James Brindley
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JAMES BRINDLEY (1716–1772)
CIVIL AND MECHANICALENGINEER.


 

Ed.—in this online transcription of Smiles's 'Brindley', I have added a number of images to those originally published, mainly to illustrate Brindley's work as it exists today.  Additional images are listed separately in the Index at the bottom of this page.  I have also added the captions and footnotes prefixed "Ed."

Readers interested in the history of canal transport might also wish to read the e-book . . . .


THE GRAND JUNCTION CANAL ― A HIGHWAY LAID WITH WATER


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PREFACE
__________

 

THE present book is for the most part a reproduction, in a cheaper and more compact form, of the Life of James Brindley originally published in the 'Lives of the Engineers.'  It is offered to the public as a companion volume to the 'Story of the Life of George Stephenson,'—the characters and achievements of the two men being in many respects alike, the one having accomplished for Canals in England what the other did for Railways.

    The volume also includes memoirs of the earlier engineers, more particularly Sir Cornelius Vermuyden, Sir Hugh Myddelton, and Captain Perry; whose works of drainage, water supply, and embankment, were amongst the wonders of their time.

    The memoir of Pierre-Paul Riquet—by some styled "The French Brindley"—constructor of the Grand Canal of Languedoc, is appended, as prepared for the French edition of 'Self-Help.'


LONDON, October, 1864.


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CONTENTS.


CHAPTER I.

INTRODUCTORY.


Labour and skill have made modern England—Early settlement of Britain — Early works of embankment and draining — Reclamation of Romney Marsh — Early embankments of the Thames — Great Level of the Fens — Laws for preserving the reclaimed lands — Destructive floods —James I. encourages drainage works — Cornelius Vermuyden, the Dutch engineer, employed by king James — England's dependence upon foreigners in former times —England's progress in engineering and manufacturing skill.



CHAPTER II.

SIR CORNELIUS VERMUYDEN—DRAINAGE OF THE FENS.


Vermuyden's embankment and drainage works at Dagenham and Windsor — The Isle. of Axholme — Reclamation of Hatfield Chase — The works carried out by foreign capital and foreign labour —Opposition of the native population — The embankments broken by the Parliamentarians—Vermuyden undertakes the drainage of the Great Fen Level—Francis Earl of Bedford becomes chief undertaker — Opposition of the Fen-men and of the town population — Satirical songs and ballads against the Fen-drainers — "The Powte's Complaint" — Oliver Cromwell heads an agitation against the Fen-drainers — The Fen-men destroy the works and property at Lindsey Level and other Fen districts — Vermuyden's "discourse" on the drainage of the Fens, 1649 — Works completed, 1652 — Public thanksgiving — Vermuyden's labours, personal sacrifices, and death — Progressive improvements in the Fen district — Salubrity of the Fens.



CHAPTER III.

SIR HUGH MYDDELTON — CUTTING OF THE NEW RIVER.


Old London, its water supply by streams and conduits — Defective supply in London and in other towns — Water-works at Hull and Tiverton — Plymouth leet constructed by Sir Francis Drake —The Myddelton family— Hugh entered an apprentice Goldsmith — London in the 16th century—Myddelton as Goldsmith, Merchant Adventurer and Cloth-maker — His marriage — Is first alderman of Denbigh— Appointed afterwards recorder and M.P. — Appointed a member of committees on water supply of London — Difficulty in finding an engineer — Myddelton undertakes the work — The New River —Hostility of owners of property — King James assists Myddelton in the completion of the work — Public ceremony on the opening of the New River — Benefits of the increased' water supply —The water carriers— Formation of the New River Company.



CHAPTER IV.

SIR HUGH MYDDELTON (continued) —His OTHER ENGINEERING AND MINING WORKS—HIS DEATH.


Brading Haven — Its reclamation undertaken by Myddelton — Myddelton arranges with King James — Takes out patent for draining land —Sir John Oglander's account of the circumstances connected with the reclamation — Failure of the works — Hugh and Thomas Myddelton as Members of Parliament — Hugh's connection with Wales—Mines Royal Company of Cardiganshire —Their mines unsuccessfully worked — Myddelton farms the mines — Is made a baronet by King James — The king confirms the lease of the mines- and waives claim to royalty — Myddelton's mining works—Their valuable produce — Myddelton's residence at Lodge Park —Invited to execute reclamation works at Gwydir — Letter to Sir John Wynn — Sir Hugh's death — His will — His character.



CHAPTER V.

CAPTAIN PERRY — STOPPAGE OF DAGENHAM BREACH.


Breaches in the Thames embankments between London and Greenwich —between Plumstead and Erith — Inundations on the north shore —Great breach at Dagenham — Futile attempts to stem the breach — Navigation of the river obstructed — Boswell, a contractor, attempts to stop the breach, and fails — Captain John Perry — His early career as a sailor — Employed by the Czar Peter of Russia to superintend a canal from St. Petersburg to the Caspian Sea — Perry is appointed comptroller of Russian maritime works — Surveys canal route from St. Petersburg to the Volga — Quits Russia without pay or reward for his services — Undertakes the stoppage of Dagenham breach on the Thames — Description of his process — Opposition of Boswell — Confidence of the Parliamentary Committee — The works continued by Perry; their completion — Gigantic traffic of the Thames — Extent of the embankments — Perry a loser by his contract — His employment as surveyor of harbours and in directing works of reclamation and drainage —His death.



CHAPTER VI.

JAMES BRINDLEY — THE BEGINNING OF CANAL NAVIGATION.


Insignificant trade of England in the last century —Defective state of road and river communication — Modes and cost of inland carriage— —Natural advantages for communication by rivers and canals — England behind Holland, France, and Russia — Isolated efforts — John Trew's Canal at Exeter — Francis Matthew's project of a Canal from London to Bristol — Andrew Yarranton's schemes — Want of money for great engineering works —Aire and Calder Navigation — The Mersey and Irwell, the Weaver, Douglas, and Sankey Navigations in Lancashire and Cheshire — Beginning of artificial Canals in England — James Brindley — His Birth and Birthplace — Macclesfield, its trade — The "Flash Men" and Broken Cross gangs — Brindley's Croft — His Parentage — Boyhood —Apprenticed to a Millwright — Importance of the Millwright's position and craft — Brindley, though neglected, successfully repairs a silk-mill—His His excellent work — Brindley successfully erects machinery fora paper-mill — Takes charge of his Master's business— Begins business for himself at Leek.



CHAPTER VII.

BRINDLEY AS MASTER WHEELWRIGHT AND MILLWRIGHT.


Various nature of Brindley's employment — His ingenuity gets him the name of "The Schemer" — His memoranda books — His employment by Earl Gower at Trentham — Flint introduced in Pottery manufacture — Brindley makes improved flint-mills — Employed by the brothers Wedgwood—John E. Heathcote, of Clifton Colliery, employs Brindley to drain his drowned mines — Brindley succeeds where others failed — Low remuneration for skilled labour — Brindley employed in fitting up a silk-mill at Congleton —His habits of observation and fertility of resources — His improvements in machinery for silk manufacture — Employed on mills, machines, and pumps at the Potteries — His original contrivances — Improved mill for Wedgwood, at Burslem — Suggests flint grinding in water— Success of the process — Improves the steam-engine—Erects an engine at Fenton Vivian—Its working and cost — His engine patent —Erects steam-engine successfully at Walker Colliery, Newcastle.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE DUKE OF BRIDGEWATER — BRINDLEY EMPLOYED AS ENGINEER OF HIS CANAL.


Attempts at improved inland navigation in Lancashire, Cheshire, and Yorkshire — Acts passed in 1737 and 1755 — Worsley Brook to the Irwell, Sankey Brook to the Mersey — The Sankey Canal — Canal from the Trent to the Mersey — Brindley makes survey for Earl Gower — Engaged by the Duke of Bridgewater for the Worsley Canal — The Duke's birth and parentage — Neglected in his early years — He travels abroad accompanied by Mr. Robert Wood — Return to England and sporting career — The young Duke's love affair with Miss Gunning—His disappointment and retirement to Worsley—Manchester and Liverpool in the last century, their extent, trade, and manufactures — State of the roads about Manchester and elsewhere —Scarcity of food from the badness of the roads — Bad, roads and dear coals — The Mersey and Irwell, bad navigation — The Duke of Bridgewater's project to make a water road from his collieries at Worsley to Manchester — Act obtained in 1759 — John and Thomas Gilbert — Brindley introduced to the Duke — Brindley's new survey and plans — Execution of the Canal — The Barton Aqueduct pronounced "a castle in the air" — Description of the Aqueduct and other works — Trafford Moss — Subterraneous Canal at Worsley — Brindley's mechanical and other contrivances — The range and fertility of his genius — Valuable uses of the Canal when finished.



CHAPTER IX.

EXTENSION OF THE DUKE'S CANAL TO THE MERSEY.


Brindley's survey from Stretford to the Mersey — Importance of communication between Manchester and Liverpool — Growth of Liverpool — Decay of Chester — Liverpool coaches, 1726 to 1750 — The Duke's project of a Manchester and Liverpool Canal — Brindley's survey —Extract from diary — Brindley in London — "At the play" — Opposition to the Duke's project — Brindley as witness for the Bill —His model and explanation of "puddling" — Canal lock described —Brindley's powers with chalk — The Manchester and Liverpool Canal authorised — Brindley's capital idea of long level reaches and concentration of locks — Continued but bootless opposition of the Old Quay Navigation and the landowners — Importance of the Duke's scheme — Sketch of the works, and Brindley's contrivances — Sale Moor Moss — Steam engine and pump at Dunham — "The Duke's folly" — Brindley's floating workshops — Provision against outbursts of the banks — Attention to details — Rate of wages paid to workmen — Entries in diary — Brindley's training of workmen — Their trade secrets — Lawrence Earnshaw — Number of men employed on the Canal — Brindley's bold idea of a bridge across the tideway of the Mersey — The Duke's Dock at Liverpool.



CHAPTER X.

THE DUKE'S DIFFICULTIES — COMPLETION OF THE CANAL —GROWTH OF MANCHESTER.


The Duke's straits for money—Great extent and cost of the under- taking — His bravery and perseverance — Worsley Old Hall — His shifts to pay the workmen on Saturday nights — Alleged to be "drowned in debt" — Anecdote of the Duke, Brindley, and Gilbert in committee on ways and means — Gilbert and the highwayman —The Duke obtains loans from Child and Co., Bankers, London — The level portion of Canal finished 1767, and the Runcorn Locks 1773 —Extensive coal workings at Worsley — Cost of the Canal from Worsley to Manchester, and from Longford Bridge to Runcorn — Cost of water-carriage reduced one-half — Brindley's insignificant remuneration —Disputes between the Duke and Brindley —The Duke's personal interest in his canals, coal-mines, and mills — Personal traits and anecdotes of the Duke — His business habits — Care for his work-people —Visits to Trentham — Fondness for Worsley — Visit of Fulton — Resolved to have steam-boats for his canals — His manners and habits — The Bridgewater Gallery — His death, character, and public services — Benefits of his Canal to Manchester and Liverpool and the district — Extraordinary growth of Manchester.



CHAPTER XI.

BRINDLEY CONSTRUCTS THE GRAND TRUNK CANAL.


Canal to connect the Mersey with the Trent —Brindley employed as engineer — Survey of Staffordshire Canal — Earl Gower and the Earl of Stamford promoters of canals — Desire of the manufacturers for water-communication — The earthenware and salt manufactures —Expense of land-carriage by pack-horses — Sketch of the potteries district and population — Josiah Wedgwood — His energy and enterprise in manufactures—Promotes improved means of communication — Supports Brindley's Grand Trunk Canal — Public support — The opposition to the scheme — Timidity of promoters — Vested interests preserved — Sketch of the route of the Grand Trunk — The Act obtained — First sod cut by Josiah Wedgwood — Great rejoicings — Wedgwood's works at Etruria — Extent of the Grand Trunk —Dimensions, aqueducts, Harecastle Tunnel — Difficulties conquered, and tunnel finished — Description of Brindley and his works —Benefits conferred by the Canal — New branches of industry opened up — Moral and social influences of
Canals — Wesley's testimony.



CHAPTER XII.

BRINDLEY'S LAST CANAL — HIS DEATH AND CHARACTER.


Brindley's idea of the use of rivers — His ideas of the Grand Trunk realised — The Wolverhampton, the Coventry, the Birmingham, the Droitwich, and the Oxford Canals — Brindley's plans the ground-work for future measures — The Birmingham Canal — Matthew Boulton and Josiah Wedgwood its promoters — Brindley's level lengths —Canal between Chesterfield and the Trent—Extent of Canals laid out by Brindley — His educational disadvantages — His work not duly appreciated in his own day — Other Canal projects on which Brindley was consulted — The Leeds and Liverpool, its great extent and importance — Brindley's survey of the Thames — Consulted as to drainage in Lincolnshire — His pupils — Wide range of Brindley's employments and engineering skill — His private life — His strange courtship and marriage — His home at Turnhurst — Colliery at Golden Hill — Illness and death — Characteristics — Mechanical genius — His studies in bed — His private character — Influence of Brindley's Canals on the enterprise and speculation of the time—Extent of the Canal system in Great Britain and Ireland — Canal traffic — Canals and Railways.



APPENDIX.

PIERRE-PAUL RIQUET, CONSTRUCTOR OF THE GRAND CANAL OF LANGUEDOC.


The Canal du Midi — Its importance as uniting the Atlantic with the Mediterranean —Riquet de Bonrepos, its constructor, originally a common exciseman, not an engineer—His amateur surveys in the district — Miniature Canal works — Lays his plans of the Canal before Colbert and Lewis XIV. — A Royal Commission appointed, and report favourably as to Riquet's design —A patent issued authorising the construction of the Canal — Riquet becomes undertaker of works —Money fails, and he incurs heavy debts—Anecdote of the use made by him of Colbert's influence — Obtains assistance from the farmers-general of the province — Canal completed from Toulouse to Trebel — Riquet's difficulties, bravery, and perseverance — Progress of the works — Quarrels between the King's Commissioners and the States as to inspection — Financial troubles and appeals to Colbert—The works nearly completed when Riquet dies—Cost of the Canal.


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LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
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PAGE

 

PAGE

Portrait of Brindley—Frontispiece

 

Portrait of the Young Duke of

 

Romney Marsh

4.

        Bridgewater

159.

Map of the Thames (Western part)

6.

View of Manchester in 1740

161.

Map of the Thames (Eastern part)

7.

Map of the Duke's Canal (Western part)

168.

Map of the Fens as Drowned

8.

Map of the Duke's Canal (Eastern part)

169.

Map of Hatfield Chase

24.

Barton Aqueduct

175.

Map of the Fens as Drained, 1830

32.

WorsleyBasin

179.

Ancient Conduit in Westcheap

49.

Liverpool in 1650

187.

Myddelton's House, Galch Hill

58.

Facsimile of Brindley's Hand-writing

192.

Myddelton Brass, Whitchurch

59.

Plan and Section of Canal Lock

197.

Whitchurch, Denbigh

65.

Brindley's Ballast-boats

205.

The Boarded River, Bush Hill

69.

Longford Bridge

211.

Brick Arch, New River, Bush Hill

70.

The Duke's Dock, Liverpool

216.

Map of the New River

71.

Worsley Old Hall

218.

Water Carrier—"New River Water"

79.

The Locks at Runcorn

223.

Monumental Pedestal to Sir Hugh

 

Portrait of the Duke of Bridgewater

235.

        Myddelton at Chadwell

82.

Plan of Manchester

241.

View of Brading Haven

84.

Bridgewater Halfpenny Token

247.

Map of Brading Haven

85.

Wedgwood's First Pottery, Burslem

255.

Entrance to Brading Haven

87.

Portrait of Josiah Wedgwood

259.

Chart of Mines, North Wales

92.

Map of the Grand Trunk Canal

264.

Plan of Mines at Cwmsymlog

96.

Northern Entrance to Harecastle

 

Perry's Plan of Dagenham Breach

111.

        Tunnels

268.

Dagenham Lake

114.

Brindley's House at Turnhurst

286.

The Thames from Dagenham Bank

115.

Brindley's Burial-place at New

 

Brindley's Native District

127.

        Chapel

300.

Brindley's Croft

128.

 

 

The Potteries District

140.

 

 


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ILLUSTRATIONS
ADDED TO THIS ON-LINE EDITION

Statue of James Brindley, Coventry Canal Basin.
© Copyright Bill Sibley and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

"Brindley himself made few reports, and these merely stated results, not methods; yet he had doubtless many formidable difficulties to encounter, and must have overcome them by the adoption of those ingenious expedients, varying according to the circumstances of each case, in which he was always found so fertile.  He had no treasury of past experience, as recorded in books, to consult, for he could scarcely read English; and certainly he could neither read French nor Italian, in which languages the only engineering works of any value were then written; nor had he any store of native experience to draw from he himself being the first English canal engineer of eminence, and having all his methods and expedients to devise for himself." — SAMUEL SMILES

 

PAGE

                                  IMAGE

INDEX

Statue of James Brindley, Coventry Canal Basin.

5

St Thomas Becket Church, Fairfield, Romney Marsh.

11

Draining Soham Great Fen.

20

Across Hatfield Moors towards the Isle of Axholme.

31

Old Bedford River

40

Wildmore Fen.

48

The New River at Ware.

81

St. Mark's Church, Myddleton Square, EC1 - East window.

118

Statue of James Brindley, Etruria Junction, Stoke-on-Trent.

119

The Packhorse Convoy.

125

Anderton Boat Lift, Weaver Navigation.

154

Sankey Canal.

170

Worsley Old Hall.

173

The Barton Swing Aqueduct.

174

Puddling a canal.

183

Bridgewater Canal at Worsley Junction.

188

Royal Seaforth Container Terminal, Liverpool.

201

Course of the Runcorn Locks.

214

Waterloo Bridge, Runcorn.

216

View west along the line of the Duke's Dock.

237

Memorial plaque to the Duke of Bridgewater.

258

Josiah Wedgwood.

266

Dove Aqueduct: crossing the River Dove, Trent & Mersey Canal.

266

Croxton Aqueduct: crossing the River Dane, Trent & Mersey Canal.

269

Harecastle Tunnels — North Entrances.

273

Dudson Pottery, Hanley.

276

The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal near Stourton.

276

Coventry Basin, with statue of Brindley.

278

The Droitwich Barge Canal at Porter's Mill.

301

Pierre-Paul Riquet.

312

The Canal du Midi in Southern France.


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