Thomas Sheasby

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Thomas Sheasby, Senior (c.17401799) was a British civil engineer and contractor. His early work involved bridge construction, after which he went on to build canals, including several in South Wales. He was imprisoned for a time when there were contractual problems with the Glamorganshire Canal Company.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom, officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but more commonly known as the UK or Britain, is a sovereign country lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state‍—‌the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Civil engineer engineer specialising in design, construction and maintenance of the built environment

A civil engineer is a person who practices civil engineering – the application of planning, designing, constructing, maintaining, and operating infrastructures while protecting the public and environmental health, as well as improving existing infrastructures that have been neglected.

A general contractor, main contractor or prime contractor is responsible for the day-to-day oversight of a construction site, management of vendors and trades, and the communication of information to all involved parties throughout the course of a building project.


Early life

Although his date of birth is unknown, it is known that Thomas Sheasby was christened on 28 October 1740 in Tamworth, Staffordshire. He was later described as a builder from Tamworth who carried out repairs to bridges for the Warwickshire Quarter Sessions between 1775 and 1787. In 1776, he was contracted to design and build Polesworth Bridge over the Coventry Canal at Polesworth, for which he was paid £364. In 1780, he was also contracted to build and design Duke's Bridge in Coleshill, for which he was paid £306. [1]

Infant baptism Christian baptism of infants or young children

Infant baptism is the practice of baptising infants or young children. In theological discussions, the practice is sometimes referred to as paedobaptism, or pedobaptism, from the Greek pais meaning "child". This can be contrasted with what is called "believer's baptism", or credobaptism, from the Latin word credo meaning "I believe", which is the religious practice of baptising only individuals who personally confess faith in Jesus, therefore excluding underage children. Opposition to infant baptism is termed catabaptism. Infant baptism is also called "christening" by some faith traditions.

Tamworth, Staffordshire Place in England

Tamworth is a large market town and borough in Staffordshire, England, 14 miles (23 km) northeast of Birmingham and 103 miles (166 km) northwest of London. Bordering Warwickshire to the south and east, and Lichfield to the north and west, Tamworth takes its name from the River Tame, which flows through it. In 2015, it had a population of 77,157.

Staffordshire County of England

Staffordshire is a landlocked county in the West Midlands of England. It borders with Cheshire to the northwest, Derbyshire and Leicestershire to the east, Warwickshire to the southeast, West Midlands and Worcestershire to the south, and Shropshire to the west.

Canal Projects

In the late 1780s, Sheasby worked as a contractor on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal. He was also awarded the contract to connect the Coventry Canal to the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal in June 1785. [1]

Birmingham and Fazeley Canal

The Birmingham and Fazeley Canal is a canal of the Birmingham Canal Navigations in the West Midlands of England. Its purpose was to provide a link between the Coventry Canal and Birmingham and thereby connect Birmingham to London via the Oxford Canal.

Sheasby joined with Thomas Dadford and together they decided to tender for work on the Cromford Canal in 1789. However, they left the job when they received an offer for work on the Glamorganshire Canal in 1790. On 30 June 1790, Thomas Sheasby, Thomas Dadford Sr. and his son submitted a price of £48,258 for the construction of the canal. They gave the canal company a bond of £10,000. There was no engineer for the project, which was managed instead by a committee. There were contractual difficulties between the contractors and the company, which were probably made worse by the lack of an experienced engineer. The contractors accumulated £17,000 in payments for extra work, during the course of the project. Although the canal opened in February 1794, a bank was breached soon afterwards, and the contractors were called back to repair it. The contractors refused to do any work before they received a payment in advance. The company argued that they had been overpaid by £17,000, and imprisoned Sheasby and Dadford Sr., so that they could recover the £10,000 surety. Robert Whitworth was asked to arbitrate, and ruled largely in favoour of Sheasby and Dadford, as they were awarded £15,500 of the extra payments. As a result of the imprisonment, Sheasby and Dadford were unable to work on their next project and the next phase of the Glamorganshire Canal was built by Patrick Copland. [1]

Thomas Dadford Sr. was an English canal engineer as were his sons, Thomas Dadford Jr., John Dadford, and James Dadford.

Cromford Canal

The Cromford Canal ran 14.5 miles from Cromford to the Erewash Canal in Derbyshire, England with a branch to Pinxton. Built by William Jessop with the assistance of Benjamin Outram, its alignment included four tunnels and 14 locks.

Glamorganshire Canal

The Glamorganshire Canal was a valley-side canal, in South Wales, UK, running from Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff.

After being released, Sheasby was taken on as engineer and contractor to complete the Neath Canal to Glynneath, including the aqueduct at Ynysbwllog. The work was to be completed by 1 November 1793, and he was to be paid £14,886, of which £2,500 was to be withheld for three years. Sheasby was unable to complete the canal in the timeframe, and as he was in discussions over how to complete the canal, he was arrested for the situation in Glamorganshire. The company had to complete the canal themselves. [1]

Neath and Tennant Canal

The Neath and Tennant Canals are two independent but linked canals in South Wales that are usually regarded as a single canal. The Neath Canal was opened from Glynneath to Melincryddan, to the south of Neath, in 1795 and extended to Giant's Grave in 1799, in order to provide better shipping facilities. With several small later extensions it reached its final destination at Briton Ferry. No traffic figures are available, but it was successful, as dividends of 16 per cent were paid on the shares. The canal was 13.5 miles (21.7 km) long and included 19 locks.

Glynneath small town lying in the county borough of Neath Port Talbot, Wales

Glynneath, also spelt Glyn Neath, is a small town, community and electoral ward lying on the River Neath in the county borough of Neath Port Talbot, Wales. It was formerly in the historic county of Glamorgan. Glynneath ward covers only part of the community, with some 840 electors included in the neighbouring ward of Blaengwrach.

Navigable aqueduct bridge structure carrying a navigable waterway over an obstacle

Navigable aqueducts are bridge structures that carry navigable waterway canals over other rivers, valleys, railways or roads. They are primarily distinguished by their size, carrying a larger cross-section of water than most water-supply aqueducts. Although Roman aqueducts were sometimes used for transport, aqueducts were not generally used until the 17th century when the problems of summit level canals had been solved and modern canal systems were developed. The 662-metre long steel Briare aqueduct carrying the Canal latéral à la Loire over the River Loire was built in 1896. It was ranked as the longest navigable aqueduct in the world for more than a century, until the Magdeburg Water Bridge in Germany took the title in the early 21st century.

Despite these setbacks, Sheasby returned to work. He began by assisting Charles Roberts as an engineer on the Swansea Canal. Sheasby had already surveyed the canal in 1793; however, his problems meant he could not be appointed as the engineer at the time. He was appointed engineer in 1796 with his son. The canal was partially opened in 1796 and was completed in October 1798. Sheasby died a year later. [1]

Swansea Canal

The Swansea Canal was a canal constructed by the Swansea Canal Navigation Company between 1794 and 1798, running for 16.5 miles (26.6 km) from Swansea to Hen Neuadd, Abercraf in South Wales. It was steeply graded, and 36 locks were needed to enable it to rise 373 feet (114 m) over its length. The main cargos were coal, iron and steel, and the enterprise was profitable.

Besides canal construction projects, he was also involved in carrying out surveys for a number of projects, including the Shropshire Canal in 1788, a tramroad in the Brecon Forest and a canal from Llandeilo to Llandovery in 1793. [1]

His son, Thomas Sheasby jnr, also went on to become a notable civil engineer, working initially as a canal engineer and then later constructing tramroads for the Severn & Wye Railway in the Forest of Dean. [2]

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Skempton (2001), pp.602-603
  2. A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers, ISBN   0 7277 2939 X


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