Industrial Revolution 1716-1762

James Brindley - canal engineering

Life Span

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.


James Brindley invented the first major canal in Britain. At first, as a millwright, Brindley designed and built an engine for water supply and drainage at Clifton, Lancashire, in 1752. In 1759 the Prince of Bridgewater hired him to build a 10-mile (16-kilometre) canal to transport coal from the duke’s mines at Worsley to the textile-manufacturing centre at Manchester. Brindley’s solution to the problem included a underground tunnel, extending from the barge basin at the head of the canal into the mines, and the Barton Aqueduct. He preferred to use a circuitous route that avoided embankments, and tunnels rather than cuttings. Though this recognized the old methods of earth-moving available at the time, it meant that his canals were often much longer than a more adventurous method would have produced. But his greatest contribution was the technique of puddling clay to produce a watertight clay-based material, and its use in lining canals.

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