Thomas Telford

Thomas Telford was ICE's first president and is famous for building roads, bridges and canals.

Thomas Telford (1757 to 1834)
Thomas Telford (1757 to 1834)

In his lifetime, Telford constructed over 1,000 miles of highway and was nicknamed ‘the Colossus of Roads’.

The London to Holyhead road was among his most well-known projects and included the Menai Suspension Bridge. This was the longest suspension bridge of its time, spanning 180 metres across the Menai Strait, to link North Wales with the island of Anglesey.

Telford is also famous for his work in the county of Shropshire. In the early part of his career, he was appointed Shropshire’s Surveyor of Public Works, and renovated many castles, prisons and churches. He then went on to build no fewer than 40 bridges in Shropshire – among these was his first iron bridge, which crossed the River Severn at Buildwas.

With his reputation growing, Telford was asked to build the Ellesmere Canal, which involved constructing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct across the River Dee. Not only was the aqueduct spectacular to look at, it was also designed using new techniques. For example, Telford had to come up with a fresh way to seal connections to its iron plates, so he using boiling sugar and lead.

Telford’s achievements led to him being appointed president of the newly formed Institution of Civil Engineers in 1820 – a post he held until his death 14 years later.

In 1968 a new town in Shropshire was named after Telford to recognise his work in the county. ICE's sister company, which provides specialist products and services for the civil engineering and construction industries, is also called Thomas Telford (Ltd).

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