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Audlem canal builder's 250th anniversary today

9th August 2007 @ 7:07am – by Audlem Webteam
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(The website link that was here no longer works) Today is the 250th anniversary of Thomas Telford, born on 9th August 1757, and the man who put Audlem on the canal map with his construction of what is now the Shropshire Union Canal, his last major project before his death in 1835.

In 1787, at the age of thirty, he became responsible for Public Works in Shropshire. Civil engineering was still in its infancy, yet he renovated Shrewsbury Castle, the town's prison, the church in Bridgnorth and was responsible for the construction of forty bridges in Shropshire.

In 1793 he designed and constructed the Ellesmere Canal, including the spectacular Pontcysyllte Aqueduct over the River Dee near Chirk, one of the highlights of the canal network to this day. Other projects involved the water supply works for Liverpool, improvements to London's docklands and the rebuilding of London Bridge in 1800. Scottish projects included the Caledonian Canal and the redesign of sections of the Crinan Canal, a staggering 920 miles of new roads, over a thousand new bridges, numerous harbour improvements and 32 new churches. He was a busy man!

Telford was consulted in 1806 about the construction of a canal between Gothenburg and Stockholm, now the Göta Canal, began in 1810. Later, he was responsible for rebuilding sections of the London to Holyhead road, including the iron bridge at Betws-y-Coed, and most famously the Menai Suspension Bridge to Anglesey. He also built the suspension bridge at Conwy, opened the same year as its Menai counterpart.

He started work on the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal, today part of the Shropshire Union Canal, in May 1826 which was finished after Telford's death in January 1835. This canal followed a new principle laid down by Telford of following as near a straight line as possible, using locks and embankments, best shown in Audlem with its fifteen locks. Previously, canals had followed the contours, were therefore much longer and took more time to navigate. His was an amazing career and his work is still much admired to this day, in Audlem as elsewhere in Shropshire, Scotland, Sweden and wherever his works still survive.


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