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British Industrial History

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William Edwards (1719-1789)

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Civil engineer, especially builder of bridges

Biographical Information dated 1893

The following information comes from a newspaper article written by Daniel Owen in 1893 [1]

William Edwards was born in 1719 in Eglwysilan, Glamorganshire. His father, a farmer, died when William was just 2.

He started his career repairing dry stone walls, but progressed to constructing buildings, and later building bridges. He came to prominence with a remarkable single span bridge across the River Taff at Pontypridd, completed in 1755 or 1756 (Pontypridd Old Bridge).

He also became a prominent church minister.

He died in 1789 at Eglwysilan.

Daniel Owen listed the bridges for which Willian Edwards was responsible, transcribed below, with additional information in brackets from 'A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland: 1500 - 1830'.

'The Usk bridge across the River Usk, at Usk, Mon.'[Built 1746 - 1752, widened 1836]

A bridge of three arches over the Tawe. [Presumably Beaufort Bridge, over the River Tawe demolished 1968]

'Pont ar Tawy, over the same river, about ten miles above the town of Swansea. This was of one arch, its chord 80ft. with one cylinder over the haunches.'[Pontardawe Bridge, 80 ft span formerly one void through each spandrel]

'Bettws Bridge in Carmarthenshire, consisting of one arch 45ft. in the span.' [Betws Bridge, River Amman, c.1768, 45ft span]

'Llandovery Bridge in the same county, consisting of one arch, 84ft.in the span, with one cylinder over the haunches.' [1773 Dolauhirion Bridge (River Twyi), 84 ft span. 8 ft hole through each spandrel. Name of Thomas Edwards (William's son) appears on parapet - probably the contractor.]

'Wychtree Bridge, over the River Tawy, about two miles above Morriston: This has one arch. 95ft. in the span, 20ft. in altitude, with two cylinders over each of the haunches to relieve them.' [1778 Wychtree, 95 ft. span, two cylinders in each spandrel. Demolished 1959]

'Aberavon Bridge in Glamorganshire, consisting of one arch, 75ft. in the span, 15ft. in altitude, but without cylinders.' [Aberavon Bridge 70 ft span, demolished 1842]

'He likewise built Glasbury Bridge, near Hay, in Brecknockshire, over the River Wye: it consists of five arches, and is a light, elegant bridge. The arches are small segments of large circles: on high, piers, as best adapted to facilitate the passage of floods.' [c.1777 Glasbury Bridge, Thomas Edwards contractor. Destroyed by flood 1795]


Biographical Information: 2002

Additional or alternative information from 'A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland: 1500 - 1830'[2]:-

Born at Ty Canol, Groeswen, Caerphilly, baptized at Eglwysilan Curch. His father drowned 7 years later when fording the River Taff. The family then moved a short distance to a farm at Bryn Tail, which remained William's home. His famous bridge at Pontypridd was just two miles from his home.

He was ordained as the minister of the Independent Chapel at Groeswen in 1745. He also farmed at Bryn Tail.

Wife: Elizabeth. Sons: David and Thomas (became bridge builders), and William and Edward.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Western Mail, 25 July 1893
  2. [1]'A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland; 1500 - 1830' Ed. A W Skempton, 2002