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Thomas Telford Passes Away

Today in Masonic History Thomas Telford passes away in 1834.

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’s 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 ‘Telford Church’. 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.

Telford passed away on September 2nd, 1834.

Telford was a member of Salopian Lodge No. 262 in Shropshire, Scotland.