ISSUE 23, October 2007

Quarterly Communication: Speech of the Pro Grand Master : Quarterly Communication
Grand Secretary: Exciting times ahead
Historic: Telford - Mason extraordinary
Travel: Cruising round Sicily
Samaritan: Helping the distressed
Younger Masons: The common bond
Jersey: Local Masons guard the Duke
   Classic car run: Down memory lane
International: Joseph Brant - a Masonic legend
Universities Scheme: The way ahead
Grand Chancellor: The importance of external relations
Education: Events : Understanding the symbols of the craft
Specialist Lodges: Australia link
Royal Arch: Why join the Royal Arch?
Lbrary & Museum: Major award for Library & Museum
MQ Signs off
Masonic Charities: Grand Charity : NMSF : RMBI : RMTGB
Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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The King of Sweden requested his assistance in constructing a waterway – the Gotha Canal – linking the North Sea and the Baltic. Telford’s method of road building varied according to the type of land the road was passing through and this is seen clearly in the largest single project that he undertook, the London to Holyhead road.
     For the design and construction of the Menai Bridge, Telford adopted a technique never used on this scale before in Britain – a suspension bridge. The dual carriageway road would be suspended by 16 great chains and supported by two main stone piers on either side of the straits. This would provide a single suspended span of 579 feet towering 153 feet above the water – the longest in the world.
     An economic slump after the Napoleonic wars led the government to offer cheap loans to encourage public works. Telford became the engineering advisor to the Exchequer Loans Commission in 1817. This entailed touring the country surveying and inspecting the proposed sites and plans for those projects seeking a loan. It meant that for a time he saw nearly every civil engineering project in the country.
     In 1820, Telford was asked to survey the Birmingham canals to suggest ways of improving them. He was not only shocked by the appalling state of the waterways, but does not seem to have approved of Birmingham itself:
     …Famous for Buttons, Buckles and Locks and Ignorance and Barbarism. Its prosperity increases upon the corruption of Taste and Morals.
     The modifications to the Birmingham canals took longer than expected, and by the time they were completed in 1827, Telford was involved in the construction of the Birmingham & Liverpool Junction Canal (it starts to the west of Wolverhampton despite its name). This was to be his final major work, now called the Shropshire Union.
     Telford continued to take an interest in all his projects right up to his death on 2 September, 1834 in his London home at the Old Palace Yard. He was buried in Westminster Abbey on application by the Institution of Civil Engineers, of which he was both President and Founder. His life is best summed up in his work which is an everlasting memorial to him, but if words are needed these can be taken from the obituary notice which appeared in the Shrewsbury Chronicle of 5 September, 1834:
     His gradual rise from the stonemasons’ and builders’ yard to the top of his profession in his own country, or we believe we may say, in the world, is to be ascribed not more to his genius, his consummate ability and persevering industry, than to his plain honest, straightforward dealing and the integrity and candour which marked his character through life.

Credits and Bibliography
My sincere thanks to Brian Crossley and the Institution of Civil Engineers for assistance on the article and for display material at the Shrewsbury Flower Show.

Franklin, G, History of Salopian Lodge No. 262 (1988)
Graham, A, A History of Freemasonry in the Province of Shropshire (1892)
Adnitt & Naunton Gould, R.F, The History of Freemasonry, Caxton Publishing Co. (Vol.2, p462)
Howells, History of Phoenix Lodge and Chapter of Friendship No. 257 (1894)
Nagai, A., Life of Thomas Telford, Hitachi Maxwell (1985)
Nagai, A.,Thomas Telford and the Caledonian Canal: The Human and Social Aspects, Hitachi Maxell (1991)
Pearce, R.M, Thomas Telford, Shire Publications Ltd (1973)
Rickman, J (editor), Life of Thomas Telford Written by himself (1838)
Rolt, L.T.C, Thomas Telford, Longman (1958), Penguin (1979)
Shrewsbury Chronicle Newspapers (1788 – 1791, 1834)
Templeton, H, A History of Craft Freemasonry in Shropshire: 1732 – 1982 (1982)

The Commissioner’s House in Portsmouth dockyard

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