James Brindley (1716-1772) started out as a millwright and spent some years exploring steam power before devoting himself to canal engineering.


Dating from 1755 – 1763, his surviving Notebooks include accounts, lists, records of travel and day-to day reflections upon his role in overseeing construction of the Bridgewater Canal. They offer a vigorous portrayal of an eighteenth-century engineer’s working life.


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James Brindley’s Notebooks

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Disappointed in love, Francis Egerton, Third Duke of Bridgewater (1736-1803) retreated to Lancashire and devoted himself to coal and canals. When his agent John Gilbert introduced him to the Staffordshire Schemer James Brindley (1716-1772), it marked the beginning of an alliance that was to change the face of the country.


At first, Brindley’s ingenuity and zeal chimed well with the Duke’s ambitions. But at a time when the demands of rising commerce were increasingly coming to vie with the interests of the land-owning gentry, being a peer’s protégé was not always advantageous. Although the Duke put him on the path to fame, Brindley would work more amicably with canal promoters like Josiah Wedgwood who shared something of his background and outlook.


Drawing upon primary sources such as letters, pamphlets and the long lost probate inventory of Brindley’s estate, this book charts the course of Brindley’s years of renown and dissects the dynamics of an uneasy business relationship in a fast-changing world.

James Brindley and the Duke of Bridgewater

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‘an authoritative yet thoroughly readable account’, Hugh Potter, Waterways World.


‘a fascinating story of two very different lives,’ Canal Boat.