduced, The first 'Turnpike' roads, Turnpike riots, The rebellion of 1745, Passing of numerous highway Acts, Road-making thought beneath the dignity of the engineer.

Chapter VI. John Metcalf, road-maker
Metcalf's boyhood, His blindness, His boldness, Becomes a Musician, His travels, Journey on foot from London to Harrogate, Joins the army as musician in the rebellion of 1745, Adventures in Scotland, Becomes travelling merchant and horse dealer, Begins road-making, Builds a bridge, His extensive road contracts in Yorkshire and Lancashire, Manner of making his surveys, His skill in road-making, His last road--his death, Roads in the south of England, Want of roads on Lincoln Heath, Land lighthouses, Dunstan pillar, Rapid improvement in the roads, Application of steam, Sydney Smith on improved facilities of communication.


Chapter I. Eskdale
Eskdale, Langholm, Former lawlessness of the Border population, Jonnie Armstrong, Border energy, Westerkirk, Telford's birthplace, Glendinning, Valley of the Meggat, The 'unblameable shepherd', Telford's mother, Early years, Laughing Tam, Put to school, His school-fellows.

Chapter II. Langholm--Telford a Stonemason
Telford apprenticed to a stonemason, Runs away, Re-apprenticed to a mason at Langholm, Building operations in the district, Miss Pasley lends books to young Telford, Attempt to write poetry, Becomes village letter-writer, Works as a journeyman mason, Employed on Langholm Bridge, Manse of Westerkirk, Poem of 'Eskdale', Hews headstones and doorheads, Works as a mason at Edinburgh, Study of architecture, Revisits Eskdale, His ride to London.

Chapter III. Arrives in London
Telford a working man in London, Obtains employment as a mason at Somerset House, Correspondence with Eskdale friends, Observations on his fellow-workman, Propses to begin business, but wants money, Mr. Pulteney, Becomes foreman of builders at Portsmouth Dockyard, Continues to write poetry, Employment of his time, Prints letters to his mother.

Chapter IV. Becomes Surveyor for the County of Salop
Superintends repairs of Shrewsbury Castle, Appointed Surveyor for County of Salop, Superintends erection of new gaol, Interview with John Howard, His studies in science and literature, Poetical exercises, Fall of St. Chad's Church, Shrewsburg, Discovery of the Roman city of Uriconium, Overseer of felons, Mrs. Jordan at Shrewsbury, Telford's indifference to music, Politics, Paine's 'Rights of Man', Reprints his poem of 'Eskdale'.

Chapter V. Telford's First Employment as an Engineer
Advantages of mechanical training to an engineer, Erects Montford Bridge, Erects St. Mary Magdalen Church, Bridgenorth, Telford's design, Architectural tour, Bath, Studies in British Museum, Oxford, Birmingham, Study of architecture, Appointed Engineer to the Ellesmere Canal.

Chapter VI. The Ellesmere Canal
Course of the Ellesmire Canal, Success of the early canals, The Act obtained and working survey made, Chirk Aqueduct, Pont-Cysylltau Aqueduct, Telford's hollow walls, His cast iron trough at Pont-Cysylltau, The canal works completed, Revists Eskdale, Early impressions corrected, Tours in Wales, Conduct of Ellesmere Canal navigation, His literary studies and compositions.

Chapter VII. Iron and other Bridges
Use of iron in bridge-building, Design of a Lyons architect, First iron bridge erected at Coalbrookdale, Tom paine's iron bridge, Wear iron bridge, Sunderland, Telford's iron bridge at Buildwas, His iron lock-gates and turn-bridges, Projects a one-arched bridge of iron over the Thames, Bewdley stone bridge, Tougueland Bridge, Extension of Telford's engineering buisness, Literary friendships, Thomas Campbell, Miscellaneous reading.

Chapter VIII. Highland Roads and Bridges
Progress of Scotch agriculture, Romilly's account, State of the Highlands, Want of roads, Use of the Caschrom, Emigration, Telford's survey of Scotland, Lord Cockburn's account of the difficulties of travelling, the North Circuit, Parliamentary Commission of Highland Roads and Bridges appointed, Dunkeld Bridge built, 920 miles of new roads constructed, Craigellachie Bridge, Travelling facilitated, Agriculture improved, Moral results of Telford's Highland contracts, Rapid progress of the Lowlands, Results of parish schools.

Chapter IX. Telford's Scotch Harbours
Highland harbours, Wick and Pulteney Town, Columnar pier work, Peterhead Harbour, Frazerburgh Harbour, Bannf Harbour, Old history of Aberdeen, its witch-burning and slave-trading, Improvements of its harbour, Telford's design carried out, Dundee Harbour.

Chapter X. Caledonian and other Canals
Canal projected through the Great Glen of the Highlands, Survey by James Watt, Survey by Telford, Tide-basin at Corpach, Neptune's Staircase, Dock at Clachnaharry, The chain of lochs, Construction of the works, Commercial failure of the canal, Telford's disappointment, Glasgow and Ardrossan Canal, Weaver Navigation, Gotha Canal, Sweden, Gloucester and Berkeley, and other canals, Harecastle Tunnel, Birmingham Canal, Macclesfield Canal, Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal, Telford's pride in his canals.

Chapter XI. Telford as a road-maker
Increase of road-traffic, Improvement of the main routes between the principal towns, Carlisle and Glasgow road, Telford's principles of road-construction, Macadam, Cartland Crags Bridge, Improvement of the London and Edinburgh post road, Communications with Ireland, Wretched state of the Welsh roads, Telford's survey of the Shrewsbury and Holyhead road, Its construction, Roads and railways, London and Shrewsbury post road, Roads near London, Coast road, North Wales.

Chapter XII. The Menai and Conway Bridges
Bridges projected over the Menai Straits, Telford's designs, Ingenious plan of suspended centering, Design of a suspension bridge over the Mersey at Runcorn, Design of suspension bridge at Menai, The works begun, The main piers, The suspension chains, Hoisting of the first main chain, Progress of the works to completion, The bridge formally opened, Conway Suspension Bridge.

Chapter XIII. Docks, Drainage, and Bridges
Resume of English engineering, General increase in trade and population, The Thames, St. Katherine's Docks, Tewkesburg Bridge, Gloucester Bridge, Dean Bridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow Bridge, Telford's works of drainage in the Fens, The North Level, The Nene Outfall, Effects of Fen drainage.

Chapter XIV. Southey's tour in the Highlands
Southey sets out to visit the Highlands in Telford's company, Works at Dundee Harbour, Bervie Harbour, Mitchell and Gibbs, Aberdeen Harbour, Approach to Banff, Cullen Harbour, The Forres road, Beauly Bridge, Bonar Bridge, Fleet Mound, Southey's description of the Caledonian Canal and works, John Mitchell, Takes leave of Telford, Results of Highland road-making.

Thomas Telford is Born

Today in Masonic History Thomas Telford is born in 1757.

Thomas Telford was a Scottish architect and engineer.

Telford was born on August 9th, 1757 in Glendinning, Scotland. His father passed away when he was only a few months old. He was raised in poverty by his mother. At the age of 14 he was apprenticed to a stonemason. Some of his earlies works can still be seen on the bridge across the River Esk in Langholm.

By the age of 25 Telford had moved to London and had gained new skill as an architect, despite being self-taught. He was able to get jobs designing and managing various building projects.

In 1787 Telford became the Surveyor of Public Works in Shropshire. At the time civil engineering was virtually unheard of, so he worked establishing his reputation as an architect. His reputation was cemented locally in 1788 when he was called to consult about a leaky roof on the local church. He warned that the church was in imminent danger of collapse. Three days later the church collapsed. As the Surveyor of Public Works, Telford was in charge of various projects, mostly involving bridges.

In 1793, Telford&rsquos reputation in Shropshire led to him being appointed to oversee several canal constructions around Scotland. In 1801 he devised a master plan to improve communication across the Scottish Highlands. This included roads, canals, harbors bridges and churches. The project lasted 20 years.

In 1806, Telford was asked to help design a canal by the King of Sweden. He traveled to Sweden to oversee some of the larger excavations for the project. He would in 1821, become a foreign elected member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

In his later years, Telford worked on the Colossus Road, a road that stretched from London to Holyhead. Much of the road would become the A5. He would also design the &lsquoTelford Church&rsquo. In 1823 an act of Parliament provided £50,000 for the construction of churches around Scotland. The structures could not cost more than £1,500 each. Telford designed a church that could be built for around £750. Of the 43 that were planned, 32 were built.

In 2011, Telford was one of seven inaugural inductees to the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame.

Watch the video: Thomas Telford UTC Admissions 2021