Telford, Thomas (1757–1834)
Civil engineer and architect. The son of a shepherd from Eskdale, Dumfriesshire, he was apprenticed to a stonemason at the age of fourteen and taught himself how to design and manage building projects. Telford made his name as Surveyor of Public Works in Shropshire, where he built the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct over the River Dee (1805). His largest project, which he co-ordinated from 1803 onwards, was a plan to improve communications in the Highlands of Scotland, including the Caledonian Canal, 920 miles of new roads, over 1,000 new bridges and many harbour improvements. He also designed the Menai Suspension Bridge (1819–1826). Southey inspected the Caledonian Canal and other Highland improvements with Telford and Rickman in 1819 and greatly admired Telford’s work – he wrote three ‘Inscriptions’ for the Caledonian Canal and praised Telford in his New Year’s Ode for 1823. Telford left Southey a legacy in his Will and asked him to write his biography. Southey did not fulfill this commission, possibly because of his own failing health.