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John Smeaton 28 1724 - 28 1792

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John Smeaton 28 1724 - 28 1792

Engineer. Builder of the Eddystone lighthouse and founder of the civil engineering profession in Britain.

Relationships: Employed William Jessop and assisted by Joseph Nickalls.

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Autumn September 1756Calder and Hebble NavigationHe was asked to survey a navigation between Wakefield and Elland but was too busy with work on the Eddystone lighthouse.
June 1757Calder and Hebble NavigationHe was again asked to survey a navigation between Wakefield and Elland and agreed to come in the autumn, requesting a scale plan of the river in preparation.
21 November 1757Calder and Hebble NavigationHe reported to a meeting at Halifax on his proposals, based on his recent survey, for a 23½ mile navigation to take 20 to 25 ton craft with a draught of up to 3 feet 6 inches. This was to run from Wakefield to Salterhebble bridge.
7 July 1758Calder and Hebble NavigationHe was appointed part-time superintendent (or engineer) at 250 a year.
1759River WearHe appeared in Parliament supporting the bill that became the Wear Act and was asked to make a survey and prepare a plan for buildinf 12 locks and a number of short cuts.
25 November 1759Calder and Hebble NavigationHis pay for work as engineer began and it is believed that construction started after this date.
1760River WeyHe was engaged on the extension of the navigation from Guildford to Godalming.
18 February 1760Louth NavigationThe town clerk of Louth wrote to him asking for assistance. He replied five days later requesting more information and adds "P.S. Is the expense and practicallity the chief point, or the getting the Bill through Parliament on account of expected opposition?".
1 March 1760Louth NavigationThe town clerk of Louth wrote saying that little opposition was was expected and that it was desireable to get the canal Bill into Parliament in the next session. However, the promoters were not willing to proceed until he had confirmed John Grundy's report.
11 March 1760Louth NavigationHe replied to the letter of the 1st advising them to hasten slowly and explained that he was busy and would no wish them to delay their Bill because of him.He also wrote
" I will, however, give you this caution to be very careful of giving public notice as early as possible of your intention to apply to Parliament and in making the gentlemen of your country acquainted with your scheme. Be very careful in applying to the land-owners whose estates lay upon or near the intended navigation, and if possible get the consent of the majority of the principals of those who may be affected by it, for if the least opposition arises, which seldom shows itself till after the petition is presented to the House. they generallyhang upon those matters; for upon this footing the Wey Bill was thrown out last year, tho' it is likely to pass this, and the present year the Tamworth petition has been thrown out upon the same footing without ever entering into the merits thereof.
I am Sir
Your most humble servant.
J. Smeaton".
7 August 1760Louth NavigationHe met John Grundy and went through Grundy's report and confirmed that Tetney Haven was the proper outfall to provide communication with the Trent so that flat bottom barges could navigate into Yorkshire without going to sea. He estimated the cost as 15,590 for a 'Two Barge Canal', 13,686 for a "One Barge Canal" and 10,884 for "Lighter drawing 2 feet".
1761Trent and Mersey CanalHe reviewed James Brindley's 1758 plan for a canal from Stoke-on-Trent to Wilden Ferry and suggested that the canal could be extended "to join the navigable river that falls into the west sea" at a cost of 77,939.
1761River TrentHe said: "the present navigation is much obstructed by shoals and scours, insomuch that in several places, in the common state of the river in dry seasons, there is not above 8 inches depth of water, and that at such times, without the aid of flashes from King's Mills upon the Trent, and the lowest mills upon the Derwent, the navigation would then be impracticable".
1761River Witham NavigationTogether with John Grundy and Langley Edwards he presented the results of their survey of the river between Lincoln and Boston.
1762Chelmer & Blackwater NavigationHe carried out a survey and estimated the cost of a navigation as 16,697.
15 November 1764Calder and Hebble NavigationHe claimed no salary after this date and was replaced by James Brindley in the following January.
1765Chelmer & Blackwater NavigationHe was asked to prepare proposals for the navigation but was too busy to accept.
1765Driffield NavigationAbout this date he was asked to advise on making the upper river navigable for keels to Driffield. He proposed a 1¼ mile cut with one lock from the river above Wansford to Driffield Beck at the cost of 2,586.
5 August 1765River LeeHe was asked to make a survey "so as to settle the navigation on a new plan as will be most conducive to the good of the public".
1766River Great OuseHe surveyed the river at Lynn with regard to the shifting sands that were proving a hazzard to navigation. He rejected the idea that Denver Sluice had harmed the navigation and recommended confining the channel to solve the problem.
16 July 1766River LeeHe was asked to survey the navigation with Thomas Yeoman as his assistant.
September 1766River LeeHe reported the results of his survey of the navigation, which was developd before the use of pound-locks. He found eighteen flashes at weir and staunches, as well as a lock at Ware and tide-gates at Bromley. He recommended that new cuts should be made (including from Bromley to the Thames and Limehouse, and at Hackney, Edmonton and Waltham Abbey) and the replacement of flash-locks with pound-locks.
After December 1766Ripon CanalHe surveyed the Ouse and Ure, using the earlier surveys of William Palmer and Richard Ellison, and proposed a lock at Linton and a canal from the Ure at Oxclose to Ripon.
After December 1766River UreHe surveyed the Ouse and Ure, using the earlier surveys of William Palmer and Richard Ellison, and proposed a lock at Linton and a canal from the Ure at Oxclose to Ripon.
Early 1767Ripon CanalHe gave evidence to parliament for the Ure and Ripon Canal Act.
Early 1767River UreHe gave evidence to parliament for the Ure and Ripon Canal Act.
1768River NeneHe reported on the outfall and the drainage of the North Level and estimating a cost of 20,695 for his proposed solution.
1768River Ouse (Sussex)He suggested land drainage improvements and that there should be a lock at Piddinghoe but the lock was not built.
Spring March 1768Calder and Hebble NavigationHe surveyed the river following the February floods which he reported as "higher than any flood in man's memory, of of which there is any tradition".
1769Calder and Hebble NavigationHe supported the Bill in parliament which became the Act giving powers to extend the navigation to Sowerby Bridge, raise extra capital and change the name of the waterway to "The Company of Proprietors of the Calder & Hebble Navigation".
December 1770Calder and Hebble NavigationHe surveyed the newly openned line to Sowerby Bridge and found "the River now put into as good a State of Security as could possibly be expected in the Time and is indeed in the General in a very defensible Condition".
1771Calder and Hebble NavigationHe was asked the best way to supply water to the summit at Sowerby Bridge and advised the construction of a "Tunnel made in the way of an Adit or Sough, such as those made for draining Collieries" from Hollis Mill through the high ground. It was started in June 1772 and was completed in March 1774.
28 December 1771Aire and Calder Navigation and River AireHe reported on the state of the navigation saying "the original projectors.. ., not having had any notion of the extensive trade that was likely to be carried on by means thereof. . . formed their plan upon too diminutive a scale, and particularly with respect to depth. . . of water". There were many shallow lock sills giving only 2 ft 6 in depth at normal summer water and there was shoaling below the locks, which he Thought due to "endeavouring to save locks in point of number, and to save length of cutting". Of the lack of water in the tideway below Haddlesey lock, he said that in ordinary dry seasons "there will not be two feet of water up to Haddlesey lock at high water neap tides". At Weeland, about a mile below the limits of the Aire & Calder, there was another shoal "over which, though the neap tides sensibly flow, yet they do not make, in the whole, above two feet depth of water". In dry seasons when little flow of fresh water, flashes had to be provided but, perhaps only two a week due to millers' requirements and of the need to keep pounds up, "wherefore, vessels will be frequently from Stock Reach to Leeds or Wakelield, a week or more in making good their passage, that otherwise would be performed in fifteen hours". This he considered resulted in was underemployment of boats and men, delays and expense.
1772Market Weighton CanalHe was suggested as consultant engineer for the canal but the idea was rejected on grounds of cost.
January 1772Aire and Calder Navigation and River AireHe reports that he has aimed "to procure the essential of a navigation, the means of keeping vessels always afloat" and proposed improvements that would give 3 ft 6 in to ft of water, to take craft carrying 30 to 45 tons. These included dredging, rebuilding some mill locks, new cuts, especially a by-pass canal, to avoid low water and shoals, from just above Haddlesey lock to run on the south side of the river to Gowdall above Snaith with two locks or a similar one on the north side from Chapel Haddlesey to Newland beyond Rawcliffe. There was to be a second by-pass with one lock from Brotherton on the north side nf the river below Knottingley because "the Water is in general so shallow, that it becomes necessary, not only to raise the Water higher by temporary Boards placed on Beal Dam below, but to let down Flashes from the Mill Dam to carry the Vessels over the Shallows; and, for want of suflicient Water for the Purpose, the Vessels are often detained there in their passage many Days together". He also recommended cuts at Leeds (¼ mile, with a lock to replace the old one), Knostrop (7 furlongs, with two new locks to replace three old ones at mills), Woodlesford (1½ miles, with two new locks to replace two old ones), Methley (¾ mile, with floodgates and a lock to replace the old Methley lock) and floodgates and a lock on the mile cut to Castleford. Finally, he advised the undertakers to obtain powers to remove obstructions and build a towing path right to the Ouse.
December 1772Aire and Calder Navigation and River AireHe appeared before the parliamentary committee to support the navigation improvement plans and to oppose the rival Leeds & Selby Canal project.
1773Aire & Calder Navigation - Selby SectionHe directs William Jessop in preparing proposals for the new route from Bank Dole to Selby.
1775Greasbrough (Park Gate) CanalHe surveyed John Varley's proposed line and recommended five locks with a 5 foot fall instead of three with 8 to 9 foot fall. He estimated the cost at 5,952 of which 2,500 was for the locks.
1775Nent Force LevelHe and Richard Walton, his fellow Receiver for the mining rights to Alston Moor, prepared a report for the Commissioners of Greenwich Hostipal who were the owners of the land. They proposed a 3 mile drainage tunnel intersecting a number of lead ore veins which would have been uneconomical to work without drainage.
1778Bude CanalIn his report he re-estimated the authorised line at 119,201, saying that "the county of Cornwall... seems but ill-adapted for the making of canals across the country, being so very frequently intersected with valleys, that to preserve a level for any considerable space between two given points, it becomes necessary to go through a vast meandering course". He proposed that instead the River Bude should be locked for 3½ miles; that 6 miles of canal with three planes should be built to the River Tamar, and then 15½: miles of river navigation with ten locks to Greston bridge, from where more locked river could carry the navigation to Calstock, or a branch canal could take it up to Launceston. His estimated the cost to Greston bridge as 46,109. He suggested that a less satisfactoy alternative would be a canal from Bude to Launceston only, but shortened to 34 miles, with five planes.
1778Cann Quarry CanalHe was asked by John Parker, proprietor of the Cann slate quarry, to survey for a canal from there to the new bridge over the River Plym at Marsh Mills, from where barges could reach Plymouth on the tide. He considered a 2¼ mile canal was practicable but recommended a railroad on economic grounds.
1778Grand Surrey CanalHe was called in to adjudicate between two routes for a canal from Kingston on Thames to Ewell. Nothing further was done.
1778River TyneHe briefly surveyed the river from Stella (four miles above Newcastle and a little below Newburn) up to Wylan with a view to making a cut but it was never built.
1779Calder and Hebble NavigationHe surveyed the navigation and suggested changes including the replacement of the staircase pair of locks that James Brindley had installed at Salterhebble plus the single Brooksmouth lock by a new set of three single locks.
1784Birmingham and Fazeley CanalHe was engineer for the canal.
1784Walsall CanalHe was engineer for the canal.
1791River Stour (Kent)He said "in the time of King Edward VI it is said there was an attempt to make a Harbour from Sandwich into the Downs, and that the evident traces of a canal, which still subsist in the level grounds, between Sandwich and Sandown Castle, are the remains of that attempt."

 

Jim Shead Waterways Photographer & Writer
Text and photographs copyright of Jim Shead.
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