James Brindley

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James Brindley (1716 – 27 September 1772) was an English engineer. He was born in Tunstead, Derbyshire, and lived much of his life in Leek, Staffordshire, becoming one of the most notable engineers of the 18th century.


Early life

Born into a well-to-do family of yeoman farmers and craftsmen in the Peak District which in those days was extremely isolated, he received little formal education but was educated at home by his mother.[1] At age 17, encouraged by his mother, he was apprenticed to a millwright in Sutton, Macclesfield and soon showed exceptional skill and ability.[1] Having completed his apprenticeship he set up business for himself as a wheelwright in Leek, Staffordshire. In 1750 he expanded his business by renting a millwright's shop in Oakham. He soon established a reputation for ingenuity and skill at repairing many different kinds of machinery. In 1752 he designed and built an engine for draining a coal mine, the Wet Earth Colliery at Clifton in Lancashire. Three years later he built a machine for a silk-mill at Congleton.

Early canal engineering

Brindley's reputation brought him to the attention of the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater who was looking for a way to improve the transport of coal from his coal mines at Worsley to Manchester.

In 1759 The Duke commissioned the construction of a canal to do just that. The resulting Bridgewater Canal, opened in 1761, is often regarded as the first British canal of the modern era (though the Sankey Canal has a good claim to that title), and was a major technical triumph. Brindley was commissioned as the consulting engineer and, although he has often been credited as the genius behind the construction of the canal, it is now thought that the main designers were Sir Thomas Egerton himself, who had some engineering training, and the resident engineer John Gilbert. Brindley was engaged, at the insistence of Gilbert, to assist with particular problems such as the Barton Aqueduct.[1] This most impressive feature of the canal carried the canal at an elevation of 13 metres (39 ft) over the River Irwell at Barton. (In 1893, on the building of the Manchester Ship Canal, the aqueduct was replaced by the equally impressive Barton Swing Aqueduct.)

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