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British Industrial History

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Richard Lees

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Richard Lees (c.1763-1838), of Galashiels. Son of John Lees (d.1807), manufacturer and dyer of Buckholmside.

Woollen mill owner.

1793 Constructed Mid Mill.

1816 Constructed a suspension footbridge over the River Gala to connect his two mill sites.[1] . See below.

1818 Constructed Galabank Mill.

1839 Death Notice:'At Galashiels, on the 31st of December, Mr Richard Lees, manufacturer, in his seventy-sixth year. Mr Lees was extensively known in the south of Scotland, and, for the last years, was identified with every thing of a public nature in Galashiels.[2]

1816 Suspension Bridge

'In 1816 the famous wire bridge was erected over the Gala, where the Skinworks now stand, and was thus referred to, at the date of its erection, in the Kelso Mail —

"A wire bridge for foot passengers after the model of those constructed in America has just been erected across the Gala at Galashiels, and is found to answer the purpose exceedingly well and to every appearance may last for a number of years at little or no expense. The span, which is 111 feet, and the breadth 3 feet, makes it very neat and light in appearance, though with safety 20 or 30 people may be upon it at one time. The whole expense of the little bridge is only £20 (?). The public is very much indebted to the well-known spirit of Mr Lees for this useful introduction into the neighbourhood, to Messrs Bathgate, mill-wrights, and to Messrs Thomas Mercer (d.1831) and Joshua Wood in assisting in its construction, and it being so far as we know the first of the kind in the kingdom, they deserve the thanks of the public at large "

'In an article upon suspension bridges, which appeared in Chambers' Journal in 1839, this bridge is referred to in these terms, —

"The second suspension bridge finished in Britain was one over the river Gala, close by the town of Galashiels. The person who had the merit of projecting this bridge, the first ever constructed in Scotland, was Mr Richard Lees, an extensive woollen cloth manufacturer, whose works were situated on both sides of the Gala, and who therefore conceived the idea of making a convenient communication between the different parts of his works. At an expense of £40 (?) he got a bridge formed in 1816, of slender iron wires, and one hundred and eleven feet in length. It was commonly and properly called a wire bridge, and was the first structure of that kind ever seen in Britain. Though very slight, as may be guessed from its petty cost, it has endured well the action of time, and is still passable and useful. It shakes or oscillates very considerably, but yet not so much as to be alarming, or even disagreeable."

'This bridge is also referred to in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. It served the purpose for which it was erected till 1839, when it was destroyed by a flood.

'Shortly afterwards, another bridge on the suspension principle was erected a little farther down the stream, which also was swept away, in 1846. ....' [3]


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 'River, Railway and Ravine - Foot Suspension Bridges for Empire' by Douglas Harper, The History Press, 2015
  2. Perthshire Courier - Thursday 17 January 1839
  3. [1] 'History of Galashiels' by Robert Hall, Alexander Walker & Son, 1898
  • [2] 'History of Galashiels' by Robert Hall, Alexander Walker & Son, 1898