Gresham College Lectures

Picturesque Engineering: Telford's Highland Roads and Bridges

April 14, 2023 Gresham College
Gresham College Lectures
Picturesque Engineering: Telford's Highland Roads and Bridges
Show Notes Transcript

In partnership with the Fulbright Commission.

In 1819, Thomas Telford and Robert Southey went on a six-week tour of the Scottish Highlands to inspect the region’s newly built roads, bridges and canals. What compelled this unlikely duo, the “Colossus of Roads” and Britain’s Poet Laureate, to undertake one of the greatest road trips of the Picturesque era?

Landscape historian and Fulbright scholar Paul Daniel Marriott explores the legacy of their extraordinary journey, meticulously chronicled by Southey, on travel, transport and design in the twenty-first century.

A lecture by Paul Daniel Marriott recorded on 14 March 2023 at Barnard's Inn Hall, London.

The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website:

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- So, this is the Dean Bridge, Edinburgh,and this is where all this research started for me,one day, when I was frustrated and wandering round Edinburgh,and inspired by this bridge.It got me thinking about infrastructure in scenic areas,infrastructure in the landscape,and how and when we think about the relationship between basic transportation and communication and its relationship to areas of great beauty and scenery.I'm doing my Fulbright at the National Library of Scotland right now,and this is one of the Pont Maps, Timothy Pont,who was one of the first great cartographers in Scotland,and he came up with this series of maps,and what I like about this is this is pre-highway network,and you see here these illustrations of buildings,places, the landscape, land features,and as I've been wandering around London today,it reminds me of the tourist maps I see,there's Westminster Abbey,there's the Tower of London,and you see them depicted on maps,and that's how people figure things out,and this reminds me very much of that.And if you look at my research at the National Library right now,we can look at resources like this and take it up into the 20th century.This is part of the Bartholomew Archive,I'm sure many of you might be familiar with Bartholomew Map Company,and in the early 20th century,the idea of motor tourism,exploring the landscape in a motor car becomes very popular.And clearly, this advertisement is appealing to that type of customer for Bartholomew Maps,this is clearly somebody not in a great hurry,clearly someone engaging with the landscape.The old mile marker here, a milestone gives a sense of the history and legacy that might be before the auto age as well,there's lots of subtle cues within the singular image,but it's this idea of the automobile, and travel, and tourism,and we'll be exploring that this evening.So, I got thinking about Telford, and this bridge,and Telford's work within larger projects and resources,and Telford's level of details.They're really quite elegant,I think there's a real modernity to Telford's design work that's simple and clean and looks very much like something we might even see today.So, I'm sure you're familiar with Thomas Telford,the great civil engineer,the Colossus of Roads,as Robert Southey, the poet, termed him,and everything you read about his biographies is about his engineering skills, his engineering prowess,and his great ability to tackle obstacles in the natural world,and yet I was curious about Telford's work with the picturesque landscape,with the romantic ideas of landscape during this period,did he have an appreciation for design and art in addition to his being skilled as a civil engineer?So, Telford's personal letters are at the Institution of Civil Engineering Library here in London,so I had a chance to read his letters and find out what he thought about landscape and what he thought about design.He had a lifelong correspondence with a gentleman named Andrew Little,and one of his longest letters to Little is when he visits the gardens at Stowe,and he goes into great detail about his time at Stowe,how the landscape is laid out,how you move through the landscape,as you can see here,"From the triumphal arch,"we descended into the valley"and found the park divided from the garden"by a sunk fence,"that's the idea of the ha-ha device in the landscape."We turned to the north"and passed the water in the main valley"by a Palladian bridge."And he goes on and on,it's the longest letter he writes,in exquisite detail.And to his dear friend Andrew Little,at the end of the letter, he says,"If my poor ability to convey this to you is not sufficient,"I should be very, very pleased"to go back and do this all over again,"so that, to me, is a very enthusiastic endorsement of Telford having an understanding for the landscape.He says in the letter too,"I believe the gardens were originally designed by Kent,"meaning William Kent,"and I think they've been updated by Mr. Brown,"Capability Brown,so he clearly was conversant with landscape gardening during this period.So, from Stowe to the Dean Bridge in Edinburgh,I'm thinking about,is there a way to look at Telford's engagement with the landscape,and in particular with his Highlands works in Scotland?So, that brings us to picturesque engineering,Thomas Telford's Highland roads and bridges.This is one of his bridges,and I love this image,this is a really wonderful, picturesque idea of infrastructure within the landscape.So, in 1819,Thomas Telford and Robert Southey go on a six week tour to inspect the Highland roads,bridges, canals, and harbors being developed as part of this major infrastructure investment to stop the depopulation of the Highlands and provide modern infrastructure and access.It's an enormous project,and I like the idea of a civil engineer and a poet traveling.I think, in terms of our views of design today,professional silos and relationships,we don't often think of pairing engineers and poets,and I'm thinking, after tonight's talk,maybe we should.So, Telford and Southey,I gave a talk about this tour in 2019on the bicentenary of their tour at the National Library in Scotland.Here's a map of their route,this is a really aggressive six week tour by carriage.My colleague Christopher Fleet,in National Library of Scotland put together this map,and you can see here the route that they took through the Highlands.And this is Southey's journal,again here at the Institute of Civil Engineering Library in London,which I had a chance to look over as well.So, this gets us to the idea of modern roads and travel.I don't think we realize how recent modern roads and the ability to move across the landscape reliably and easily really is,and it's really not until the end of the 18th century that modern road technology and modern vehicle design allowed us to be able to move through the landscape comfortably and safely.Carriages were notoriously uncomfortable and they were dangerous,they weren't reliable in terms of braking,so the idea of traveling in the landscape,to go up a steep hill to take in a view would have been absolutely ridiculous and unwise up until this period.This is all happening at about the same time,as this new awareness for the picturesque landscape,the idea of natural beauty being something worthy of our admiration and study,so it's all happening right now,and we see it's a huge part of popular culture.Jane Austen, in "Pride and Prejudice,""And what is 50 miles of good road?"Little more than half a day's journey."Yes, I call it a very easy distance."This is a remarkable ability to move through the landscape.

Walter Scott:

"The times have changed in nothing more"than the rapid conveyance of intelligence and communication"betwixt one part of Scotland and another."And I love Scott's descriptions of modern roads

within the landscape:

"Mail coach races against mail coach"and high flyer against high flyer,"through the most remote districts of Britain."And in our village alone,"three post coaches"and four coaches with men armed and in scarlet cassocks"thunder through the streets each day,"they're armed,this is all part of the modern mail system,and because of highway robbers,armed mail carriages allowed safe travel and transport of information,you could reliably send something,this was the Internet of its day.And this is my favorite Scott quote of all:"I have seen the vehicle thunder down the hill,"glittering all the while"by flashes from a cloudy tabernacle of dust"which it has raised,"and leaving a train behind it on the road"resembling a wreath of summer mist."What are we talking about here?The choking dust that these fast moving vehicles are kicking up in all these villages,it's a cloudy tabernacle,like a summer mist,it's a really lovely, lovely way to describe the dust on the public highway.But that romanticism,that affection for modern roads and what they can do is remarkable during this period,and it's celebrated,and we see it in in popular literature.

So, just a few facts here:

between 1750 and 1810,journey times in Britain between London and points are reduced by two thirds,in 1785, there's a daily coach service between London to Norwich,Liverpool, and Leeds,and that's extended, a year later, to Edinburgh,so we can reliably move and send information.Part of what's allowing this to happen are modern roads.Thomas Telford and John Loudon McAdam both established modern ways of building roads.This is really the first major investment and advancement in scientific engineering for road construction since the Roman period.Along with Tresaguet in France,these three lay the foundations for modern highway construction today,the layering of gravel and building up a base that's obviously well drained.Here's Telford's plan for the the Glasgow to Carlisle mail road.And when we look at Southey's journal,on the first page,he's arriving in Edinburgh by the Carlisle mail,so he's himself engaging with this new modern system of transportation.So, the images I'm going to show you this evening,it's an 1819 tour that Southey and Telford take.We tried to find images and maps which were about 10 years on either side,so it's a fairly good depiction of what the landscape and places looked like during their travel.And again, this will all be from Southey's journal.August 17th,"Reached Edinburgh in the Carlisle mail"at quarter past five a.m.."These are running around the clock, by the way,you got on, and it was like the schedules today."Edinburgh was alive when I entered it."Even at that early hour,"there was a busy greens market in the high street."I got into Mr. Rickman's apartments"at MacGregor's Hotel in Princes Street."So, the work of my colleague at the National Library of Scotland,Princes Street, MacGregor's Hotel,we were able to find out that it was 18 and 19 Princes Street,which is right there,very conveniently on this1819 map of that period,so we know this is exactly where they stayed.What I love about this,and this tour of theirs,what's across the street?A carriage works.The modern vehicles that allow you to move through the landscape comfortably now are being manufactured directly across the street from where these two great men will be staying at their first meeting in Edinburgh.And if we move in on this,in the middle of the carriage yard,we see a barouche,this is the popular touring carriage.This really has no useful purpose other than wandering through the landscape and enjoying the scenery and the views,it's open, it's a touring's a very specific type of vehicle constructed based on modern materials,comfortable suspension for the first time,and reliable braking.The inspection tour of the roads, bridges, canals, and harbors was organized by John Rickman,who was with the Commission for Roads and Bridges in the Highlands.And we see here Southey has a very nice wit about him as well:"Went with R.," Rickman,"to the college"to look at the preposterous ceiling"of their intended museum,"a rich specimen of ill-directed expenditure."I did my PhD did at the University of Edinburgh,and I have no comments.(audience laughs)"Mr. Telford arrived in the afternoon from Glasgow."There is so much intelligence in his countenance,"so much frankness, kindness,and hilarity about him"flowing from the never-failing wellspring of happy nature"that I was upon cordial terms with him in five minutes."There's a rapid affection between these two men,which is quite good,because they're going to be traveling together for six weeks in the Highlands.Thursday, August 19,"The Night Mare was at MacGregor's Hotel last night."She went to my neighbor's room instead of mine,"for which I thank her."And he awoke me"with three of the most dreadful groans I ever heard."So lots of commentary that makes this a very interesting tour."Well may Edinburgh be called Auld Reekie,"you might smoke bacon by hanging it out of the window."The houses in Edinburgh are numbered across the street,"the odd numbers on one side, the even on the other,"a convenient arrangement after one has found it out."So you get a sense this is going to be a very entertaining tour between these two gentleman.Friday, August 20,"Rose at five, packed my trunk,"inserted in my journal"all the remaining memorabilia concerning Edinburgh,"and now the coach is at the door."And I love this Nasmyth painting here,with this idea of what they would be seeing as they were departing Edinburgh.And look here in the foreground at these very well,people traveling, wandering, and exploring this very picturesque landscape,this rough, craggy rock outcropping.Historically, we see people like this promenading in French gardens and royal palaces,and this idea of seeing a level of beauty,interest, and activity in a landscape like this,it's a very, very new approach to thinking about the landscape and outdoor space.So, the picturesque,and I love,if you remember that earlier Pont map I showed you from Scotland,where you saw the buildings,the tower houses in Scotland,well here you have this great, picturesque image here in the Highlands,and one of Loch Awe as well,another Nasmyth.So, William Gilpin is considered the individual that first promotes this idea of the picturesque,and this new appreciation for landscape and beauty.He has all these wonderful watercolors,and he often includes the road as part of the conversation.This is the access into the Highlands,these new roads.And this is near Loch Lomond,this is one of the military roads built by General Wade in the 1730s.Again, this is after all the uprisings and all the political upheaval in the Highlands.Wade's roads were built between three and give meters wide,so they were very narrow,they were simply to move troops,and Wade built the roads razor straight regardless of the topography of the Highlands,so it's a lot of this and a lot of that very rapidly through the landscape.But they become very picturesque,and you see these women and children resting here along the side of the road.And Gilpin is thinking forward,he's thinking of the future,and we see these influences in the national park system and the parkways in the United States,this idea of constructing a road to engage with the landscape,not accidentally,but very carefully choreographing landscape movement through roads.And he's looking here,in the Lake District,about building a carriage road that's deliberately constructed to showcase views.Saturday, August 21,"After breakfast, we started for Loch Katrine."And the title of this painting is "Landscape with Tourists,"so modern tourism.And one of these questions that arises from all of this investment is,it certainly wasn't a plan to create a modern tourism industry through these roads,but people were quickly accessing them,it's the popularity of the picturesque that makes it a desirable destination,and people start traveling and wandering,and clearly enjoying all of these places.So, Loch Katrine,so again, this is from the Edinburgh City Library and Museums Collection,there's some really wonderful watercolors from this period,and of course,one of the things that polite people did on these tours was paint,paint, and explore, and investigate.But look at this,this is very likely one of the military roads,so this would be very difficult,and there's comments from Southey and the generals at different points being a little bit nervous about the travel,and wondering how comfortable the horses may be in this area as well.But again, the idea of the picturesque,the rustic bridge, the rough water,the rustic landscape."Near the end of this second lake"is a small inn where carriages stop,"and guides are at the readiness."This was a farmhouse"'til Walter Scott"brought the Trossachs and Loch Katrine into fashion."So there's this rapid increase in tourism.Think about places that you've traveled that suddenly become popular,and you have to book ahead or plan ahead,or maybe you didn't book ahead and plan ahead long enough,so travel influences things.And Southey, at several points,compliments Telford for planning ahead on their tour because they probably would not have had rooms for their group.We're also traveling with Southey's family and a series of commissioners with the Highlands project as well,so it's a large group traveling here.And Telford knows,and Rickman, certainly,who organized this,to plan ahead because of the popularity of this area for travel and tourism.Here's an image of Ben Lomond.Again, with these images of livestock and farmers,this idea of the working landscape as being something worthy of our attention, and interest, and curiosity.Monday, August 23rd,"The approach to Dunkeld from this side"is particularly fine."The cathedral,"which though grievously injured,"is most happily placed with the river in front"and some noble woods rising on the ground behind."So, picturesque tourism,Tintern Abbey in Wales as well,these all become places.So certainly,the Highlands, the Lake District, and Wales are the popular destinations during this period for travelers.It doesn't hurt too that we're also in the Napoleonic Wars so the idea of domestic tourism also becomes important too,so there's all these convergences always,nothing ever happens in a void.And this, I just love this image,this captures, for me,the whole idea of the picturesque landscape and the infrastructure within it,and you get the sense of the picturesque in terms of representing human activity,such as the cathedral,then the beautiful bridge here.Note too with the road as well you see the people walking along the road,we're so structured today in terms of how we look at transport systems.As I'm wandering around London,there's the traffic,but there's also the bus lanes,and then there's the bike lanes,and the bike people don't always stop when I'm crossing the street,and there's all these things that I have to pay attention to because there's all these individual groups moving very closely together in separate systems;this is a period when the road is the road and everybody uses it.And you read people complaining about animals being driven to market along the road,and being held up by thousands of geese being taken to market,so there's all these things about interaction in shared space which are very foreign to us today because we tend to think of a road for an automobile, correct,not a thing that everyone uses freely and everyone uses it with the same level of right of access.If you look at some of the traffic calming,particularly in the Netherlands right now,where they're removing a lot of the control devices in city centers,where everyone has equal right of road,it's going back to this idea of larger shared access and greater equity of use for all users and travelers."The bridge is one of Telford's finest works,"one of Telford's works"and one of the finest in Scotland."So, what happens with this tour is we see suddenly developing an appreciation for engineering and his commentary and his details become much more specific as he becomes more educated as he goes along this tour.And the bridge at Dunkeld is one particularly where Southey talks about,you see the rail is masonry across the bridge,and see if this sounds familiar,he's complaining about Westminster and the budget for this project,because he can envision this bridge being around for a very, very long time,and for a meager extra bit of funding,they could have had a really elegant balustrade on the bridge.He talks about how Telford very nicely uses rows of stone to create some of the shadow line here,which gives a nice look to the bridge.And he's aware that Telford's becoming quite adept at using a very limited budget and maximizing the aesthetic input,but he's also making a larger comment,which I think is very relevant today,about the fact that we invest in transport for generations,the London Underground tunnels,all of these things,we build them and we use them for centuries,and Southey's saying,a few, few more pounds in this project would really make a huge difference for posterity,and we should be thinking that way.He's very aware of this as a major investment in the Highlands and a longterm idea of place and identity within the landscape as well.Tuesday, August 24th,"Just in time to escape a heavy rain,"and we arrived at Dundee just as the daylight failed."Telford's is a happy life,"everywhere making roads, building bridges,"forming canals, and creating harbors."So we get a sense that Telford really likes his work and is very aware of what we might think of as the idea of place today,or location, or a cultural landscape, for example.Here we see some of the harbor works at Dundee."A good many persons were assembled to see us depart,"and therefore was not sorry when the coach was in motion"and we had bade adieu to bonny Dundee,"so I think Southey was more then ready to move on from there for some reason or another, I don't know.Arbroath Abbey,again, another picturesque ruin,kind of a must-see during this period of travel.Another one of my favorite Southey quotes,"Several booksellers' shops,"which indeed seem to be more numerous in Scotch"than in English towns,"so there's a nice compliment to the people of Scotland."And here in Arbroath,"I saw more prostitutes walking the streets"than I would think have been seen in any English town"of no greater extent or population,"so he just can't quite just let it go and provide a nice compliment to Scotland here.Friday, 27 August,"Old Aberdeen is about a mile from the new city."It has something of a collegiate character,"an air of quietness and permanence."And what I like about this shot is it's again a classic idea of the picturesque in terms of people engaging with the landscape.You get a sense of a woodland here, a rough road,roots coming out in the landscape,people reclining on rocks,things that you wouldn't necessarily see fashionable people have been having done a few years earlier,so it's this whole shift in appreciation.And that's what I find so interesting about this period,there's this convergence,modern transportation in terms of vehicles,modern transportation in terms of roads,and a new appreciation for the landscape,it's a magic convergence,and you couldn't have one part of this without the other parts,you can't go pleasure driving on a miserable road,it'd be an expensive carriage to drive to scenery that nobody thinks has any value,so it's all coming together right now at this point."The Scotch regard architectural beauty"in their private homes"as well as in their public edifices"much more than we do,"that's it, there's no snide comment that follows up.So we're moving into the tour and Southey's affection for Scotland seems to be growing.Wednesday, September 1,"It began to rain when we renewed our journey,"but held up before we had advanced two miles,"when we came upon the Craigellachie Bridge,"one of Telford's works,"and a noble work it is."This is a spectacular bridge in the Highlands."The road brings the traveler by a short tour"to the two short turrets at the entrance of the bridge."On this side, they are merely ornamental,"on the other, their weight is necessary for the abutment."The bridge is of iron, beautifully light,"in a situation where the utility of lightness"is instantly perceived."So we're really talking about the details here of a bridge infrastructure project,but what Southey's talking about,the towers here have no structural value,the rock outcropping here is supporting this side of the bridge,you need the turrets structurally on this side to support the weight because you don't have the rock.It would have been cheaper to just have something on this side, not that side,but Telford is pushing his budget.Picture this with turrets only one side,it falls apart in terms of being a beautiful bridge in the landscape,so building something,providing a level of ornament on one side to balance the visual weight of the bridge.This is one of the most photographed bridges in Scotland.When you go to the tourist site for this area,the bridge is one of the first things that pops up,so we know that it was a good investment because it's still paying dividends today.So, travel infrastructure in terms of roads, and bridges, and canals,but also travel infrastructure in terms of tourism during this period as well,which is growing rapidly.Here's an image of Stirling Castle,which becomes a very early destination for people to go.And we see these early travel maps as well,these are called strip maps,where you have the roads page after page,you can follow this very easily,it's a great, easy atlas to carry with you,and everything you need to know in terms of taverns, blacksmiths, shops,churches, bridges, or fords,all that information is provided for you.And these were usually updated on a regular basis,many of these were by subscription.And this is a very nice practical, everyday travel guide,but look at this,this is 1810,"Travelling Map of Scotland."You have this wonderful,just picturesque idea here,look at this,come, come join me in Scotland,it's a traveling map.And this is clearly beyond an everyday map to find your way from A to B,this is packaged,it's a gorgeous system.The maps fold out of this collector's box.This shows the level of investment in tourism resources,also gives us a sense of the types of people that are traveling.An average, everyday person could get a very affordable map,but people of means could invest fully.We do this today, right,think about when you're traveling,would you like to upgrade?We can upgrade you,and we can upgrade you with a map, in 1810,for Scotland as well.And what I love about these maps is,here you see the map unfolded.We don't use a whole lot of paper maps before,but I'm sure some of you remember trying to fold and refold the map,which never goes back the way it's supposed to.These maps, each panel,they're mounted on linen,so they fold together perfectly and beautifully every time,very nice, very clever,probably very pricey for the period as well."The steamboat,"which lately has been started to ply"between Glasgow and Fort William,"as many as 100 have sometimes landed there"to idle away more or less time"according to their means and leisure,"many of them landing in the morning"and returning in the evening."This is the weekend day trip,with steamboats accessing the Highlands now,you can have an excursion.So again, this idea of of infrastructure,not so much roads,this is a case where the steamboat allows this access.Friday, September 3rd,"Fort George stands on a neck of land,"from hence you look up the firth"to the mountains on each side of the glen of Scotland,"now noted for the Caledonian Canal."Saturday, September 4,"Here we turned aside"and went four miles up the river along Strathglass Road,"one of the new works"and one of the most remarkable of them."And suddenly, he goes into the great detail here about how the roads are constructed,how the drainage is organized,and he also talks about the circumstances.Again, there's always a complaint about Westminster and funding,but he comes back at times to say,Telford, despite his meager budget,slightly shifted the road to allow for a view of the loch,or slightly shifted the road to allow for a view of this mountain or this landform.So you can tell that Telford's building a practical, useful road network for the Highlands,but he's taking every opportunity that he can to be sure that it works nicely with the landscape.And many of these roads are still in use today."The road itself is an object which adds greatly"to the beauty and interest of these scenes."And I really like that this is the picturesque movement,we're talking about natural landscapes,we're talking about the idea of romantic ruins in the landscape,and suddenly, he's including these new modern roads as part of the beauty of the landscape.The landscape gardener Humphry Repton,also practicing just before this period,often looked at the idea of the beauty of the line of the road in a landscape,and it's a way to provide a sense of scale.In a large, vast landscape,if you see a lovely, gentle thread moving through the landscape,it gives you a sense of scale and space,and in some ways makes the landscape more grand when you see how small that little thread is going through the landscape,So the idea, again, of the road being an object of beauty.This is the Bonar Bridge,this is no longer there.But I like this,so, there's several parts of the journal where they include commentary from people that they meet along the way,their visit gets quite a bit of attention,especially in the small towns and villages,

and this is from a gentleman they met:

"'As I went along the road by the side of the water,'"said he,"'I could see no bridge."'At last, I came in sight of something like a spider's web"'in the air."'If this be it, thought I,"'it will never do."'But presently, I came upon it,"'and oh, it is the finest thing that ever was made"'by God or man.'"That's quite an endorsement from the average guy along the side of the road talking to these two guys about this idea of infrastructure.And again, think of these new modern materials now.Up to this period,a bridge has been muscular and masonry,and now there's these delicate things that really had people rethinking about what does a bridge look like,this is a huge shift in terms of the aesthetics,the visual presentation of the bridge.Thursday, September 14,"The day was passed in Inverness"in writing letters and bringing up my journal,"so they did have a break once in a while,it wasn't all looking at roads, and bridges, and canals all the time,but you get a sense of this journey.Wednesday, September 15,"Left Inverness after breakfast."We also see lots of commentary,this is a wonderful journal to read, by the way,on food, quality of food, foul food,and everything in between."It rained during our halt"and continued to rain heavily"when the carriage stopped above the Fall of Foyers."It is not credible to the owner of this property"that there should be no means"of getting at the bottom of the fall."What I like about this,it's private property and yet there's this expectation now,during the picturesque,that people have the right of access to scenic wonders like this, scenic destinations,and it's very clear you need to provide access,this is a destination,people know it's a destination,people want to see this.I have been here,I read Southey's journal here,it's a wonderful place,and I think it's still hard to get to today,but there are stairs that get you down.So, this idea of taking in the scenes,these are the things that,Google maps are going to say like,oh, you should take a picture here, right.Monday, September 20,"The parallel roads are among the most extraordinary objects"in Europe or the world."It would not have been possible"to view this extraordinary scene"with better companions"than such a surveyor as Mr. Telford"and such a clear, quick,accurate scrutinizer"as Mr. Rickman."So this is an ideal opportunity,you're traveling with people that know what they're doing,and Southey is capturing all this.And what I really find useful for this journal as an historian is,if you read the reports from the commission,it's all very clinical,this many men, this many horses, this much stone,and we build a bridge according to Telford's specifications.What Southey gives us is the romance of this,and Southey gives us some of the background,the railing could have been finer,or he shifted the road,those nuances of engagement with the Highlands landscape don't really come out in the official reports.So, the parallel roads,these are natural landforms,it's quite striking,and these are considerably remarkable must-sees in terms of a visit to the Highlands during this period.And you can see them marked on maps as well,that helps, with the asterisks,you can see the parallel roads are labeled on maps.So this is clearly a recognizable landscape feature,and again a place that people are going to visit.September 19th, the Caledonian Canal,and what I find interesting about this is this is such a remarkable work of engineering,and technical prowess, and nation building, and everything,and Southey spends time on this,but not as much time as we've seen on some of the other aspects,because the canal is the canal,the roads and bridges are more intimate,and they're at a different scale,and they're much more aligned with the idea of the picturesque because they're nestled into the landscape a bit more.Nevertheless, Southey's clearly impressed with this,not to say that he's not.You can see the section down here at the bottom,and you can look at the locks here for the canal."The pyramids would appear insignificant"in such a situation,"for in them, we should perceive"only a vain attempt to view with greater things."But here, we see the powers of nature"brought to act upon a great scale"in subservience to the purposes of man."So it's a very clear endorsement and a reminder in the journal about what this is doing for the Highlands and what this is doing nationwide for the idea of investment and access,which is really what this project was all about.And this is one of those spots in the journal where you really get that sense of this idea of engineering,and this is obviously a major engineering work of great importance.Wednesday, September 22nd,"Amused ourselves on the rocky shores"of the great Linnhe Loch."I could not have enjoyed a more lively pleasure"in all of this"if I had been 5 and 30 years younger."So what's happening here too is the tour is starting to wind down a little bit now,and you start seeing this sort of sentimental association with the tour, and what's happening,and this idea of this intense engagement with the landscape,and getting to know each other quite well along this period of time too.Friday, September 24,"Loch Awe was soon in sight,"with a number of small islands,"beautifully diversified with wood,"the ruins of a castle upon one."And I'm so grateful for the Edinburgh City Collection,you have these really great watercolors that actually capture some of these scenes,so we can get a sense of what it might have been like for them in the landscape and what they were seeing,and I think the sepia captures the general weather in Scotland anyway,a lot of the time,so they would have been probably filtering this through a sepia-gray gaze anyhow.But again, look here,your eye kind of goes here, to the ruin,but look at how prominently placed the road is here in the foreground,and you see, it looks like maybe people on horseback traveling the road as well,the roads are so prominent in all these things.And when you think about this as being a painting,the road could have been edited out to focus just on the picturesque landscape and the ruin,and yet here it is,sometimes subtle, sometimes very direct,but the idea of the road.I think we need to go back to what's happening here with modern roads and modern vehicles,people are very, very self-aware of the opportunity that's very, very new to be able to go places like this in relative comfort,and explore like this.Think about the early days of jet travel,kind of being blown away, like,wow, I just left New York and I'm here,or I'm doing this.Every innovation we've had in travel in mobility and speed comes with a period of, like,wow, who would have thought I could have done that?Now, the back of a 747 in the middle seat,maybe not so romantic,not everyone here was romantic either,but there's a very strong awareness of new infrastructure, new technology,and new abilities to access and see things.Sunday, September 25,"The ascent is about four miles in length,"the descent is through Glen Croe."On the summit is a seat in a green bank"bearing the beautiful inscription"which all travelers have noticed,"'Rest and be thankful.'"Go onto Google Maps,zoom in on Glen Croe,you'll see a little spot there that Google's given you that says, "Rest and be thankful,"and you're supposed to take a photograph there,just so you know.Nothing's really changed, right.There are places of beauty, places of affection that people feel the need to travel to,and I think what happens very globally with these investments in Scotland at the time too is it starts to build a very strong sense of national landscape identity in Scotland,and the idea of the Highlands as a destination,a place that,if you read a few decades before this convergence,at the end of the century,most of the descriptions of travel in the Highlands was,it's miserable,and the landscape was depicted as ominous,foreboding, dangerous,beware, it's unpredictable,nothing at all that's going to inspire you to go and travel.And within a few decades of these changes in technology and the new idea of the picturesque,it's magical, it's gorgeous, it's picturesque,it's worthy of my attention,it's worthy of my sketchbook.Monday, September 27,"We arose, the sun was rising low in a red sky,"ominous of rain."Here, we took leave of Mitchell,"one of the members of the commission,"a remarkable man and well deserving to be remembered."And here we see some of the new industries on the outskirts of Glasgow,we're getting back into the modern world,the tour is winding down now,and we're seeing the industrial complex that's the antithesis to this time in the Highlands.We're also seeing the opportunities the Industrial Revolution has allowed,and facilitated a lot of this to happen in terms of construction,and technology as well.So there's a real dichotomy here between the beauty of nature and the access afforded based on modern technology.And of course, you can see here a carriage in the foreground,that just reminds us of this idea of travel during this period.Friday, October 1,"Longtown."Here we left Mr. Telford,"who takes the mail for Edinburgh,"the mail being, of course,the mail system, the post system,so he's traveling on a system that he helped to build and facilitate."This parting company,"after the thorough intimacy"which a long journey produces"between fellow travelers who like each other,"is a melancholy thing."A man more heartily to be liked,"more worthy to be esteemed and admired"I have never fallen in with,"and therefore it is painful"to think of how little likely it is"that I shall ever see much of him again,"how certain that I shall never see so much."It's clear this was a really meaningful journey for Southey,and he has this whole new appreciation for engineering.Right as they're reaching the end of this trip,they're traveling on the estate of Mr.,the name is X'd out in the journal,and the roads are quite poor,and after Southey's experience with new, modern roads,he decides the most fitting punishment for the owner of this property would be to condemn the gentleman to travel back and forth along the roads all day,for several days,until he realized they needed to be improved.Southey ends the journal with a decision to take an alternative route back to Keswick,and it would be more scenic.He also says it would be a finer route as well,and I think, in that case,it means finer both in terms of the scenery and in terms of the quality of the road itself.So, rest and be thankful, right.That's my introduction to this tour of six weeks in 50 minutes.There's lots more details here,but I hope what you can see is this idea of the investment in infrastructure,and I think clearly a case of unintended consequences here in terms of how this facilitated tourism,particularly in the Highlands,and certainly in other places as well.With these modern investments,this idea of opportunity,and the technology to pull it off,and the funding to pull it off,are really quite remarkable,and it's a legacy that we still have today,and I think it's really quite remarkable.So, I'm very happy to answer any of the questions that you have right now,I think we're right on time for questions,so I'll say thank you and turn it over to our expert moderator.(audience applauds)- So, thank you very much, Dan.I love the way you illustrated this with he quotes,and the one that I'm still smiling about is the one about Arbroath having more prostitutes than average,but I was thinking they were presumably very well read on account of the number of bookshops.But anyway, I had always imagined that Telford really had in his mind only the idea of kind of subjugating nature,and really, my eyes have been opened tonight,I think that was a remarkable exposition,and it's put entirely new thoughts in my head, I must say.So, we've got a couple of questions online,and then I'll just open it up to the floor,we have a roving mic.So, I've got two questions here,they're actually rather related.One is asking,"Do you think that the public works, such as roads,"were more important than cultural factors,"like Sir Walter Scott's popular novels?"Presumably in altering people's perspectives.- I would say certainly in terms of the larger investment it was about public works,and culture, I think,was very secondary to the way things were being thought about during this period,it was an investment to solve problems.I've thought about this a little bit,if you're familiar with the United States interstate system in the second half of the 20th century,that was largely built simply to move people rapidly from one part of the country to another,but there were some states,states that had large landscape architecture divisions within their public roads departments,that took it as an opportunity to build some really beautiful segments of road,but they're not all that way.I think, for me,the takeaway for this with the Highlands is,and in a way,as much as I wish he had the greater budget that Southey was arguing for,it's a reminder that good design doesn't always have to be overly expensive,good design requires someone with a sensitivity to a place,and some creativity about how to use a limited budget,and know where to put money and where not to put money,and I think that's, to me,the real takeaway with this, was that.And in terms of the culture,Southey does talk about,one of my favorites,he talks about one spot where they see a woman washing laundry on the rocks,and it was a cleanly and picturesque operation,and I always wonder how she might have felt with that backbreaking labor of washing in the river,the picturesque,we should do a watercolor of this.- [Moderator] That's a man's perspective, I have to say.- And this is two men traveling,so it's very much of its period.I'd like to think we're more attuned to cultural resources when we look at transportation projects today in the 21st century,but I can think of plenty of projects where we say we're doing that,but we don't really actually do it.So again, I think, to me,the enlightening moment of this was the fact that there's enough information now,particularly with the letters from Stowe,that Telford had an appreciation for this,and I think he did everything he could,certainly within the context of the period,to be sensitive to the culture.- There's a related question, actually, online,somebody says,"Were the public works opening up the Highlands successful"from a public policy perspective"in encouraging local people to stay?"I think he means local people,perhaps visitors as well.- I honestly don't have an answer to that.My expectation is it certainly helped,because it was much easier moving through the Highlands and just moving materials and goods back and forth,so I'm inclined to say yes,but I haven't really looked at changes in the population or changes in the economy.- It has some interesting resonances, actually,with the regional policy in Britain at the moment about putting in high speed transport networks,providing opportunity in the regions,whereas other people are arguing, of course,it just reins them out more quickly.- Well, I also know too,with some of the proposed high speed rail corridors as well,Humphry Repton, who I didn't mention very much,was the first landscape gardener to write about design based on mobility in the landscape and how you design a carriage drive based on speed,and I know,through some conversations I've had with the Garden Museum here in London,that some of Repton's ideas are being used to consider high speed rail through the landscape here,and how it could be something that could be more engaged with the landscape or not engaged with the landscape based on how it's considered and developed.- [Questioner] Thank you very much.Could you just give a little bit of background,why were they doing this tour,how much of what they saw was down to Telford,and how did Robert Southey, a poet,get involved in it?- So, how did Robert Southey get involved?My understanding,it's not 100% clear,was that Rickman,who organized the tour,knew Southey and he knew Telford and just thought they might get along,which, certainly they did,so I think it was,sometimes someone organizes a nice business meeting for you and sometimes they don't,and I think this was the idea,it's going to be a long trip,slogging through six weeks,and Telford might like the company of someone who wouldn't just be talking about engineering all the time,that's my own personal take on it,that's my understanding,was that Rickman thought they would get along well knowing both men well.- [Questioner] Why were they doing the tour?- So, the tour was part of,if you look back at the acts of Parliament right after union,in 1717, there's an act of Parliament about roads, bridges, canals,and ferries in Scotland,and it's requiring an annual review in terms of how things are being managed,so I'm imagining,because this was a very large public works project,that this was not just a public works project,but it tied into a nationwide idea of looking at the quality of transport infrastructure,making sure that funding was going to the right places,it was being properly executed,things were being done.It's a very, very detailed list of many, many pages about what needs to be done,who needs to be reporting it, and all of that,and it has to be done on an annual basis.- [Questioner] Thank you, this is very, very interesting.During the period that you're discussing,I believe the quality of iron remained highly variable,difficult to detect faults, and so forth.Do you have a sense as to how that affected Telford's decision making about design,both engineering and structural decisions,as well as aesthetic decisions?- I don't know a lot of details about the properties of iron.I think, reading the commission and reading Telford,they were certainly experimenting with modern materials and taking advantage of those.I think, Telford,there's certainly an idea, and we see this in the journal,about the beauty that this affords in scenic areas like this,the idea of the water to be the dominant feature,not so much the masonry structure as well.Most of these bridges are relatively small,so I think they were safe places to experiment with these materials as well.They were also,if you think about it in today's language,low-volume roads,they weren't getting a lot of heavy, heavy traffic,so good places to try with that as well.But it's a new material,so if you look at,there was a bridge over Taymouth, near Dundee,a famous railway bridge,and it collapsed.The Forth Bridge, outside Edinburgh,that big, muscular,those diamonds that go across the Firth of Forth,that was over-engineered because of the fears of these new metals not being that reliable,and public concern with the bridge at Taymouth collapsing built out of these new materials,so that bridge was very much over-engineered just to build public confidence.So it's certainly a learning curve,these are brand new materials right now,and there's lots of new alloys that are being developed during this period as well,and that might have been one of the reasons that the Bonar Bridge no longer exists,I think that might have been some structural issues over time.- [Audience Member] Just on the question of the iron,

I can add a little bit to that:

Telford was very careful about the iron-masters he worked with,so he was able to ensure that he got good quality iron.Things that were cast,they proof-tested every single casting,and then, if it broke,they went back and tried again.And they didn't just proof-test it to the load they thought it was going to carry,but to about five times.Wrought iron was easier to police because of the process of its fabrication.By hammering and rolling out the iron multiple times,you got rid of a lot of the defects,so he was much more confident about iron than some of the people working at the time.- It is an interesting question, isn't it,the extent to which the limitations of the material influence the aesthetics that he was able to achieve,that was very similar to your question as well.- I appreciate that,and I would just add to that as well,it's interesting, in the journal,Southey comments a number of times too,Telford maintained a very,very cordial relationship with all of the labor,and Southey notes that people who were often dismissed,Telford would listen to them and take their advice,argued at times for better pay,so I think that's another form of quality control as well,that he had people working for him that respected him,and I think that's another quality control as part of this whole program.- Ladies and gentlemen,we have to call this evening to a close.I've got two points that I'm asked to remind you about,one is that we hope you might consider making a donation to Gresham on the website.It's thanks to the generosity of supporters that we're able to continue the mission of providing access to the highest quality lectures free of charge.Obviously, if you make a donation,not free of charge,but we hope, we hope.And the second thing I've been asked to remind you about is that the next lecture in this engineering series is by Sue Ion on what is the role of nuclear power in a net zero system,so that's going to be something very, very different to this.But can I thank you very much for your splendid introduction today,absolutely fascinating,so thank you very much, Dan.- Thank you.(audience applauds)