Catalogue description The Telford Papers

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Title: The Telford Papers

This correspondence, which presumably represents only a small part of Telford's working papers, containing approx. 1,000 items plus another 313 items fort the Edinburgh & Glasgow Union Canal and includes a number of groups relating to major projects with which Telford was involved, which are of considerable interest in themselves, and for illustrating the way in which Telford worked.


The largest of these groups is that relating to the Gotha Canal in Sweden, connecting the Baltic and the North Sea through Lake Wenern. Telford submitted a report on its feasibility and supervised from afar, sending British workmen, instruments and tools to Sweden, in close collaboration with Count Baltzar von Platen, the Swedish statesman, who features largely in the correspondence. Von Platen from time to time comments in detail on the progress of the work, and the importance of British workmen and technical 'know how' to the project is clearly evident from his letters.


Two major road improvements in the United Kingdom are represented by correspondence relating to the Holyhead and South Wales road surveys, both being concerned with Irish communications, for Holyhead, and the steam packet service from Milford Haven. The former route involved the Conway and Menai Suspension Bridges, the latter bridge being referred to in several dozen letters.


Telford's involvement with the developing railway, when the steam locomotive was in its infancy, is represented by four groups of papers. MSS. relating to London Bridge (the project of 1800 and the bridge opened in 1831, which is currently being replaced) also show Telford working on the boundaries of contemporary knowledge and practice with his proposal for a 600' span cast iron bridge (for which the expense of high level approaches proved a stumbling block). There are a number of letters in 1801 from men of science and practical experience (such as Charles Bage, the pioneer in cast-iron framing for buildings) in reply to Telford's request for their opinions on his proposed cast iron bridge, which illustrate the growing 'mastery of materials' An Illustrated History of Civil Engineering, J. M. P. Pannell, Thames & Hudson. 1964. Which was a vital factor in the development of industry and civil engineering from the late 18th century onwards.


As well as illuminating some of Telford's many professional activities and his methods of working, these papers also throw some light on the often elusive careers of craftsmen, surveyors and engineers engaged in the various works under Telford's supervision. They are supplemented by further material in the Institution's Library noticed in an Appendix. The Commission's thanks are due to the Institution of Civil Engineers for making these papers available for listing and research and to Mr. H. C. Richardson, the Institution's Librarian, for his co-operation.


Birmingham & Liverpool Rail Road


Gloucester & Berkeley Canal & Stone Bridge


Gotha Canal, Sweden


Holyhead Road


Huddersfield Canal


Liverpool & Manchester Railway


London Bridge Project (& Port of London)


London - Liverpool Railway Project


Moreton-in-the Marsh Railway


Newcastle - Carlisle Communications


Scotland : Miscellaneous Projects


Shaftesbury - Honiton Road


South Wales Road Survey


Thames & Medway Canal


Trent & Mersey Navigation




Telford papers volume Edinburgh & Glasgow Union Canal

Date: 1772-1853
Related material:

Amongst the bound Telford MSS. in the Library of the Institution of Civil Engineers the following should particularly be noted :




1810-30 Vol. I Bridges


1810-30 Vol.II Canals, Railways


MS. vol. 'Catalogue of Maps, Plans and Papers of the late Thomas Telford Esqr. as bequeathed to the Institution of Civil Engineers 1834'


[Arrangement of above vols. by Wm. Pole (D.N.B.) ? See Hove Central Library Autograph Collection : Pole 55 : ltr. from Chas. Manby, 20 Nov 1843. NRA 10102]




Tabulated thus :


Serial No. Subject of drwg. Exact descrptn. Type (e.g. Drawing or Engraving)


[Right-hand page] Manner of disposal Destination Remarks [usu. none]


Examples, Vol.2 :


2078 Drain Section of New Proposed Marshland Drain Drawing Destroy


2079 Harbour Plan of a Steam Boat Harbour with the Suspension Roadway proposed to be constructed on the Northern Shore of the Estuary of the Dee ... By Thos. Telford 1822.


Drawing Telford Bequest Offered to Chester C.C. 30.11.06


Sent 11.12.06




1822-23 Surveys/work in progress : Nene Outfall;


Bude Canal; [Royston-Newcastle Road];


Seaham Harbour; etc.


Reverse order : S. Wales [Road] Survey.




At one end : architectural memoranda.


At other end : notes on work, 1808 : Aberdeen Canal; Ballater; Gotha Canal [mainly]; Corpach.




Extracts from works on architecture. Contents :


"1. Some Remarks on the Churches of the Saxons


2. State of Architecture from the Norman Conquest to the Reign of Henry the 8th


3. Dimensions of Cathedrals" and other papers.


MS. VOL. CANAL OF BURGUNDY (from Perronet's works)




Estimates, memoranda, etc.


Ink & wash elevations, sections : bridges, locks, equipment, incl. : tipping wagons, timber carriages , horse stages, windlasses, etc.


Also : ink & wash cross-sections : Runcorn Bridge.




1828-32 2 vols. of bound corres., reports, etc. Correspondents include : J. Jardine; John Learmouth; J. Gillespie Graham; Jas. Hope; Chas. Atherton; J. Gibb.




1824 Mail Road Edinburgh - Morpeth through Berwick.




1830 Mar - 1831 Nov Copy ltr. books of Joseph Mitchell (ltrs. to Telford, contractors, etc.) (3 vols.)


1831 Nov-1833 Apr Presented to the I.C.E. by W. Paterson, Dist. Engineer, L.M.S., Glasgow, Dec 1946 [corres. re presentation loose in Vol.1].


1833 Apr-1834 Nov


MS. REPORT 'For the Board of Agriculture on Mills'


Pagination : 180-199 (copies of 3 letters) followed by pp.1-179 [signed Thos. Telford Shrewsbury March 1790]


Deals with water, wind, horse, hand, dressing, threshing, etc., mills. Illus. with engravings and w. original ink & wash diagrams [some by Wm. Jones]. [Awaiting rebinding]


MS. POCKET NOTEBOOK : on cover 'Runcorn Bridge'


[1814-17] Includes details of chain experiments, Brunton's Manufactury; and copy ltr. from Thos. Stanton, 24 Mar 1814. [Wm. Brunton, DNB, presumably]




1. Rpt. of W. Jessop, engr., on present navig. state of Severn (1784).


2. Rpt. of same, on means of improving navig. (1784).


3. Freeholder's ltr. to landowners re Severn improvement and horse-towing.


4. Observations by Navigator (1788).


5. Rpt. of Josh. Nickalls, engr., on effects of locks (1786).


6. Gen. effect of [Groynes].


7. Extract of ltr. from Rbt. Mylne (1790).


8. J. & E. Troughton, instrument makers, Fleet St. : orig. invoice, 2 Aug 1799, to T. for level with achromatic telescope [pinned to page].


Orig. ltr. from Edward B. Smith, Engineer's Office, Huddersfield Canals, L.N.W.R., to Jas. Forrest, 22 Jun 1885 : presenting document [invoice or volume ?] to I.C.E. [Bound in.]


MS. VOL. OF TECHNICAL NOTES [possibly T.'s].

Held by: Institution of Civil Engineers, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Telford, Thomas, 1757-1834, scientist and civil engineer

Physical description: 1308 files approx
  • Civil engineering
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