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Canal Archive: Bridging the Years

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The Canal Trio

Credit for the Bridgewater Canal is not solely due to the Duke. The Canal's creation and success is also due to two other individuals - John Gilbert and James Brindley.

John Gilbert was the Duke's agent and could be described as his right-hand man. As resident engineer he was in charge of the construction of the Canal and was also responsible for the underground canal, the construction of which started around the same time as the surface canal. Born in Staffordshire, Gilbert was apprenticed to the Boulton firm at Birmingham at the age of thirteen. He came into the Duke's service in 1753 and soon proved himself to be a man of many talents. As well as working on the Canal and managing the Duke's estate, he also had additional business interests, including salt works, coal mines, and limestone quarries. On finding pockets of limestone on the Duke's land, he built a lime kiln in Worsley. He also found time to act as a local magistrate and churchwarden.

The Duke obviously had an industrious and capable assistant, who was to become a good friend. These two men were joined in 1759 by James Brindley, who was employed as consulting engineer. The son of a Derbyshire farmer, Brindley had been apprenticed to a millwright. His skills as an engineer earned him the nickname from his friends of 'Schemer Brindley'. He had already been involved in some work on other waterways, a fact which probably influenced his employment on the project. Brindley was to go on to become the leading canal engineer of the time, working on projects across the country, including the Leeds and Liverpool, Trent and Mersey, and Birmingham canals.

Brindley's skills as an engineer have won him great acclaim. However, earlier beliefs that he was the main architect of the Bridgewater Canal have now been amended, as it is now clear that the Duke and Gilbert should be credited with the instigation and creative genius of the Canal. Brindley still played a significant role in the project, working under the direction of Gilbert.

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This is page 4 of The Bridgewater Canal - The Duke's Cut.
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Portrait of John Gilbert

Portrait of John Gilbert
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The Delph in Worsley - location of the entrance to the underground canal and mines

The Delph in Worsley - location of the entrance to the underground canal and mines
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Portrait of James Brindley

Portrait of James Brindley
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