William Hazledine

A CAST-IRON KING

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The story of William Hazledine (1763-1840) is virtually unknown today, even in his home town of Shrewsbury.

He was, however, a figure of considerable importance in the history of engineering and technology, supplying the ironwork for no less than five world ‘firsts’. These are Ditherington Flax Mill, Shrewsbury; the Chirk and Pontcysyllte Aqueducts on the Ellesmere Canal; lock gates for the Caledonian Canal; a new genre of cast-iron arch bridges; and Menai and Conwy suspension bridges.

William Hazledine’s life spanned what is commonly called the Industrial Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution both required and facilitated a transport revolution. The first canal was opened in 1761, and by 1840 there were nearly 4,500 miles of canals, the building of which required huge developments in engineering.

Roads, too, developed rapidly in this period, and better roads needed new and better bridges. The increased use of cast iron was beginning to be considered in canal and bridge engineering, but iron technology was in its infancy in the late 1700s. Iron objects could be cast directly from the furnace, but this was difficult to do, and this cast (or pig) iron was often brittle and of uncertain purity.

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