The stone pillar marks the site of the cottage in which James Brindley was born in 1716. Brindley became one of the leading engineers of the 1700s. He is particularly remembered for leading a ‘canal boom’, surveying and establishing over 350 mile of waterways in his lifetime.
This sketch was drawn by Francis Parsons as a preparatory drawing for an engraving. It was purchased for the collections at Buxton Museum as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded project – Enlightenment!
Parsons also painted Brindley in oil, and this picture is at the National Portrait Gallery.
James Brindley spent his early years at Tunstead, and then in Leek, Staffordshire, just outside the Peak District. He was home-schooled until the age of 17 when he was apprenticed to a millwright in Sutton, Macclesfield. On the completion of his apprenticeship he set up his own business in Leek as a wheelwright before renting a millwright’s shop in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent. He rented the premises from the Wedgwood family, with whom he would become a life-long friend.
Brindley soon made a name for himself as a skilled millwright and engineer. This brought him to the attention of the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater. The Duke employed Brindley to survey the construction of a canal to transport coal from his mines at Worsley to Manchester. The Bridgewater Canal opened after two years in 1761.
Brindley went on to survey and build hundreds of miles of canals, including a ‘Grand Trunk’ canal linking the Trent and Mersey. The ‘canal mania’ sparked by Brindley’s work made him a national hero and transformed the way many goods traveled around the country.