Thomas Telford
Born: 09 Aug, 1757
Died: 02 Sep, 1834
Burial Date: 10 Sep, 1834
Field: Engineer
Location in the Abbey: Nave, chapel of st andrew
Type of memorial: Grave; statue
Type of material: Marble

Thomas Telford, one of Britain's greatest engineers, was buried in the centre part of the nave of Westminster Abbey on 10 September 1834, having died on the 2nd at 24 Abingdon Street, Westminster. The original small gravestone was replaced in 1974 by a metal one and reads:

"1757 THOMAS TELFORD 1834. PRESIDENT OF THE INSTITUTION OF CIVIL ENGINEERS"

A larger than life white marble statue, by E.H.Baily 1839, was erected in St Andrew's chapel, off the north transept. Originally it had been proposed to erect the statue near the grave but the final situation is some distance from it. Telford is depicted in civilian dress wearing a cloak. In his right hand he holds a pair of dividers and the other hand rests on two books lying on a pedestal (Civil Architecture and Inland Navigation - Bridges), with a roll of paper below. The inscription reads:

"Thomas Telford. President of the Institution of Civil Engineers: Born at Glendinning in Eskdale Dumfries-shire in MDCCLVII. Died in London MDCCCXXXIV. This marble has been erected near the spot where his remains are deposited by the friends who revered his virtues: but his noblest monuments are to be found amongst the great public works of this country. The orphan son of a shepherd, self educated, he raised himself by his extraordinary talents and integrity from the humble condition of an operative mason, and became one of the most eminent civil engineers of the age."

He was born on 9 August 1757, the only son of John Telford (who died a few months after his birth) and Janet (Jackson) his wife. After working as a stonemason and architect in London and elsewhere he became best known for building bridges, aqueducts, roads and canals. His best known works are probably the Caledonian Canal in Scotland and the Menai Straits suspension bridge and Pontcysyllte aqueduct in Wales. He died unmarried, and mentioned no relations in his will.

A photo of the grave and statue can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further Reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004)

L.T.C. Rolt "Thomas Telford" (1985)

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