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Thomas Telford's career reaches its zenith with the completion of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in 1805, an engineering marvel over 100 feet high and 1,000 feet long.

The first full modern biography of Thomas Telford: a shepherd's son, born in 1757, who revolutionised British engineering and set the stage for the Industrial Revolution.

After completing his apprenticeship to a stonemason in Langholm, Telford left for London in 1782 with letters of introduction to the two leading architects of the day: Robert Adam and William Chambers. But success eluded him in the metropolis - instead, he found it in Shropshire, thanks to a Borders' contact, Sir William Pulteney, who invited him to work on the reconstruction of Shrewsbury Castle. This led on to his appointment as county surveyor and soon Telford was working on a huge number of public and private properties.

Telford's extraordinary career reached its zenith with the construction of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, begun in 1795 and opened in 1805. Still in use today, carrying the Llangollen Canal, it towers a hundred feet high and a thousand feet long over the valley of the River Dee. Built with simple technology, no safety ropes and no experience of building anything so high, unusual care was paid to protecting the workforce: only one man died during construction (and that death was thought to be due to carelessness). It is seen as Telford's masterpiece and he chose it above all of his creations as the background to his official portrait in the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Reader: Robin Laing

Writer: Julian Glover

Abridger: David Jackson Young

Producer: Kirsteen Cameron.

15 minutes

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